Australian Open men’s draw: Djokovic, Thiem in same half; Shapovalov-Sinner first round

The 2021 Australian Open men's singles draw ceremony was held on Friday afternoon in Melbourne. Some intriguing first-round matchups are on the menu, while Novak Djokovic is in a section with Stan Wawrinka and in the top half of the draw with Dominic Thiem, whom he beat in last year's final.

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Following a brief delay because of the recent Covid-19 issues in Melbourne, the Australian Open draw ceremony was held on Friday afternoon. Men’s champion Novak Djokovic and last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem are in the same half while the draw has thrown up some fascinating, heavyweight battles in the first round.

1. Familiar foes for Djokovic

On the men’s side, world No 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic will kick off his campaign against a familiar opponent and that trend is likely to continue throughout the fortnight. Up first for Djokovic is Jeremy Chardy, who has lost all 13 of their previous meetings. Following potential second and third rounds against Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, respectively, the eight-time Australian Open winner could run into Stan Wawrinka. Djokovic dominates their head-to-head series 19-6, but they have faced each other three times at Melbourne Park and all three showdowns have required a fifth set, with all three coming between 2013 and 2015. And of course, Wawrinka beat Djokovic to win two of his three Grand Slam titles.

2. Possible quarter-final and semi-final clashes

Based on seeding, the Serb’s likely quarter-final opponent is Alexander Zverev. Djokovic just beat Zverev at the ATP Cup on Friday but Germany won the overall tie to knock out the defending champions and earn a semi-final spot.
Alexander Zverev (Germany), ATP Cup, 2020

  • Projected quarter-final line-ups (if seedings go to plan):
  • Novak Djokovic (1) v Alexander Zverev (6)
  • Dominic Thiem (3) v Diego Schwartzman (8)
  • Daniil Medvedev (4) v Andrey Rublev (7)
  • Rafael Nadal (2) v Stefanos Tsitsipas (5)

A Djokovic-Thiem semi-final would be a rematch of last year’s final in Rod Laver Arena, won by the 33-year-old in five sets. They also battled through instant classics at each of the last two Nitto ATP Finals, with Thiem triumphing on both occasions. Overall, Djokovic holds a 7-5 lead in the head-to-head series.

3. First-round affairs include Shapovalov v Sinner

Of course, there is a long way to go before anyone can start thinking about the quarters and semis. In fact, a whole host of big-name players would be fortunate to simply get out of the first round. Among them is Denis Shapovalov, who has to go up against rising star Jannik Sinner right off the bat. Other intriguing opening encounters include Grigor Dimitrov against Marin Cilic, Pablo Carreno Busta against Kei Nishikori, Matteo Berrettini against Kevin Anderson and David Goffin against Alexei Popyrin.

Shapovalov won’t like his draw even if he does manage to get past Sinner. The world No 12 is on a collision course in the third round with fellow Canadian and best friend Felix Auger-Aliassime.

4. How hard is it to say “Auger-Aliassime”?

On the subject of Auger-Aliassime, he was one of several victims who had the pronunciation of their name completely butchered during the draw announcement.

5. Potential smooth sailing for Nadal and Medvedev

The early rounds should be more friendly for Rafael Nadal, who will begin his quest for a second Aussie title against Laslo Djere before meeting one of two qualifiers — Viktor Troicki or Michael Mmoh. Britain’s Dan Evans is the second-ranked Spaniard’s nearest seed, while Fabio Fognini and Alex de Minaur are potential fourth-round foes for Nadal.

Daniil Medvedev‘s road may not be quite as routine on paper, because he has to face an in-form Vasek Pospisil in the first round. Still, the world No 4 has every reason to reach the quarter-finals Down Under for the first time in his career. And as the No 4 seed, he should really even make it to the semis, although Rublev could stand in his way in what would be an all-Russian quarter-final contest.

Check out the full men’s singles draw at the Australian Open website.

Also read: Rafael Nadal out of ATP Cup tie against Greece

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