12 December 2010 | Tennis Australia

Davis Cup veteran Peter Luczak (Vic) and rising star Bernard Tomic (Qld) have been drawn to meet in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open Play-off.

Play starts on Tuesday 14 December at Melbourne Park and the top eight seeds in the men’s draw will have a bye in the first round, with top seed Luczak to play either Joel Lindner (Qld) or talented junior Luke Saville (SA) in the second round.

Photos: AO Wildcard Play-off draw

“I don’t want to look too far but if I do happen to get through my first match I may play Bernard Tomic, who is one of the best juniors coming up,” Luczak said.

“I’m sure he’s improved once again [this year], and when you’re at that age you can’t help but improve.”

Third seed Carsten Ball (Vic) is facing a possible semifinal match-up against No.2 seed Marinko Matosevic (Vic) in the Play-off, and will be hoping for the chance to improve on his first-round appearance in this year’s Australian Open.

“You always want to come back next year and do even better than the year before. I’m ready and fit and hopefully I can do better.”

Former world No.4 Jelena Dokic has been grouped with two of the youngest players in the women’s draw –  16-year-old Viktorija Rajicic (Vic) and 14-year-old Ashleigh Barty (Qld) – and could meet top seeds Alicia Molik (Vic) and Sophie Ferguson (NSW) in the semifinals of the tournament.

“I don’t know anyone in my group so it will be interesting. I think the most important thing is to focus on myself and to expect tough matches,” Dokic said.

“It’s always hard with juniors because they’ve got nothing to lose, and they really want to go out and beat you.

“Even though I haven’t played many tournaments and matches, I think I’m in really good shape.

“I feel like I’ve done all the work I need to do. I’ve practiced a lot and I feel a lot fresher.”

Former world No.8 and former Play-off winner Molik is in the same group as Canberra’s Alison Bai and Queenslanders Sophie Letcher and Jade Hopper.

“There’s a spot in the Australian Open which doesn’t come around too often, so the pressure is on all of us,” Molik said.

“I’m familiar with some of the girls in my draw and I think that’s a good thing to know a little bit about their games.

“I think it’s important that some of us older girls really lead the way and show the younger girls what is possible on the world stage.”

After being recognised alongside Tomic as the Junior Athlete of the Year at the Newcombe Medal, Australian Tennis Awards, Barty was thrilled to play against the likes of Dokic.

“I’m a little bit nervous going into the event but that’s to be expected. Just to play against these girls is going to be great just to see how I go,” Barty said.

“I think it’s better for me to be playing older players, so I can start getting used to where I have to be when I’m older.”

One of the first-round highlights promises to be the match between former world No.1 junior Jason Kubler (Qld) and 2010 Optus 18s Australian Champion Sean Berman of Victoria. The pair has played twice previously and honours are even.

Junior Wimbledon Championships runner-up Benjamin Mitchell (Qld) will open his tournament against Maverick Banes (Qld) and could meet Matthew Ebden (WA) in the second round, one of the year’s biggest improvers.

Isabella Holland (Qld) should have a confident start to the Play-off after defeating her first-round opponent, Ashling Sumner, in the final of the Optus 18s Australian Championships yesterday.

The Australian Open Play-off offers homegrown talent the opportunity to play against the world’s best at the Australian Open, with the last man and woman standing to receive a wildcard into the Grand Slam tournament in January.

This year the men’s event at the Play-off will be a knockout tournament, while the women will compete in a round-robin format before moving into a knockout phase from the quarterfinals.

The Australian Open Play-off is the finale of this year’s December Showdown, the curtain-raiser for the tennis season in Australia. The event brings together the best players in each age group for a three-week carnival at Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open.