Australian Open 2023: Nadal and Swiatek drawn tricky path

The tennis world has zoned in on Melbourne Park for the first Grand Slam of the 2023 calendar.

Norman Brookes Challenge Cup - Open d'Australie 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The off-season seems like a blur with the ‘Happy Slam’ ready to roll Down Under.

That’s right, it’s time for the Australian Open and the draw for the men’s and women’s singles was made on Thursday. Take a look at the key headlines.

Nadal and Djokovic separated until the final

On one side of the draw is defending champion Rafael Nadal, on the other Novak Djokovic, seeking his 10th title at Melbourne Park to tie his rival on 22 Grand Slams.

The ‘Big Three’ stars can only meet in the trophy showdown, with plenty of obstacles first.

In particular Nadal, off the back of two defeats at the United Cup with Spain, opens against the raw power of Brit Jack Draper.

The world No.40 shot to prominence in 2022 and has burst into the new season with at least a semi-final in Adelaide. Eager to play bold tennis on the major stage, Draper is going to go for broke against the top seed!

Nadal is then set to meet Next Gen ATP Finals winner Brandon Nakashima in the second round, before a projected last eight re-match with Daniil Medvedev, who he outgunned from two sets down in last year’s classic final.

Nadal Medvedev Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Djokovic, hailing “perfect” preparation following his Adelaide title success, has been pencilled in against world No.75 Roberto Carballes Baena. The Spaniard amassed just 9 games during the 2019 US Open first round facing Djokovic. Can he pull off an almighty shock?

Australian Open 2023 - Men's singles draw

Swiatek under attack from step one

Last season world No.1 Iga Swiatek took the baton from Ash Barty and sprinted clear of her competitors with two Grand Slam titles along with a scintillating 37-match winning streak.

Into 2023 and the Pole will hope to at least replicate her semi-final showing at Melbourne Park last January. However, it’s going to be a test from the very first ball over the net from Jule Niemeier.

The German youngster took the opening set off Swiatek during the Pole’s US Open title triumph in the fourth round. No room for complacency here for Swiatek.

The top seed could duel with unseeded Bianca Andreescu in the third round ahead of a possible last 16 clash with 2022 AO finalist Danielle Collins.

Australian Open 2023 - Women's singles draw

Grab the popcorn for…

Rafael Nadal vs Jack Draper
Andrey Rublev vs Dominic Thiem
Matteo Berrettini vs Andy Murray
Thanasi Kokkinakis vs Fabio Fognini

Victoria Azarenka vs Sofia Kenin
Marta Kostyuk vs Amanda Anisimova
Leylah Fernandez vs Alizé Cornet
Paula Badosa vs Cathy McNally
Garbiñe Muguruza vs Elise Mertens

Who can step up?

Headlining the bottom half of the women’s draw is Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian trailblazer, runner-up at both Wimbledon and the US Open last season, is determined to land a maiden major.

Jabeur’s versatility and all-court trickery will be required to outsmart the likes of No.4 seed Caroline Garcia and No.5 seed Aryna Sabalenka in her half.

2021 Roland-Garros semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek presents an immediate examination of Jabeur’s game at the first look.

Garcia, WTA Finals champion in November, hopes to harness her resurgent 2022 form in Melbourne when she kicks off facing Canadian qualifier Katherine Sebov. An all-French second round clash could be served up if Alizé Cornet also navigates past Leylah Fernandez.

Caroline Garcia & Ons Jabeur / US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Jessica Pegula has posted two quarter-finals at Melbourne Park and arrives oozing with confidence having guided Team USA to United Cup glory in Sydney.

That week included a 6-2, 6-2 demolition of Swiatek, a performance which would have caught the attention of the whole draw. Pegula heads into the first round with Romanian Jaqueline Cristian seeking an upset.

Pegula’s Roland-Garros doubles partner Coco Gauff is another key contender. The singles finalist on Court Philippe-Chatrier has launched into 2023, claiming all 10 sets to lifted the Auckland trophy.

No.7 seed Gauff, in the same quarter as Swiatek, has been drawn with Czech Katerina Siniakova in the opener.

Projected quarter-finals

(1) Rafael Nadal vs (7) Daniil Medvedev
(3) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs (6) Félix Auger-Aliassime
(5) Andrey Rublev vs (4) Novak Djokovic
(8) Taylor Fritz vs (2) Casper Ruud

(1) Iga Swiatek vs (7) Coco Gauff
(3) Jessica Pegula vs (6) Maria Sakkari
(8) Daria Kasatkina vs (4) Caroline Garcia
(5) Aryna Sabalenka vs (2) Ons Jabeur

Out to spoil the party

Not everyone will want a Nadal versus Djokovic men's final, especially these elite names.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is the last person to defeat Nadal at the Australian Open, which was back in 2021. The Greek was in inspired form at the United Cup. Over to France’s Quentin Halys to derail the No.3 seed, otherwise Tsitsipas has a potential fourth round with Jannik Sinner.

What about the mercurial Nick Kyrgios? The Wimbledon finalist can line up a French second round with either Richard Gasquet or Ugo Humbert. Kyrgios escaped 9-7 in the fifth set of a titanic first round against Humbert at the 2021 Australian Open. Maybe we are in for a repeat...

A dialled in Kyrgios is projected to earn a third round with Holger Rune. The Danish youngster ripped through the indoor season, most notably claiming the Rolex Paris Masters crown. Can the No.9 seed sustain his momentum onto the major stage in Melbourne?