The Australian Open men's draw will be one of the most anticipated ones in recent history. The draw will be held on Friday for the season-opening major, which starts on Monday in Melbourne. This year, there is an increased attention over the draw because of the return of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to a major.
A long injury layoff and a fall in the rankings have created a tougher draw for Federer at the Australian Open.
Federer slipped to No 17 in the rankings this week after Grigor Dimitrov won the Brisbane International and moved up to 15th spot. Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion, is the seeded ninth.
The Australian Open tends to stick with the rankings when its seeds 32 players in each of the men's and women's 128-player singles draws, meaning the 35-year-old Federer gets less protection than usual and could potentially face a top 10 player in the third round.
The seedings were confirmed by Australian Open organizers on Thursday.
Federer has won the Australian Open four times, his first in 2004, and also reached the final in 2009, but he hasn't won the title at the Melbourne Park since 2010.
He spent six months out of action last year while recovering after surgery on his left knee and finished 2016 at No 16, finishing a year in which his record run of 65 Grand Slam appearances ended when he couldn't contest the French Open, subsequently also missing out on the US Open.
He returned to action at the international mixed teams exhibition at the Hopman Cup in Perth last week.
As expected, No 1-ranked Andy Murray is the top seed ahead of six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the men's draw and Angelique Kerber, the reigning Australian and US Open champion, is the top seed in the women's draw ahead of six-time winner Serena Williams, who is seeded No 2.
Federer has been listed outside the Top 10 seeds for the first time since the 2002 US Open (No 13 seed).
The Swiss player's low seeding ensures that he will have a tough draw and will have to play top-ranked players in earlier rounds. Here's a look at his potential opponents based on the men's seedings.
As he is seeded jut outside the top 16, the 17-time Grand Slam champion will face another seeded player as early as the third round. Federer could potentially draw one of the players seeded between 9 and 16 in the third round, or round of 32. This includes: Nadal, Tomas Berdych, David Goffin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Roberto Bautista Agut, Nick Kyrgios, Lucas Pouille and Grigor Dimitrov.
If Federer draws one of Bautista Agut, Pouille or Dimitrov in the third round, then he will ended up playing a top four seed in the fourth round, given that the draw holds up. This means that he could possibly play Murray, Djokovic, Raonic or Wawrinka at such an early stage in the tournament.
With Nadal seeded nine, his possible third round opponents will be potentially one of the players seeded between 17 and 24. This means the Spaniard could face one of Federer, Richard Gasquet, John Isner, Ivo Karlovic, David Ferrer, Pablo Cuevas, Jack Sock and Alexander Zverev.
The return of Federer and Nadal to the tour has been one of the things that tennis fans have been looking forward to the most in 2017. But their tumble down the rankings due to their absence has led to the possibility of extremely high quality matches between top players in the very first week of the major. All eyes will be on the draw on Friday, as both players (and their fans) will be hoping to avoid dangerous opponents.
The Australian Open draw will be held at 5:30 AM IST (11 AM AEDT) on Friday and will be live streamed here.
(With inputs from AP)
Updated Date: Jan 12, 2017 18:02 PM