Australian Open 2013: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray on collision course

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Novak Djokovic hits a return during a practice session for the Australian OpenMelbourne: World number one Novak Djokovic and his US Open conqueror Andy Murray have been put in separate halves of the men’s draw at the Australian Open, starting in Melbourne on Monday.

In the official draw made Friday, Djokovic faces a potential semi-final against Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer, while 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer could face world number three Murray in the last four.

Djokovic, bidding for a hat-trick of Australian Open victories after downing Rafael Nadal in a titanic five-set final last year, will start his defence against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round.

Second seed Federer, bidding for his fifth Australian title, begins his Melbourne campaign against Frenchman Benoit Paire, while Murray takes on Dutchman Robin Haase first up.

World number three Andy Murray in training at Melbourne Park

World number three Andy Murray in training at Melbourne Park on January 9, 2013
© AFP

Eleven-time Grand Slam winner Nadal will miss the year-opening slam with a stomach virus.

Fifth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic starts against American Michael Russell.

In other prominent first-round pairings, former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, unseeded this year, takes on Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic, while in-form fellow Australian Bernard Tomic faces Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer.

In the women’s draw, world number one Victoria Azarenka and 15-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams were pitted in the same half.

Azarenka, who broke through for her first major title in beating Maria Sharapova in last year’s Melbourne final, faces a tough task to defend her crown with a potential semi-final against the American great.

Second seed Sharapova has Polish world number four Agnieszka Radwanska in her bottom half of the draw.

Serena Williams of the US hits a shot against Greta Arn of Hungary at the Australian Open

Serena Williams of the US hits a shot against Greta Arn of Hungary at the Australian Open on January 21, 2012
© AFP

The Belarusian Azarenka will open her title defence against Romania’s Monica Niculescu while five-time Australian Open champion Williams takes on another Romanian, Edina Gallovits-Hall, first up.

Sharapova, who pulled out of the lead-in Brisbane International tournament with a collarbone problem, gets her campaign under way against fellow Russian Olga Puchkova.

Radwanska, who is on a winning streak of eight matches this year and will go into the Australian Open having already played in two finals in Auckland and Sydney in 2013, faces Australian Bojana Bobusic in the opening round.

China’s sixth seed Li Na faces a potential quarter-final with Radwanska, whom she lost to in the Sydney semis on Thursday.

In other prominent first-round pairings, former world number one and 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki starts against German Sabine Lisicki and 2010 French Open champion and unseeded Francesca Schiavone plays 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

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