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The men’s and women’s draws for the 2019 Australian Open have been released and it has the potential to produce some must-watch mouth-watering clashes over the next fortnight.
As the top two seeds in the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been kept apart from each other until the final, while Roger Federer has been assigned to the latter’s side of the draw meaning he will have to overcome a dismal record against his great rival if he is to win his 100th career singles title at Melbourne Park.
In the women’s, Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber also cannot face each other until the final, while defending champion Caroline Wozniacki has been assigned to the latter’s side of the draw as she bids to successfully retain the title she worked so hard to win last year.
As usual, we start by analysing the men’s draw, where Novak Djokovic’s path to a record seventh Australian Open title could face an early hurdle as he is projected to face the man he beat in the 2008 final, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the second round.
The first seed the Djoker could face is 25th-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov, while rising Russian star Daniil Medvedev could block his path to the quarter-finals in the fourth round.
Should the 31-year-old successfully navigate his way through his section of the draw, then eighth seed Kei Nishikori will loom as his likely quarter-final opponent.
The Japanese veteran, who ended a two-year title drought at the Brisbane International last week, will start against a qualifier and is projected to face Italian twelfth seed Fabio Fognini in the fourth round.
Reigning ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev is the leading name in the second quarter of the draw and his bid to win a maiden Grand Slam title Down Under will start against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene, with a possible third round meeting against Gilles Simon looming if he can get that far.
Also in this section of the draw is Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who is unseeded at the Australian Open for the first time since 2015 and faces Canadian 16th seed Milos Raonic in the first round.
The winner of that match is likely to face 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round, provided he gets past former French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis in his first match.
If Wawrinka and Kyrgios meet in the second round, then fans can expect to be treated to some serious fireworks given the history between the pair (think the sledging controversy at the 2015 Montreal Masters for one).
Whichever of the trio advances to the fourth round is likely to face Zverev there, while the other leading name in this quarter of the draw is seventh-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, who will be attempting to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the first time.
The 25-year-old starts against France’s Benoit Paire and is likely to face 2017 quarter-finalist Mischa Zverev in the second round. Should he reach the round of sixteen, then eleventh seed Borna Coric is expected to await.
Shifting to the other side of the draw now, and sixth seed Marin Cilic will begin his quest for a second Grand Slam title against Australian Bernard Tomic, who is back in the main draw for the first time since 2017. The Croat is projected to face 26th-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the third round, and tenth seed Karen Khachanov in the fourth.
Five-time runner-up Andy Murray, who has a protected ranking of number one, is up against another Spaniard, 22nd seed and recent Qatar winner Roberto Bautista-Agut in the first round, while John Millman is also in this part of the draw and will face the winner of that match provided he beats Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in his opening match.
Further down the draw, third seed Roger Federer will start his bid for a record seventh title with a tricky clash against Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin, who of course upset Novak Djokovic in the second round two years ago.
His first seeded threat is French showman Gael Monfils (30th) in the third round, while Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas, ranked fifteenth (seeded fourteenth due to Juan Martin del Potro’s withdrawal), is likely to loom in the round of sixteen.
Federer and Tsitsipas only recently met at the Hopman Cup in Perth, with the Swiss Maestro winning a close straight-sets match in which both sets were decided in tiebreaks.
In the seventh section, fifth seed Kevin Anderson begins against France’s Adrian Mannarino and could reprise his epic Wimbledon semi-final showdown against John Isner in the fourth round should both men get that far.
The one man who will be looking to spoil that match-up is Grigor Dimitrov, a one-time world number three who has dropped to 21st in the world (seeded 20th). He is projected to face Isner in the third round, but must first get past Janko Tipsarevic in the first round, and then one of Pablo Cuevas or Dusan Lajovic in the second.
Down at the bottom of the draw, world number two Rafael Nadal will start against Australian wildcard James Duckworth, with his first serious threat coming in the form of 27th-seeded Aussie Alex de Minaur in the third round.
The Spaniard is then projected to face last year’s semi-finalist, Kyle Edmund (whose first match is against Tomas Berdych), in the fourth round.
Barring any major upsets in the men’s draw, the quarter-finals onwards could look like this:
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs  Kei Nishikori (JPN)
 Alexander Zverev (GER) vs  Dominic Thiem (AUT)
 Marin Cilic (CRO) vs  Roger Federer (SUI)
 Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs  Alexander Zverev (GER)
 Roger Federer (SUI) vs  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Predicted championship outcome
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeats  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Now to the women’s side of things, where Simona Halep has again been dealt another first round encounter against the same woman to whom she lost in this stage at the US Open last year, Kaia Kanepi.
As was also the case in New York last August/September, sixteenth seed Serena Williams is also in this section of the draw and looms as the major obstacle in the Romanian’s path to a first Australian Open title.
Elder sister Venus, who is unseeded, faces another Romanian, Mihaela Buzarnescu, in her first match, and could loom as a third round opponent for top seed Halep.
It is also possible that the two Williams sisters could face each other in the fourth round, and if that eventuates, it will be the second consecutive Major at which they have met, after doing so in the third round of last year’s US Open. It would also be their first meeting in Australia since the 2017 final, which Serena won while she was two months pregnant.
Former US Open champion Samantha Stosur and former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard are also in this section of the draw, with the latter looming as a likely second round opponent for Serena.
Whichever of these women reaches the quarter-finals from section one is likely to face seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, who starts against a qualifier as she bids to win her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
In the Czech’s section of the draw is tenth seed Daria Kasatkina, as well as Johanna Konta and Ajla Tomljanovic, who will face each other for the second time in three weeks, possibly for the right to face 18th seed Garbine Muguruza in the second round.
The second quarter of the draw is anchored by reigning US Open champion and fourth seed Naomi Osaka, whose first match is against Poland’s Magda Linette.
Two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka looms as a possible third round opponent, while Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova is expected to await the Japanese star in the round of sixteen.
Osaka is then projected to meet sixth seed Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals, though the Ukrainian may have to face Elise Mertens, who defeated her in the final eight stage twelve months ago, a round earlier this year in the fourth round.
Former finalist Dominika Cibulkova and 2017 US Open runner-up Madison Keys are also in this section of the draw and their first matches are against Destanee Aiava and Zhang Shuai, a quarter-finalist here in 2016, respectively.
Flipping the page over now, and eighth seed Petra Kvitova may have to face rising Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka for a second consecutive time at a Major (and a second time in as many weeks) if the pair reach the fourth round as projected.
Kvitova, twice a Wimbledon champion, starts with a potentially tricky clash against Magdalena Rybarikova, who reached the fourth round last year where she was beaten by the eventual champion, Caroline Wozniacki.
Sabalenka, meantime, starts against a qualifier but could then strike the always-dangerous Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. The Russian left-lander, who reached a career-high ranking of world number eight in 2015, has made a habit of beating highly-ranked players at the Majors over the years, including defeating Serena Williams here in 2012.
Further down the draw, Australia’s best hope, Ashleigh Barty, starts against Luksisa Kumkhum, and should she reach the third round, she is likely to meet former French Open finalist Jelena Ostapenko for a second time in as many weeks, possibly for the right to face defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round.
Wozniacki faces a tricky start to her title defence against Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck, who caused a major upset at Wimbledon last year when she defeated defending champion Garbine Muguruza in the second round.
That’s not it – the Dane could then face 30th seed and 2008 champion Maria Sharapova in the third round before facing either Barty or Ostapenko in the round of sixteen.
In the bottom quarter of the draw, fifth seed Sloane Stephens will begin her bid for a first Australian Open title against compatriot Taylor Townsend, and should not face any genuine opposition until the fourth round where her projected opponent is ninth seed Kiki Bertens. There are no qualifiers in her section of the draw.
Down at the bottom, second seed Angelique Kerber will start her campaign against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog, with Croatia’s Donna Vekic looming as her first seeded obstacle in the third round. The pair met in the second round last year and another match-up in Australia will be good particularly for the latter’s development.
Barring any major upsets in the women’s draw, the quarter-finals onwards could look like this:
 Serena Williams (USA) vs  Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
 Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs  Elina Svitolina (UKR)
 Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs  Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
 Sloane Stephens (USA) vs  Angelique Kerber (GER)
 Serena Williams (USA) vs  Naomi Osaka (JPN)
 Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs  Angelique Kerber (GER)
Predicted championship outcome
 Serena Williams (USA) defeats  Angelique Kerber (GER)
Play gets underway this Monday.