Reigning two-time champion Novak Djokovic would not have to meet former world No. 1 Roger Federer or surging Brit Andy Murray until the championship match, as the draw for the Australian Open was revealed on Friday. The first Grand Slam event of 2013 will commence Monday at Melbourne Park.
The reigning world No. 1 Djokovic will try to become the first three-peat Aussie Open champion in the Open Era and only the third four-time overall Aussie champ during that same time, joining Andre Agassi and Federer. He also captured this event in 2008.
Djokovic outlasted Spanish great Rafael Nadal in the longest-ever Grand Slam final at last year's Aussie Open, but there will not be a repeat of last year's final this year since the seven-time French Open champion Nadal will miss the latest edition of the Down Under Slam due to a lack of preparation because of illness and injury. Nadal was an Aussie winner in 2009.
The five-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, who appeared in three of the four major finals last year, will open his title defense against oft-injured Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu and could meet 20th-seeded American Sam Querrey in the fourth round. A possible quarterfinal opponent for the Serbian star could be fifth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych, while a trip into the semifinals could produce a matchup with fourth seed David Ferrer.
If Djokovic can push through to the final, it could set-up a marquee match against the four-time champion and 2009 runner-up Federer or the two-time Aussie finalist Murray.
The bottom half of the draw features the second-seeded Federer and third- seeded Murray. Federer will open up against France's Benoit Paire next week, while Murray will meet Dutch slugger Robin Haase in the round of 128.
The 17-time Grand Slam and reigning Wimbledon champion Federer could face former Aussie runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in quarterfinals and Murray or former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the semis. The sixth-seeded del Potro will open against a qualifier next week and could battle Murray in the quarters.
Murray is fresh off his title in Brisbane last week and is also the reigning U.S. Open and Olympic champ. He'll be attempting to win a second straight major and reach a third straight Grand Slam final. The athletic Brit lost to Federer in last year's Wimbledon finale.
In some other top half activity, the aforementioned Ferrer will open his 2013 Aussie stay against diminutive Belgian Olivier Rochus, while the powerful Berdych will open his fortnight against American journeyman Michael Russell.
Ferrer's potential quarterfinal opponent could be eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic, who will tangle with aging Aussie hero Lleyton Hewitt in round one. The former world No. 1 Hewitt is a two-time major champion and was the Aussie Open runner-up back in 2005.
Tipsarevic was a titlist in Chennai, India last week.
If Ferrer can reach the semis, the formidable Djokovic could be waiting.