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Australian Open 2018: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in same half, Rafael Nadal gets relatively easy draw

FEATURED COLUMNIST
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990   //    11 Jan 2018, 15:05 IST

2018 Australian Open Draw
Roger Federer at the 2018 Australian Open draw ceremony

Defending champion Roger Federer and six-time champion Novak Djokovic were both placed in the bottom half as the Australian Open 2018 draw got revealed in Melbourne on Thursday. The two could face each other in a blockbuster semi-final, should Djokovic get past fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the fourth round.

The Serb is now languishing at a lowly 14th world ranking, having been on a six-month hiatus due to an elbow injury that required surgery. The former World No. 1, who admittedly is still not at 100% fitness, played his first match after the break on Wednesday at the high-profile exhibition event, the Kooyong Classic. Djokovic showed glimpses of his usual brilliance as he annihilated 2017 French Open semi-finalist Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4.

The 30-year-old begins his quest for a record seventh title against World No. 63 Donald Young.

Federer has Del Potro in quarters

Five-time champion Federer, meanwhile, will begin his title defence against the 51st ranked Aljaz Bedene. The first possible danger for the Swiss maestro could be former Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic or World No. 13 Sam Querrey in the fourth round.

In the quarter-finals, Federer could run into Juan Martin del Potro, who is set to return to the top 10 or ATP World Tour Finals runner-up David Goffin.

Besides Djokovic and Federer, former champion Stan Wawrinka and Thiem were also placed in the heavy bottom half. Both of them are on course to meet Djokovic in the last-eight.

Nadal has Dimitrov in semis

World No. 1 and top seed Rafael Nadal can breathe easy as he found himself in the relatively lesser loaded half of the draw. The 2009 champion, who is defending runner-up points this time, has the World No. 81 Victor Estrella Burgos in his first round.

John Isner could pose a threat to the 16-time Grand Slam champion in the Round of 16, but he is expected to sail through that round and possibly lock horns with former US Open winner Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals.

Third seed and ATP World Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov should hand a stern test to the southpaw in the semi-finals. Should they square off against each other, it would be a repeat of their enthralling semi-final match that lit up the Rod Laver Arena 12 months ago.

Dimitrov, however, himself has a few dangers lurking in his quarter, namely Nick Kyrgios, who recently triumphed at Brisbane. There is also the eighth seeded Jack Sock, the 11th seeded Kevin Anderson and the 15th seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the same quarter.

Venus vs Bencic in blockbuster first round

The biggest news from the women’s draw is the tantalizing first round clash between the 2017 runner-up Venus Williams and Belinda Bencic, who teamed up with Federer to lead Switzerland to Hopman Cup title.

2008 champion Maria Sharapova will begin her campaign against World No. 46 Tatjana Maria and the top seed and World No. 1 Simona Halep has the rising Australian Destanee Aiava in the opening round.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, former champion Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska and Sharapova have all been drawn in the same quarter.

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FEATURED COLUMNIST
A freelance journalist based in Kolkata who is a diehard Rafael Nadal fan. She is also extremely passionate about India’s progress in sports and hopes to throw light on India’s unsung sports heroes through her articles. When not screaming her lungs out in support of her favourite sports stars, she can be seen reading, watching movies or immersed in planning her next travel destination!
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