Difficult opener for Murray in Melbourne
TENNIS:Andy Murray has a tough draw at the Australian Open as he tries to follow up his maiden grand slam title in New York with success in Melbourne.
Third seed Murray was paired with Dutchman Robin Haase in a first-round clash which will take place on Tuesday.
And while his subsequent three matches – he is then seeded to face Joao Sousa, Florian Mayer and Gilles Simon – are unlikely to pose too many problems, the likely quarter-final match-up with big-hitting Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro looks tricky.
From then, he is scheduled to meet 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer, who has won three of their last four meetings on hard courts, with two-time defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic a probable final foe.
Although Murray may have privately mapped his route to the latter stages, the 25-year-old insists he is not looking past his clash with world number 54 Haase, against whom he has a 1-1 record.
With Rafael Nadal missing Melbourne this year through injury, both Djokovic and Federer would have been eager to avoid Murray in the semi-finals and the luck went the way of the Serbian, who now looks an excellent bet to reach a third successive final.
Djokovic opens against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu and looks set to make untroubled progress to the latter stages.
Federer has been given the toughest schedule of the leading contenders. Although a first-round assignment with France’s Benoit Faire should prove straightforward, likely clashes against talented home hope Bernard Tomic, Milos Raonic and seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga look dangerous hurdles.
Serena Williams, a five-time winner in Melbourne, starts out as the women’s tournament favourite despite her ranking as third seed.
Williams opens against Romania’s Edina Gallovits-Hall and is unlikely to be tested before a scheduled quarter-final clash with 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Victoria Azarenka has declared herself fully fit to defend her title. The world number one was forced to pull out of the Brisbane International last week at the semi-final stage due to a toe infection caused by a pedicure.