Australian Open two thousand seventeen: Tricky openers for Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams

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Source:   —  January 13, 2017, at 0:56 AM

Djokovic will play Fernando Verdasco -- who let slip five match points against the Serb in the Doha semifinals latest week -- while fellow world No.

Australian Open two thousand seventeen: Tricky openers for Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, the most successful players at the Australian Open in the Open Era with six titles apiece, were handed challenging starts in Melbourne this year.

Djokovic will play Fernando Verdasco -- who let slip five match points against the Serb in the Doha semifinals latest week -- while fellow world No. two Williams begins against Belinda Bencic.

Read: Why the Australian Open stands out

Bencic downed Williams the latest time they faced off in two thousand-fifteenth and has only slipped exterior the top fifteen in the rankings -- the Swiss currently sits forty-eighth -- due to an array of injuries. Just this week, she was forced to retire in a match at the Sydney International because of a cracked toenail.

The two tantalizing first-round encounters overshadowed the fate of Roger Federer in Friday'south draw. Federer, competing in a grand smack for the first time since July, has a seemingly simpler task to start with since he netted a qualifier.

Twelve months ago he stunned periodic Davis Cup teammate Rafael Nadal in five sets in the first circular and in two thousand-ninth, Verdasco achieved his lone grand smack semifinal at Melbourne Park. Back then, Nadal -- who was arguably in the best spell of his career -- needed five sets and five hours to look off Verdasco in a classic.

Djokovic'south spirits have lifted after rallying past Verdasco in Doha and snapping Murray'south 28-match winning streak in the final.

Read: A night with Novak

Williams' preparations for the season'south first major didn't go as well.

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She committed a staggering eighty-eight unforced errors in a second-round reverse to fellow American Madison Brengle in Auckland.

And if Williams -- bidding for an unprecedented twenty-third grand smack title in the Open Era -- gets past Bencic she figures to have another challenging tussle in the second round. Lucie Safarova would be her probable foe in a rematch of the two thousand fifteen French Open final the American won in three sets.

Love Bencic, Safarova'south slide in the rankings to sixty-second can be attributed to health issues. In the Czech'south case, a bacterial infection was to blame.

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Federer had for the most portion been free of physical issues until undergoing left knee surgery early in two thousand-sixteenth and re-injuring the knee in a semifinal loss to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon. He wrapped up his season following Wimbledon to recover and made his long awaited return to tennis at the Hopman Cup.

The inactivity sent his ranking down to seventeenth, unfamiliar territory for the men'south record 17-time grand smack winner.

Federer vs. Murray?

The hugely favorite Federer would challenge another qualifier in the second circular but his task becomes more challenging thereafter. If the seeds hold, the 35-year-old draws tenth seed Tomas Berdych in the third circular and fifth-seed Kei Nishikori in the fourth.

Read: Federer refreshed

Should Federer create the quarterfinals, Murray -- pitted against Ukraine'south IIlya Marchenko in circular one -- likely awaits.

The fourth member of the "Large Four," Nadal, was paired with Florian Mayer in the first round. But it'south another German, Alexander Zverev, who figures to be Nadal'south first sizable test in the third round. Zverev, nineteen, rose from eighty-third to twenty-fourth in the year-end rankings, held a match point on Nadal in their lone duel in Indian Wells latest year, beat Federer in Halle in June and subsequently at the Hopman Cup.

Women'south No. one and defending winner Angelique Kerber meets big-hitting Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the first round, with Daria Kasatkina looming in the fourth round.

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Kerber has endured a shaky buildup to the Australian Open, losing to the fast-rising Russian in the second circular in Sydney.

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