Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal on reverse sides of Aussie Open draw

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had been positioned on reverse halves of the Australian Open bracket within the draw Thursday, which means the house owners of a mixed 43 Grand Slam singles titles may solely meet within the ultimate at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic, a nine-time champion in Australia, returns to the hard-court event after lacking it final yr when his visa was revoked and he was deported from the nation as a result of he is not vaccinated towards COVID-19. He additionally could not compete on the 2022 U.S. Open.

Fourth-seeded Djokovic will open his bid for a tenth Australian Open title towards Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena within the event which begins Monday.

Iga Swiatek, the ladies’s No. 1-ranked participant, takes on German Jule Niemeier, who’s ranked No.68, within the opening spherical. The Polish participant was a semifinalist at Melbourne Park in 2022, a yr wherein she gained the French and U.S. Open titles.

However the principle first-round focus will probably be on Nadal, who faces a probably difficult match towards British participant Jack Draper. Draper, who’s 21, was a semifinalist within the Subsequent Gen Championships in November and also will play in a semifinal of the Adelaide Worldwide on Friday.

One other opening-round spotlight has five-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray towards Italian Matteo Berrettini, a former Wimbledon finalist who’s the No. 13-seeded participant.

Murray defeated Australian Alex De Minaur 6-3, 6-3 in an exhibition match on Thursday and is happy along with his type.

“It is always difficult in exhibition matches to play like it is the first round of a Grand Slam but I wanted to try to leave everything out on the court to give my body the best preparation, to see how I was moving, to see how I was serving, and it went well,” Murray stated.

The potential males’s quarterfinals by seeding are: Nadal vs. No. 7 Daniil Medvedev in what can be a rematch of final yr’s ultimate at Melbourne Park, gained by Nadal after dropping the preliminary two units, and No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime within the prime half; and Djokovic vs. No. 5 Andrey Rublev, and No. 2 Casper Ruud vs. No. 8 Taylor Fritz within the backside half.

Nadal has a number one 22 Grand Slam singles titles, yet one more than Djokovic.

Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, who faces Roman Safiullin within the opening spherical, will play Djokovic in an exhibition match on Friday in Melbourne.

“I am one of the best players in the world, so I am definitely going to go into the Australian Open and any Grand Slam with confidence,” Kyrgios stated.

Ons Jabeur, who reached each the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals in 2022, is seeded second and performs Tamara Zidansek within the ladies’s draw.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, who led the U.S. group that claimed the blended groups United Cup in Sydney final week, faces Jaqueline Cristian from Romania within the first spherical.

Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup captain Alicia Molik, who attended the draw at Melbourne Park, stated Pegula is a contender.

“I feel like she has the mental fortitude and I really feel like she can be here late in the stage of the Australian Open,” Molik stated.

Seventh-seeded Coco Gauff, who gained a event in Auckland final week, faces a troublesome first-round take a look at towards Katerina Siniakova, who defeated her within the Billie Jean King Cup finals in November.

The potential ladies’s quarterfinals are: Swiatek vs. Gauff in what can be a rematch of final yr’s French Open ultimate, gained by Swiatek, and Pegula vs. No. 6 Maria Sakkari within the prime half of the bracket; and Jabeur vs. No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka, and No. 4 Caroline Garcia vs. No. 8 Daria Kasatkina within the backside half.

One other large first-round match is two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka towards Sofia Kenin, who gained the title at Melbourne Park in 2020.