Saturday, 23/9/2017 | 4:32 UTC+1
Britennis

Australian Open Draw Preview

Just like that, the first Grand Slam of the year is here. It seems only yesterday we were sipping champagne and celebrating Britain’s Davis Cup triumph. But that is a thing of the past for our British stars, as all eyes turn to the Australian Open.

On Friday morning in Melbourne the draw was made for this year’s opening Grand Slam. In this article we breakdown each first round clash, and look at how the draw has shaped up for the British players involved.

Johanna Konta vs. [8] Venus Williams

The Grand Slam first round draw is made for ties like this. Johanna Konta, last year’s most improved Brit, takes on her hero and tennis legend Venus Williams. A mouth-watering prospect for the fans. A match-up both players will have been dreading.

The two met in Wuhan last year, where Konta came within two points of claiming victory, eventually losing 7-5 in the fifth to effectively end her sensational charge up the rankings. All the signs point towards a similarly close match this year. Neither player has won a match yet in 2016, (although they have only played three between them), but it will most likely be a brutal war of attrition in the sweltering Melbourne sun. Conditions may play a part and if it is extremely hot the pendulum will swing towards Konta who knows the Australian heat well after spending her youth living and training there.

If Konta were to progress through the first round, the draw would certainly open up for her. A second round tie with Carina Witthoeft or Saisai Zheng hardly strikes much fear although a potential third round match up against Sabine Lisicki or Bethanie Mattek-Sands would prove tougher. In all honestly though, it would be too presumptuous to look too far ahead though, as the attention as far as Konta is concerned, should be firmly on her opening match. If she gets through that, well then we could just see a repeat of her US Open heroics.

[2] Andy Murray vs. Alexander Zverev

Andy Murray defeated Alexander Zverev in straight sets at the Hopman Cup two weeks ago. Photo: Sky Sports

Andy Murray defeated Alexander Zverev in straight sets at the Hopman Cup two weeks ago. Photo: Sky Sports

Finally it seems as though Andy Murray has caught a break with his Grand Slam draw. Amazingly, Murray managed to get drawn against the lowest possible seeded player at every single round until the final, meaning there is every opportunity for him to progress to his fifth Australian Open final.

His first round opponent, Zverev, will certainly be a star of the future. But the youngster’s current game should prove little obstacle for Andy who has not lost in the first round of a Grand Slam since 2008. He will be weary of Adrian Mannarino in round two after last year’s match at the US Open where Murray had to come back from two sets down to win. His first potential banana-skin could come in the fourth round against Bernard Tomic but having never lost a set in three matches that seems unlikely to happen.

Looking ahead into the second week, Andy will be grateful to have avoided being put in the half with Roger Federer, but could face either Rafael Nadal or Stan Wawrinka instead. A semi-final has got to be the bare minimum for the Davis Cup hero but everything seems to point towards another Murray/Djokovic final. Let’s hope Novak has an off day somewhere along the road.

[Q] Dan Evans vs [18] Feliciano Lopez

Many have questioned Evans’ application in the past but none can doubt it this week. Evans cast the doubters aside with some excellent tennis through three tricky qualifying matches to make the Melbourne main draw. He will feel pretty hard-done by though in drawing Feliciano Lopez, especially after his defeated third round opponent, Bjorn Fratangelo obtained a lucky loser spot and drew Stephane Robert.

Evans’ has beaten better players than Lopez though on a hard court and you would expect his tricky game to challenge the big-serving Spaniard. Lopez’s singles form has also been sketchy now for six months or so and the Brit will be looking to fully exploit this with a creative display to nullify his game.

Should Evans cause a first round upset he would fancy his chances against either Darcis or Pella and potential third round opponent, John Isner’s Grand Slam record would be unlikely to strike much fear into the Birmingham-born Brit. Evans’ form over the last eight months should be enough to demonstrate that he is a serious dark horse in this quarter. Whilst it should not be expected, it would not hardly be surprising to see him make a surge through the opening couple of rounds.

Aljaz Bedene vs. [31] Steve Johnson

Not the worst draw for Bedene in his first Australian Open under the British flag but it could have been better. Drawing a seed is never pleasing but if you’re going to do it, at least draw one of the lowest, and one who has failed to win yet this year.

Bedene and Johnson have never met before but Bedene has every reason to believe he can cause an upset after showing form in Chennai. A major question mark centres on his fitness though after he was forced to withdraw in Auckland this week. Although it must be noted that he has since tweeted that he has recovered fine and will be fit to play.

Other players in his quarter include David Ferrer and John Isner although he would not face them until the third or fourth round respectively, should he make it that far.

Heather Watson vs. Timea Babos

Heather Watson will be quietly pleased with her opening round draw against Timea Babos, despite losing their last match in Cincinnati last year. Watson holds a 2-1 record against the Hungarian and, with Judy Murray in her corner, you would think she has a strong chance of making it through to the second round for only the second time in Australia.

A potential second-round encounter with Belinda Bencic could be interesting, especially with Bencic beginning the notorious ‘second season’ and her withdrawal from her Sydney semi-final this week after getting steamrolled 6-0 in the opening set. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova are also in her quarter so Heather will have to play some of her best tennis if she is to have a chance of reaching her first Grand Slam fourth round.

Kyle Edmund vs. Damir Dzumhur

Edmund could meet Belgian David Goffin in a rematch of THAT encounter in the Davis Cup Final

Edmund could meet Belgian David Goffin in a rematch of THAT encounter in the Davis Cup Final

What a big opportunity this is for Kyle Edmund. The young Brit has, in just two weeks, already demonstrated he is progressing with his four wins in Doha and winning this opening match would certainly reinforce that. Despite Dzumhur having a higher ranking, Edmund is probably just about the favourite, with the form book weighted heavily in his favour.

A victory could set up a fascinating second round encounter against David Goffin in a replay of the Davis Cup Final fixture. Edmund showed in that match that he has the firepower to overpower Goffin but his task this time would be to ensure he maintains that high level over five sets.

Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer are also in his quarter so it is highly unlikely that Kyle will see his campaign venture into a second week but a first round win is very attainable and would provide another big boost for Kyle going forward in 2016.

What do you think? How far can you see our Brits going in the Australian Open?

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