It’s here. The Australian Open draw has finally been released. Defending champions Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka were on hand to see what kind of run they would have in an attempt to go back-to-back.
Well at least one of them got lucky by being there.
The first match that could be difficult for Azarenka could be Roberta Vinci in the fourth round followed by Lisicki, Wozniacki, Errani or Kuznetsova. This fairly early run will be good for Azarenka who hasn’t had much game time coming into this tournament.
The relatively easy rounds will help her build up to her title defence.
This looks to be the trend for most of the seeded women with very few having difficult first round matches.
The ones that I noticed that I will have to try and catch included: Petra Kvitova (8) v Francesca Schiavone, Caroline Wozniacki (10) v Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli (11) v Anabel Medina Garrigues, Yanina Wickmayer (20) v Jarmila Gajdosova, and Mona Barthel (32) v Ksenia Pervak.
There could be some exciting match-ups in the third round though when the seeds start to meet, with a possible all-Serbian match between Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic as well as former grand slam champions Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova facing off.
The semi-finals will be the time to look out in the women’s draw though, with a match-up between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. This is worthy of being the final at any tournament on the tour and will be the real test for Azarenka if she is to defend her title.
The fans will get a lot more excitement from the men’s draw though with all of the top seeds looking at tough matches from the get go.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic will have Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, fresh from some tough games at Kooyong.
The likely follow-up matches after this are Ryan Harrison, Feliciano Lopez/Radek Stepanek, Stan Wawrinka/Sam Querrey, Tomas Berdych and a semi-final match-up with David Ferrer.
Ferrer isn’t a certainty either though as he will have to get past Marcos Baghdatis, Kei Nishikori and Nicolas Almagro/Lleyton Hewitt/Janko Tipsarevic.
There are plenty of other dangerous floaters in this half of the draw, with Australian Lleyton Hewitt, big serving South African Kevin Anderson and up-and-coming star Grigor Dimitrov unseeded, as well as one of last year’s new comers Jerzy Janowicz.
In the second half of the men’s draw, the other favourites, Andy Murray (3) and Roger Federer (2), are both facing tough draws to set up a semi-final showdown.
Murray probably has the easiest with Florian Mayer in the third round his first hard match, but then he will have to get past Giles Simon/Alexandr Dolgopolov before setting up a likely quarter-final blockbuster with fellow US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro.
Federer will have a much tougher run with a possible tough second round match against former world number three Nikolay Davydenko.
This is likely to be followed by a third round rematch with Australian Bernard Tomic. Should the number two get through this, things don’t get any easier with either Milos Raonic or Philip Kohlschreiber in the fourth round and one of the Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Richard Gasquet in the quarter final.
There are lots of exciting first round clashes to look out for in the men’s draw in both halves with many of the seeds getting very difficult matches early on.
Some of the best matches to look for in the first round include: Novak Djokovic (1) v Paul-Henri Mathieu, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7) v Michael Llodra, Janko Tipsarevic (8) v Lleyton Hewitt, Marin Cilic (12) v Marinko Matosevic, Alexandr Dolgopolov (18) v Gael Monfils, Tommy Haas (19) v Jarko Nieminen, Fernando Verdasco (22) v David Goffin, Mikhail Youzhny (23) v Matt Ebden, Jerzy Janowicz (24) v Simon Bolelli, Radek Stepanek (31) v Viktor Troiki, and Julien Benneteau (32) v Grigor Dimitrov.
With so many good players down under this year and such strong matches so early in both the men’s and women’s draws (compiled with the absence of Rafael Nadal in the men’s dra), this year’s Australian Open is set to be an epic.
The women’s draw doesn’t look to have a lot of depth and I can’t see anyone catching Serena Williams at any point. She will regain her number one ranking.
The men’s draw however looks a lot more open and I honestly think about half of the draw could win the title.
In saying that though I think it is hard to go past the top three and I think Novak Djokovic will be too good and become the first man to win three straight Australian Opens.