Roger Federer to face Jurgen Melzer in first round at Australian Open 2017
The two have played each other on multiple occasions in the past.
What’s the story?
Former World No. 1 Roger Federer, who comes into the Australian Open ranked 17th, will play Austria’s Jurgen Melzer in the first round. Melzer, who entered as a qualifier, defeated Olympic doubles gold medal winner Rajeev Ram of the United States of America for a spot in the main draw of the tournament, which will commence on Monday, the 16th of January.
Federer will face qualifiers in his first two rounds of competition.
In case you didn’t know...
Jurgen Melzer may have had to enter the tournament as a qualifier this year, but the Austrian is an experienced campaigner – and a former top 10 ATP singles player. 35-year-old Melzer was ranked 8th on the ATP World Tour standings in 2011, the highest of his career, but saw an unfortunate – and steady – drop in his singles ranking over the next few years.
Having struggled with stress and performance related injuries, Melzer withdrew from the 2014 Australian Open, and since then has played qualifying events at Grand Slams owing to long injury absences and subsequent drop in the rankings.
For a long time, Melzer, a junior Wimbledon singles winner, was unable to progress beyond the third round of a Grand Slam, but with a breakthrough 2010 season, he progressed to the semi-finals at the French Open, defeating Novak Djokovic before losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.
The Austrian has two Grand Slam titles, in the men’s doubles at Wimbledon in 2010 and at the US Open the following year; both titles were won with German ace Philipp Petzschner.
Heart of the Matter
Federer and Melzer, both 35, have seen long absences from the sport and have both had long careers, and Federer was placed in the No. 24 spot in the draws, with the three spots above him reserved for qualifying entries.
Melzer was 23rd, with the previous two spots occupied by Bjorn Fratangelo and Noah Rubin of the United States, who will face each other in the main draw.
The Austrian dropped to 550 in the rankings, before ascending now to 300, while Federer’s six-month break following 2016 has seen him drop to 17th.
The two have played each other four times in the past, with the Swiss winning three of those matches.
Federer has appeared to be fitter than ever following his long layoff and recuperation period. Melzer, on the other hand, has also been putting up a spirited fight, and has something to prove here. Interestingly, although the pair’s rivalry is slanted firmly in Federer’s favour, Melzer won the pair’s last match against each other – at the 2011 Monte Carlo Masters, with the Austrian taking a consummate straight sets win.
Of Federer’s three wins against Melzer, only one has been in straight sets, and that was also not a one-sided contest, so this will be an interesting watch.
Two of their meetings have been at Grand Slams, with Federer winning on both occasions – at the US Open and Wimbledon.
Following an extended break from the sport, Federer said he was keen to play “at least a couple more years” of tennis, and made his 2017 debut at the Hopman Cup in Perth in early January.
The Australian Open will be Federer’s first tournament of 2017 on the ATP World Tour, but the four-time Australian Open champion will not be too worried. The 35-year-old Swiss has not only managed to keep his game at the consistent level he has been used to, but looked fitter than ever. Coming off a stellar performance – despite a loss – against top-20 sensation Alexander Zverev, Federer will now look to build on that form.
How far can Federer go in the tournament? He will face top-10 competition in the third round in the form of Tomas Berdych, but given that rivalry has been one-sided, the Swiss will not be very worried. His most worrying competition will come in the quarter-finals, where he is set, in the best case scenario, to face Andy Murray – and that will be the biggest test of his return to form and fitness.