Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Top-seeded Novak Djokovic will begin his Australian Open title defense against world No. 108 Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, while Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer face qualifiers in round one and could meet in the semifinals.
Men’s No. 4 Andy Murray of Britain was paired with 84th- ranked Ryan Harrison of the U.S. in today’s draw for the year’s first Grand Slam event, which begins Jan. 16 in Melbourne. Djokovic and Murray are in the top half, ruling out a repeat of the 2011 final that the Serb won to spark a season in which he captured three of the four tennis majors.
“I was playing the best tennis of my life, especially in the opening six months of last season, and one of the strongest moments was in Australia,” Djokovic said at the draw. “That’s something that gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.”
No. 2-ranked Nadal of Spain and third-ranked Federer of Switzerland were selected in the same half of the draw at a major for the first time since the 2005 French Open, putting them on course for a potential semifinal matchup. They’ll find out their first-round opponents after qualifying is completed.
The 2005 Australian Open final, won by Russia’s Marat Safin, was the last time a player other than Djokovic, Nadal or Federer took the men’s championship in Melbourne.
Djokovic, who also won the Australian Open in 2008 and is the bookmakers’ favorite this year, is in line for a quarterfinal meeting with Spanish No. 5 seed David Ferrer, who reached the semifinals last year. Ferrer defeated Djokovic in their most recent meeting at November’s ATP World Tour Finals.
Murray and Tsonga
Should the top eight men advance, the other quarterfinal matchups would feature Murray against sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, Federer against American Mardy Fish, the No. 8 seed, and Nadal versus seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
Women’s No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark will meet Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova in round one, while five-time winner Serena Williams of the U.S. faces Tamira Paszek of Austria and defending champion Kim Clijsters plays a qualifier.
Wozniacki, Williams and Clijsters all were injured during tune-up tournaments in Australia this month. All three have said this week that they expect to be ready for the opening round at Melbourne Park.
Wozniacki is in line for a last-eight matchup against Li Na, who lost to Clijsters in the 2011 final before becoming China’s first Grand Slam singles champion at the French Open. Clijsters and Li could meet in the fourth round this year.
“I didn’t play many matches in the second half of last year and missed most of the American summer, but I have trained hard in the offseason,” said the 11th-seeded Clijsters, a Belgian. “I am feeling good and ready to go.”
The other women’s top-half quarterfinal might pit No. 3 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus against eighth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
In the bottom-half quarterfinals, 2008 champion Maria Sharapova may play fellow Russian and No. 7 seed Vera Zvonareva, who could face Williams in the round of 16. Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the No. 2 seed from the Czech Republic, faces a potential last-eight clash with U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia.
--Editors: Rob Gloster, Dex McLuskey.
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