Smooth draw for Djokovic at Australian Open

Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:57pm EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic's chances of winning a fifth Australian Open title have been boosted by a kind draw in the opening week, while women’s top seed Serena Williams kicks off her campaign against 106th-ranked Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.

World number one Djokovic faces a qualifier first up and will avoid the top 10 seeds until at least the quarter-finals, where he could meet big-serving Milos Raonic, one of the highly-fancied crop of young players tipped to challenge the dominance of the 'Big Four'.

Reigning champion Stan Wawrinka, seeded fourth, faces a tougher route if he is to defend his crown.

The Swiss takes on 99th-ranked Marsel Ilhan of Turkey before a possible fourth round matchup with 16th seeded Italian Fabio Fognini and a likely quarter-final against U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori.

On the comeback trail from injury and illness, third seed Rafa Nadal has also been given few favors with a dangerous opening round tie against Russian Mikhail Youzhny, a former top-10 player.

"Youzhny is not that easy to beat," said 83-year-old Hall of Fame coach Nick Bollettieri at the draw ceremony at Melbourne Park on Friday. "I’m sure a lot of people will be looking at that first round to see how healthy Nadal is."

Following that, the 2009 champion has a possible third round against Czech bogey-man Lukas Rosol, who upset him in the second round of Wimbledon in 2012.


Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) walks past Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka after they had a practice session together on Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park January 15, 2015. The Australian Open tennis tournament begins on January 19.   REUTERS/David Gray