Tennis: Locals face top seeds early in horror Australian Open draw

By Sam Lienert

No pressure: Bernard Tomic will face Rafael Nadal. Photo / Getty Images
No pressure: Bernard Tomic will face Rafael Nadal. Photo / Getty Images

At first glance, it's a horror Australian Open draw for the locals. On closer inspection, it's even worse.

Australia's brightest youngest tennis prospects, Bernard Tomic and Ashleigh Barty, have the nightmare of facing world No1s Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams in the opening round.

That alone was enough to make tournament director and Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley instantly squirm.

"There was a hole in my seat I was going to fall through," Tiley told reporters after yesterday's draw in Melbourne.

Compounding the bad news, if top seeds Nadal and Williams reach the quarter-finals, none of Australia's three top-ranked men or the nation's top woman, Samantha Stosur, can.

Stosur, the 17th seed, initially meets Czech Klara Zakopalova, the same player she faces in the Hobart International semifinals.

She could face Serb 16th seed Ana Ivanovic in round three.

Then comes a potential fourth-round meeting with Williams, meaning Stosur will need something special to reach the quarter-finals of her home Grand Slam for the first time.

Along with Tomic, Australia's top-ranked player Lleyton Hewitt plus Marinko Matosevic, the only local men in the world's top 60, are all in Nadal's draw.

Hewitt and particularly Matosevic will have big enough challenges just surviving the first round.

Hewitt meets Italian 24th seed Andreas Seppi, while Matosevic faces Japanese 16th seed Kei Nishikori.

Hewitt and Matosevic could potentially meet in the third round, to vie for a fourth-round meeting with Nadal.

That's assuming Tomic can't pull off a massive first-round upset.

Nadal missed last year's Open with a knee injury, but the 2009 champion finished 2013 in superb form, amassing 10 titles for the season.

Tomic's only previous meeting with Nadal came in the third round of the 2011 Australian Open, which the Spaniard won in straight sets.

Former world No1 Boris Becker, now coach of defending champion Novak Djokovic, said the Nadal-Tomic clash would be the first-round highlight.

"There's a reason Nadal is ranked one and Tomic is ranked around 50 but, on a good day, surprises happen in tournaments," Becker said.

"Bernard is playing well in Australia, against the No1 player in the world, it will be something everyone is glued on television to."

The 21-year-old Tomic bowed out of the past two Australian Opens at the hands of 17-times Grand Slam champion Federer, who opens against young Australian wildcard James Duckworth.

Six of Australia's nine men in the singles draw face seeds in round one.

"If some of them get through, they're going to have to cause significant upsets, which would be a great story," was Tiley's attempt to highlight the positive.

Apart from Barty, the only one of the six Australian women entrants to face a seed first up is Jarmila Gajdosova, who will meet German ninth seed Angelique Kerber.

But Australia's second-ranked player Casey Dellacqua faces Russian Vera Zvonareva, a former world No2 on the comeback from a long injury absence.

Dellacqua said her 17-year-old doubles partner Barty should think about her first-round clash with all-conquering Williams as an opportunity.

"What an experience for Ash to be able to play the No1 in the world in Australia, in her backyard," she said.


Ashleigh Barty will play against Serena Williams. Photos / Getty Images
Ashleigh Barty will play against Serena Williams. Photos / Getty Images

Draw highlights

Men's singles

• 1-Rafael Nadal (ESP) v Bernard Tomic (AUS)
• Qualifier v 5-Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
• 4-Andy Murray (GBR) v Go Soeda (JPN)
• Qualifier v 13-John Isner (USA)
• James Duckworth (AUS) v 6-Roger Federer (SUI)
• 7-Tomas Berdych (CZE) v Aleksandr Nedovyesov (KAZ)
• Alejandro Gonzalez (COL) v 3-David Ferrer (ESP)
• 8-Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v Andrey Golubev (KAZ)
• Qualifier v 9-Richard Gasquet (FRA)
• Lukas Lacko (SVK) v 2-Novak Djokovic (SRB)

Women's singles

• 1-Serena Williams (USA) v Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
• Julia Goerges (GER) v 7-Sara Errani (ITA)
• 4-Li Na (CHN) v Qualifier
• 22-Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Venus Williams (USA)
• 9-Angelique Kerber (GER) v Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS)
• Luksika Kumkhum (THA) v 6-Petra Kvitova (CZE)
• 8-Jelena Jankovic (SRB) v Misaki Doi (JPN)
• 21-Sorana Cirstea (ROM) v Marina Erakovic (NZL)
• Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) v 3-Maria Sharapova (RUS)
• 5-Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) v Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)
• Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) v 10-Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
• 13-Sloane Stephens (USA) v Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ)
• Johanna Larsson (SWE) v 2-Victoria Azarenka (BLR)


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