The Official Draw took place today, revealing some tantalising first round match-ups at the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
Top seed, world No.1 and three-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic will open his defence at Melbourne Park next week against Paul Henri Mathieu while the men who would challenge him, Roger Federer and US Open champion Andy Murray, will be tested by Benoit Paire and Robin Haase respectively. Projected quarterfinal match ups would be Djokovic against (5) Berdych, (4) Ferrer v (8) Tipsarevic, (3) Murray v (6) Del Potro and (2) Federer against (7) Tsonga.
The men's field sees 95 of the top 100 players in the world contesting the Aussie crown.
Key match-ups include:
(4) David Ferrer (ESP) v Oliver Rochus (BEL)
(5 Tomas Berdych (CZE) v Michael Russell (USA)
(6) Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) v Qualifier
(7) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v Michael Llodra (FRA)
Bernard Tomic (AUS) v Leonard Mayer (GER)
Marinko Matosevic (AUS) v Marin Cilic (CRO)
View men's draw
On the women's side, defending champion Victoria Azarenka will play Roumanian Monica Niculescu, No.2 seed and 2012 finalist Maria Sharapova faces Russian Olga Puchkova while tournament favourite and five-time winner Serena Williams opens against Edina Gallovitis-Hall with a potential semifinal clash against Azarenka. Sharapova's most difficult obstacle in the early rounds is No.25 Venus Williams, who she could meet in round 3. Unseeded Svetlana Kuznetsova is also a dangerous floater heading towards seventh seeded Sara Errani in the third round.
Australian 9th seed Samantha Stosur meets Kai-Chen Chang, who beat her in Osaka recently, while compatriot Lleyton Hewitt, competing in his 17th Grand Slam takes on eighth seed Serbian Janko Tipsarevic in what is sure to be a marquee match in the great spirit of the Australian Open. Should the draw pan out according to seedings, quarterfinal match-ups would see:
(1)Azarenka v (7) Errani, (3) S.Williams v (8) Kvitova, (4) Radwanska v (6) Li and (2) Sharapova v (5) Kerber.
Key first round match-ups include:
(10) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v Sabine Lisicki (GER)
(12) Nadia Petrova (RUS) v Kimiko Date Krumm (JPN)
(8) Petra Kvitova v Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
(14) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) v Vania King (USA)
Breaking from tradition, the draw took place on the banks of the Yarra River, with the defending champions ferried to the ceremony. Djokovic said he would never forget the 2012 final against Rafael Nadal, which lasted nearly six hours.
" It was defintiely a thirlling five setter, almost six hours, I just remember I got to bed around 6.30 am," the Serb said.
Azarenka said the toe problem which had forced her to withdraw recently from the Brisbane International at the semifinal stage, was feeling much better and that she was hoping to relive the buzz a Grand Slam victory brings. "It brought a lot more attention and for me the self belief that I did it. I would love to repeat this feeling again," she said.
Forty-four countries are represented at this year's championship, vying for record prizemoney of $30 million. Action starts at 11am on 14 January and continues through the 27 January.
Full reports to follow.