Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Draw favours defending champ

MELBOURNE, Australia—As three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic held the Australian Open trophy in a photo shoot before today’s draw, he joked that having his fingerprints on it may in some way help him win the title for a fourth-consecutive year.
The draw certainly didn’t dent Djokovic’s chances, with top-seeded Rafael Nadal, No. 4 Andy Murray, No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, and No. 6 Roger Federer all stacked in the opposite half.

Djokovic’s new coach—six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker—attended the draw and duly noted that Nadal, Federer, and Co. were in “a loaded half, that’s for sure.”
Djokovic, who is on a 24-match winning streak, opens against No. 90-ranked Lukas Lacko and potentially has a quarter-final against Stanislas Wawrinka, who took him to 12-10 in the fifth set at the Australian Open last year.
The bottom half of the draw also contains No. 3 David Ferrer, who lost in a semi-final upset at Auckland earlier today, and No. 7 Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic conceded it was an advantage to avoid the other tournament favourites early.
“[But] regardless of the draw, the potential opponents that I have in later rounds, I need to direct my attention to my next opponent,” he stressed.
“There are plenty of players who are able to win the Australian Open this year or any other Grand Slam title.”
On the women’s side, top-ranked Serena Williams opens against Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty, and has 2011 U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur and two-time finalist Li Na in her half.
Two-time defending Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova are in the opposite half—meaning they only could meet Williams in the final.
But the top half of the men’s draw was the talking point, starting with Nadal’s first-round match against Australian Bernard Tomic.
“I think that’ll be a night match, for sure,” Becker quipped.
“But a tough, tricky one for both players,” he added. “Tomic will certainly have the home support.”
Nadal missed last year’s Australian Open with a left knee injury during a seven-month absence from the tour.
He returned to win 10 titles in 2013 and regain the No. 1 ranking, overhauling Djokovic in October.

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