MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Roger Federer discovered himself in a barely awkward place earlier than the Australian Open draw.
A couple of minutes later when the formalities have been accomplished, Federer discovered how troublesome defending his title could possibly be after touchdown in the identical half as six-time champion Novak Djokovic.
“This isn’t regular,” Federer instructed a crowd of lots of of followers earlier than the draw on Thursday at Margaret Court docket Enviornment. “I do not like normally going to attracts as a result of they freak me out. I do not need to know who I play different than simply seeing the sheet on the finish and figuring out who my first-round opponent is.”
First up, the 36-year-old Swiss will play Ajaz Bedene of Slovenia. He additionally has No. 7-ranked David Goffin, Juan Martin del Potro, Sam Querrey, and Milos Raonic in his quarter.
There is a potential semifinal towards Djokovic, who’s aiming for a report seventh Australian Open title however is seeded 14th as he returns from six months on the sidelines with a proper elbow harm.
Djokovic is in the identical quarter because the Zverev brothers – fourth-seeded Alexander may meet older brother and No. 32-seeded Mischa within the third spherical – 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka, and No. 5 Dominic Thiem.
Federer beat Rafael Nadal within the closing right here final yr on his return from six months on the sidelines and is seeded No. 2 as he bids for a 20th Grand Slam singles title.
Djokovic had a contrasting 2017, beginning at No. 2 however shedding in a second-round upset on the Australian Open and never enjoying once more after Wimbledon. It was the primary yr since 2009 that Djokovic did not attain a minimum of one Grand Slam closing. He delayed his return till two exhibition appearances this week.
High-ranked Nadal will open towards Victor Estrella Burgos, has a possible fourth-round match towards John Isner, and No. three Grigor Dimitrov in his half of the draw. He adopted his run to the ultimate in Melbourne by profitable the French Open and U.S. Open, splitting the Grand Slam honors with Federer for the yr.
Serena Williams has opted to not defend her title 4 months after giving start to her first youngster, leaving the ladies’s draw open.
Her sister Venus, who misplaced the all-Williams Australian Open closing final yr, has a troublesome opener towards Belinda Bencic – who mixed with Federer to win the Hopman Cup for Switzerland final week – and can be in the identical quarter as U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens.
High-ranked Simona Halep opens towards Australian wild card Destanee Aiava, has a possible second-round match towards 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard, and is in the identical half as Garbine Muruguza, the Wimbledon champion.
Third-seeded Muguruza is in a troublesome quarter containing former Australian Open champions Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber, and U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys.
Sharapova, who gained the 2008 Australian title and reached three different finals at Melbourne Park, missed final yr’s event throughout a 15-month suspension after a failed doping take a look at right here in 2016.
The five-time main winner completed 2017 ranked No. 60, which means she missed out on a seeding for the Australian Open and will face 2016 champion Kerber within the third spherical.
“There is no simple option to get to the highest,” Sharapova instructed the gang at Margaret Court docket Enviornment earlier than the draw. “You all the time should beat the highest gamers with the intention to get to the highest.”
Organizers defended the choice to ask Sharapova to seem because the consultant for the ladies’s draw, with event director Craig Tiley saying the sanction was over and the 30-year-old Russian was there as a former champion.
Sharapova mentioned after a very long time out she needed to be affected person coming again to the tour, however was nonetheless assured of returning to the highest rating and profitable main tournaments.
“The drive, I nonetheless have it. I actually will hope I put myself in that place,” Sharapova mentioned. “I put a whole lot of expectations on myself as a result of I’ve been there, and I’ve delivered in these moments. I count on to proceed to take action.”
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