Draw Down Under plots path to Australian Open glory

Over at Melbourne Park the draw has taken place for the Australian Open with an abundance of first round firecrackers.

Australian Open draw 2021©Tennis Australia / Fiona Hamilton
 - Alex Sharp

The calendar has turned over into February and we can enjoy some Grand Slam tennis.

It’s Australian Open time following the men’s and women’s singles draw on Friday. 

Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Ash Barty headline the rundown, with matches scheduled to commence on Monday at Melbourne Park.

Who will the favourites face? What are the ‘must watch’ opening encounters? Find out below…

Barty on the home charge

Back in action and back on home courts, top seed Barty opens her title tilt against world No.77 Danka Kovinic. The Australian could meet compatriot Daria Gavrilova at the second hurdle before facing the ever-improving 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The world No.1, for the second successive year, is drawn to take on defending champion Sofia Kenin in the semi-finals - the feisty American edged their thrilling 7-6(6), 7-5 battle last January.

Serena still seeking Major No.24

Serena Williams has lost four major finals (two each at Wimbledon and the US Open) since collecting her 23rd Grand Slam at Australian Open 2017. Will the American finally land the record-equalling 24?

The 10th seed is located in a star-studded bottom half including eight major winners.

For Serena, the seven-time champion, the first contender is Germany’s Laura Siegemund, before Belarusian powerhouse Aryna Sabalenka could await in a blockbuster Last 16 clash. 

Imagine the possible quarter-final of Williams taking on recent Roland-Garros champions Simona Halep or Iga Swiatek

Women’s popcorn matches

Osaka vs Pavlyuchenkova

Fernandez vs Mertens

Juvan vs Konta 

Muchova vs Ostapenko 

Kudermetova vs Kostyuk

Boulter vs Kasatkina

Women’s projected last 16

Barty vs Martic, Bencic vs Pliskova, Kenin vs Konta, Azarenka vs Svitolina, Andreescu vs Kvitova, Muguruza vs Osaka, Sabalenka vs S.Williams, Swiatek vs Halep

Women' singles draw

Djokovic and Nadal chasing history once again

The Roland-Garros 2020 finalists Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the standout contenders once again on the men’s side.

World No.1 Djokovic will hope to ignite his quest for a ninth Australian Open crown against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy (13-0 head-to-head).

Further down the tracks looks tricky; with 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka, Diego Schwartzman, Alexander Zverev and last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem all in his half. 

Nadal, who equalled Roger Federer’s tally of 20 Grand Slams with Roland-Garros title No.13 last Autumn, could break clear in the all-time roster. 

The Spaniard, finalist four times since lifting his sole Australian Open trophy in 2009, tackles the challenge of world No.56 Laslo Djere (first meeting). 

Russia’s formidable duo Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, alongside fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas feature in Nadal’s half, as well as an intriguing potential fourth round against the unpredictable Fabio Fognini (Remember US Open 2015?).

Chasing pack learn their fate

US Open champion Thiem, who fell narrowly short in the enthralling 2020 final to Djokovic, will look to open confidently facing Mikhail Kukushkin.

The world No.3 is drawn in the same quarter as good friend Schwartzman. The Argentine ended Thiem’s Roland-Garros journey in the last eight last October. 

Medvedev, should he navigate past the rejuvenated Vasek Pospisil in the first round, will be seeking a deep run having capped his 2020 season in spectacular fashion with back-to-back titles at the Rolex Paris Masters and ATP Finals.  

Rublev and countryman Medvedev is a quarter-final encounter any fan would want to witness. 

Tsitsipas, semi-finalist in 2019, must be switched on from the very beginning on court with wily Frenchman Gilles Simon.

Can any of the chasing pack take down Nadal and Djokovic in the same fortnight for a major reward in Melbourne?

Men’s popcorn matches

Sinner vs Shapovalov

Berrettini vs Anderson

Moutet vs Millman

Monfils vs Ruusuvuori 

Nishikori vs Carreno Busta 

Projected Men’s Last 16

Djokovic vs Raonic, Monfils vs Zverev, Thiem vs Carreno Busta, Shapovalov vs Schwartzman, Rublev vs Bautista Agut, Goffin vs Medvedev, Tsitsipas vs Berrettini, Fognini vs Nadal

Men's singles draw