Locals fare OK at Australian Open draw
Unlike last year, Australia's tennis aces have all been thrust into winnable first-round matches at the Australian Open.
Unlike last year, Australia’s tennis aces have all been thrust into winnable first-round matches at the Australian Open.
After copping a horror draw in 2014, the local contingent – with the exception of teenage wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis – avoided seeds at Friday’s draw in Melbourne.
Samantha Stosur, seeded 20th in the women’s event, will launch her campaign against Romania’s world No.46 Monica Niculescu, while 29th seed Casey Dellacqua faces Austrian Yvonne Meusburger.
In-form Jarmila Gajdosova has drawn Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru.
While Kokkinakis has a tough opener against big-serving Latvian Ernests Gulbis, who is seeded 11th, Australia’s leading men’s hopes fared well.
Contesting his record 19th consecutive Australian Open, Lleyton Hewitt will meet Chinese wildcard Zhang Ze in the first round, with Nick Kyrgios drawing world No.57 Frederico Delbonis and Bernard Tomic playing German Tobias Kamke in his opener.
Stosur is in the same pocket of the draw as Dellacqua and scheduled to play rising American Coco Vandewhege or her 2010 French Open final conqueror Francesca Schiavone in round two.
Stosur’s first projected battle with a seed is a potential third-round clash with German 13th seed Andrea Petkovic, while reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova could be waiting in the last 16.
Women’s world No.1 Serena Williams will open against Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck, while second seed Maria Sharapova drew a qualifier.
Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, unseeded after an injury-hit 2014, will take on American Sloane Stephens in a spicy rematch of their niggly semi-final two years ago.
Bidding for a record fifth Open title, world No.1 Novak Djokovic will open against a qualifier, with fourth seed and defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the same top half of the draw and facing Marsel Ilhan in the first round.
Second seed Roger Federer, also eyeing a fifth crown at Melbourne Park, plays China’s Yen Hsun Lu and could run into old rival Rafael Nadal in a repeat of last year’s semi-final.
Third-seeded Nadal drew dangerous Russian Mikhail Youzhny for his first-round match.