Djokovic drawn in opposite half to Rafa and Roger
Melbourne: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are on the same half of a Grand Slam draw for the first time since 2005, meaning defending champion and No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic won`t have to play either of his biggest rivals unless he reaches the Australian Open final.
Reigning women`s champion Kim Clijsters could meet French Open winner Li Na in the fourth round, in a rematch of the 2011 Australian final.
They`re both in the same quarter as No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. On the opposite side, five-time Australian Open champion and 12th-seeded Serena Williams is in the same quarter as former major winners Maria Sharapova, who is seeded No. 4, and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
At the bottom of that half are Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, ranked No. 2, and U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur.
Djokovic won three of the four majors last year, ending the dominance of Federer and Nadal in men`s Grand Slams.
The 24-year-old Serb usually ends up on the same side of the draw as 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer — his only loss in a major last year was to Federer in the French Open semifinals.
But this time, if the players advance, Djokovic will meet Andy Murray in the semifinals. The pair met in the 2011 final, Murray`s second loss in the title match at Melbourne Park in back-to-back years after his 2010 defeat by Federer.
At the official draw on Friday, Djokovic and Clijsters posed with the Australian Open trophies and looked closely at their roads to the final.
Djokovic was drawn to open against Paolo Lorenzi of Italy in the first round. Also in his section are Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt — both former No. 1-ranked players who could meet in the second round — and big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic. Fifth-seeded David Ferrer is also in his quarter.
Djokovic said it hadn`t escaped his attention that he avoided the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked men, who have 26 major titles between them, but that didn`t mean he was lowering his guard.
"It`s a Grand Slam, everyone has motivation. We can`t underestimate anyone," Djokovic said.
Asked which players from outside the top four were most dangerous, he mentioned sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, another potential semifinal rival, Raonic and Australian teenager Bernard Tomic.
Nadal will open against a qualifier and could meet No. 7 Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. Federer is in the same quarter as eighth-seeded Mardy Fish and Juan Martin del Potro, who beat him in the 2009 U.S. Open final.
On the women`s side, Wozniacki is still searching for a first Grand Slam title despite finishing atop the rankings the past two seasons. She opens against Anastasia Rodionova of Australia and is in the same quarter as Clijsters and Li.
Clijsters, who is coming off a hip injury that forced her to retire in a semifinal match at the Brisbane International last week, will face a qualifier in the first round.
Fifth-seeded Li, who reached the final in a title defense at the Sydney International, has a first-round match against Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan.
Clijsters said she`s feeling fit, adding that the hip injury was only a result of not playing a competitive match for many months.
She`ll be chasing a fifth major title in what she expects to be her last season on the WTA Tour.
Reflecting on last year`s win in Australia, Clijsters said: "Playing Li Na was one of the funnest finals I`ve played, also one of the best in a Grand Slam.
"It was a tough match. We both played well. Winning at the end gives you a lot of confidence. I was able to show the people here my best level.
"For Li Na, there was a lot of outside pressure from her country as well and a lot of expectations. I was happy to see her do well in the summer in Europe."
Kvitova, who missed a chance to overtake Wozniacki at No. 1 when she was ousted in the Sydney International semifinals this week, opens against Vera Dusevina.