Nick Kyrgios felt for his good mate.
Nick Kyrgios felt for his good mate.

Kyrgios crushed, Barty danger laid bare

Nick Kyrgios will begin his Australian Open campaign against unseeded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

With Alex de Minaur pulling out injured on Thursday, Kyrgios will be Australia's top men's hope at Melbourne Park when the season's first grand slam gets under way on Monday.

Seeded 23rd, Kyrgios's first big test is likely to come against Russian star Karen Khachanov in round three and the former quarter-finalist could run into world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the round of 16.

There's bad blood between Nadal and Kyrgios and the tension between them only heightened after a spicy encounter at Wimbledon last year, so a match-up between the pair in Melbourne would be must-watch tennis.

De Minaur played brilliantly alongside Kyrgios at the ATP Cup last week as the duo rekindled their bromance but will unfortunately miss his home major with an abdominal injury.

"It's heartbreaking to be honest. It's tough news," Kyrgios said. "Hopefully fingers crossed it's nothing too serious and he can recover as soon as possible.

"I had a feeling he was going to do some big things this Australian Open - the way he was playing in that match against Rafa (at the ATP Cup), we all saw how good he can be.

"I hope it's not too bad."

In-form 2018 US Open quarter-finalist John Millman will open his campaign against rising Frenchman Ugo Humbert, while Davis Cup teammate Jordan Thompson plays Kazakh Alexander Bublik (KAZ).

Young gun Alexei Popyrin, who made the third round last year, has a tough opener against former finalist and 28th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

James Duckworth opens against Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, Chris O'Connell takes on Russian 17th seed Andrey Rublev and fellow wildcard Andrew Harris is set for a show-court showdown with eighth seed Matteo Berrettini, a US Open semi-finalist last year.

Marc Polmans meets Mikhail Kukushkin and Alex Bolt, who was also awarded a wildcard following his charge to the last 32 in 2019, plays Spaniard Albert Vinolas Ramos.

 

Nick Kyrgios may face his nemesis Rafael Nadal.
Nick Kyrgios may face his nemesis Rafael Nadal.

BARTY'S TREACHEROUS PATH TO OPEN GLORY

Ashleigh Barty will begin her Australian Open campaign against Ukrainian world No. 120 Lesia Tsurenko and should cruise through the first week at Melbourne Park.

But then the world No. 1's path to Open glory could become treacherous. Barty may have to beat her 2019 Wimbledon slayer Alison Riske, Petra Kvitova - who dumped her from the quarter-finals last year - and defending champion Naomi Osaka or seven-time winner Serena Williams in successive matches to make the title decider.

Thursday night's draw pitted Barty in the same top half as third seed Osaka and ninth seed Williams.

Grand slam draws, though, rarely pan out as predicted and Barty will be focusing solely on her opener against Tsurenko.

The Ukrainian was ranked as high as 23rd in the world after reaching the 2018 US Open quarter-finals.

If she progresses, Barty will play world No. 44 Rebecca Peterson or the 48th-ranked Polona Hercog in the second round.

World No. 36 Elena Rybakina is her projected third-round opponent, with 18th seed Riske - who abruptly ended Barty's 15-match European winning streak last July in London - likely to be lying in wait in the last 16.

Barty potentially faces Kvitova in the quarters and Osaka or Williams in the semis, with world No. 2 Karolina Pliskova heading up a softer bottom half of the draw also featuring Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.

Other highlights of the draw included six-times winner Roger Federer landing in the same side as seven-times champion Novak Djokovic and Venus Williams plucked out to meet 15-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff in a repeat of their 2019 Wimbledon opener - which the teenager won before reaching the fourth round.

 

Ash Barty will have to beat the best to win her home slam.
Ash Barty will have to beat the best to win her home slam.

BIG GUNS LEARN THEIR FATE

World No. 1 Nadal will take on Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the first round next week while Serena Williams faces Anastasia Potapova in her quest for a 24th grand slam title.

The Spaniard is attempting to match Roger Federer's record 20 grand slam singles titles on his least favourite surface, having won in Melbourne just once, back in 2009.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic will start his bid to lift a record eighth Australian Open title against Jan-Lennard Struff.

The Serb had a fine 2019, winning five titles including at Melbourne Park and Wimbledon on the way to ending the year as No. 2, behind only Nadal.

Fresh from helping his country win the ATP Cup, he will start his drive to extend his incredible Melbourne run - he holds a 68-8 record - against a German who crashed at the first hurdle last year.

Djokovic could meet Greek young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last eight.

The ageless Federer, 38, is up against American Steve Johnson in the third quarter of the men's draw as he targets a seventh Australian Open title, winning his last in 2018.

Williams, who is seeking to match Australian Margaret Court's record 24 major singles titles, gets underway against 90th ranked Russian Potapova with a potential quarter-final against defending champion Naomi Osaka.

Seeded eight, she heads into the tournament on the back of ending a three-year title drought by winning the Auckland Classic. She is gunning for an eighth Australian crown and her first slam title since Melbourne in 2017.

Her sister Venus has a blockbuster first round clash against exciting young American Coco Gauff, with the winner potentially facing Osaka in the third round.

Third seed Osaka starts her title defence against Marie Bouzkova.

Fourth seed Simona Halep has a tough opening task against Jennifer Brady, who beat Barty and Maria Sharapova at the Brisbane International.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova takes on Kristina Mladenovic.

 

Novak Djokovic is hunting yet another Australian Open title.
Novak Djokovic is hunting yet another Australian Open title.


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