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Can anyone split Djokovic and Murray?

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Friday, January 11, 2013 - 1:00 PM
Source: SportsFan
Author: Adam Jones

BURNING QUESTIONS: Is the men's draw a two-horse race, will anyone take a set off Serena and how deep will Tomic go?

Can anyone beat Djokovic and Murray to the final?

Now that the draw has been revealed, it is possible that Rod Laver Arena will play host to a rematch of last year's finale at Flushing Meadows, where Andy Murray finally exercised the demons of failures past and won his maiden grand slam in a five-setter over Novak Djokovic.

Murray is seeded third at the Australian Open behind Djokovic and Roger Federer but has had the good fortune to fall into Federer's half of the draw. This is a wonderful thing. The final of any grand slam should be contested between the two brightest talents in tennis, and right now those talents are a Serbian prankster and a glum Brit.

Of course, Federer poses a great danger to Murray's progress, as does tournament dark horse Juan Martin Del Potro. The Argentine is coming off a career-best season in which he defeated Djokovic in the bronze medal match in London and entered the ATP's top-10 for the first time. He is primed for a potential quarter-final clash with Murray, with the winner expected to meet Federer in the semi-finals.

Djokovic, on the other hand, faces a far easier run to the final, having been put on course to meet fourth seed David Ferrer (who is 4-10 all-time against the world No.1) in the last four. It seems nothing short of injury or illness will stop the Serbian from reaching his third successive Australian Open final.

How deep will Bernard Tomic go?

No Aussie will attract more attention in the opening week than Tomic, who is entering his fifth Open on the back of some promising form, including a confidence-boosting win over Djokovic in Perth. The 20-year-old made it to the fourth round in Melbourne last year and would be hopeful of repeating the feat again, but he won't.

Tomic starts his tournament against unseeded Argentine Leanardo Mayer in the first round, and should win, but will then face either Philipp Kohlschreiber or Martin Klizan (both seeds) in the second.

Then it gets really ugly. All going to plan, Tomic will face Federer in the third round, a blockbuster encounter that will no doubt take centre stage at Rod Laver but will just as surely end with the young Aussie's departure from the tournament.

Federer was the man who ended Tomic's progress in straight sets last year, and taking a set off the Swiss will be about as much as Tomic can realistically hope for.

Is anybody going to take a set off Serena?

It's highly unlikely that Serena Williams will be made to work hard for her 16th grand slam title and sixth Australian Open. With respect to defending champ Victoria Azarenka, it's going to be Williams, daylight and the rest of the women's field at Melbourne Park.

The 31-year-old was unstoppable in Brisbane last week, losing a mere 17 games across the entire tournament and smashing fellow finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 50 minutes. She enters the Open on a 16-game winning streak dating back to the US Open, and has won 35 of her past 36 matches, her only loss coming to Virginie Razzano in a shock first-round exit at Roland Garros.

Azarenka and Maria Sharapova (seeds one and two) are the only women who stand in Serena's way. Williams will need to knock off both to claim the title; we think that's definitely within her capabilities, though she will probably drop a set along the way.

Will Stosur make it past the first round?

Ugh, we hope so. Stosur has had an ugly, ugly start to 2013 – bowing out in the first rounds in Brisbane and Sydney amid speculation she is still hobbled from off-season ankle surgery. The Aussie was supposed to come into this Open refreshed and freed from the pressure to perform, but all the early signs suggest Stosur is (still) losing the mental battle.

Happily, Stosur couldn't have asked for a better chance to make it through the first round unscathed, having lucked out in the draw. She's been drawn to face Kai-Chen Chang, though worryingly Kai-Chen won the only previous meeting between the pair in Osaka last year.

The draw really opens up for Stosur if she wins that clash. Zheng Jie or Zhang Yuxuan in the second round, Julia Gorges at worst in the third and Li Na (who is 0-6 against Stosur and has only ever taken one set off the Australian) in the fourth. The opportunity is definitely there for Sam to make it to the finals at Melbourne Park for the first time, if she can only take it with both hands.

Can Lleyton survive his horror first round?

The word out of Hewitt's camp is the Aussie veteran is finally free of the foot pain that has long troubled him, and the results show. The mentally fresh 31-year-old was good enough to tame world No.15 Milos Raonic in the Kooyong Classic on Wednesday and backed it up with a straight-sets demolition of sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych on Thursday.

That's just the kind of form Hewitt will need to get past his first-round showdown with eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic. Hewitt is 3-1 all-time against the Serbian, though they have not faced each other since 2009, prior to Tipsarevic becoming a top-10 player.

This year, Hewitt has the tools, the fitness and apparently the mentality to shock one or two of the seeded players. We'll back him in to upset Tipsarevic, though only just.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.

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