Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Novak Djokovic faces qualifier at Australian Open while Roger Federer draws Denis Istomin

Second seeded Nadal begins against Australian James Duckworth while fourth seed Alexander Zverev faces Slovenian Aljaz Bedene

Serbia's Novak Djokovic arrives to attend a publicity event ahead of the Australian Open. Reuters
Serbia's Novak Djokovic arrives to attend a publicity event ahead of the Australian Open. Reuters

World No 1 Novak Djokovic will start his bid to win a record seventh Australian Open title next week against a qualifier following Thursday's draw.

The Serb had a magnificent 2018, making an astonishing climb back from outside the world's top 20 in June, winning Wimbledon and the US Open on the way to reclaiming the No 1 ranking in November.

He will start his drive to make history against a yet-to-be-decided qualifier and could meet France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round.

Champion Roger Federer, seeded three and also gunning for a seventh Melbourne title, starts his title defence against world No 99 Denis Istomin and could meet Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.

"He [Djokovic] continues to challenge me. I played him in his prime when he was virtually unbeatable. It was important not to get frustrated by it. I always enjoy my matches against him," 20-time grand slam winner Federer said at the draw.

"We are both natural attacking players. We are aggressive. He is up there with Nadal and [Lleyton] Hewitt - they make me rethink my game. I like to play attacking tennis, so I've come full circle."

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Second seeded Nadal begins against Australian James Duckworth, fourth seed Alexander Zverev faces Slovenian Aljaz Bedene while last year's runner-up Marin Cilic has a tricky encounter with Australian Bernard Tomic.

A highlight first-round clash will see Australia's unseeded Nick Kyrgios up against Canada's big-serving 16th seed Milos Raonic, with the winner facing either Stan Wawrinka or Ernests Gulbis.

Three-time grand slam winner Andy Murray has a tough clash with 22nd-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut as he returns from a hip injury.

The Spanish 22nd seed defeated Djokovic on his way to the title in Doha last week while concerns about Murray's fitness grew as he struggled through a practice match against Djokovic at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

Murray, 31, is on the comeback trail after missing 11 months with a hip injury which has seen him slump to 230 in the world.

The Scot was bundled out of the Brisbane International warm-up last week in round two by Russia's Daniil Medvedev and headed straight to Melbourne to fit in some much-needed practice.

Long-time rival Djokovic offered to share a court with him, but Murray called time after less than an hour with his movement around the baseline appearing restricted.

Kyle Edmund, back at the scene of his semi-final appearance 12 months ago, was also given a difficult opener at the year's first grand slam against former top-10 stalwart Tomas Berdych, who is unseeded following injury.

Updated: January 10, 2019 01:38 PM

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