The official draw for the 2023 edition of the Australian Open has been completed.
A number of exciting first round matches were revealed on Thursday in Melbourne, as players learned their potential paths to glory.
Reigning men’s champion Rafael Nadal will face a stiff test as he looks to defend his title, whilst No. 1 seed Iga Świątek has also been dealt a tough draw.
The Sporting News takes a look at the key talking points below.
Defending champion Nadal faces uphill challenge
Despite being the No. 1 seed, Rafael Nadal has landed a very tough draw for this year’s Australian Open.
The Spaniard will face up-and-coming British player Jack Draper in the first round, before likely having to navigate past Brandon Nakashima and Yoshihito Nishioka in the two following rounds.
Assuming he reaches the fourth round, the 36-year-old is lined up to play the talented Frances Tiafoe, before a quarter-final against 2022 finalist Daniil Medvedev awaits.
Stefanos Tsitsipas or Félix Auger-Aliassime are projected to be in the semi-final slot, with Novak Djokovic the most likely finalist on the other side of the draw.
Nadal has lost six of his past seven matches, so this draw is far from ideal for the 22-time Grand Slam winner.
Kyrgios and De Minaur dealt tricky draws
Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur come into this tournament as the home nation’s two major hopes, but the Australian Open draw gods have not exactly been friendly to them.
Australia’s top-ranked men’s player, Kyrgios has a relatively simple first round match against Roman Safullin before a potential 2021 re-match with Ugo Humbert awaits.
From there on, the Canberran is projected to face exclusively top-ten-seeded talent: Casper Rune (9), Andrey Rublev (5), Djokovic (4), Casper Ruud (2) and Rafael Nadal (1).
At his best, Kyrgios is capable of defeating elite players, but this tournament is a huge ask of any athlete.
De Minaur has also been placed in the same challenging quarter of the draw as Kyrgios.
He will play a yet-to-be-determined qualifier in his opener, before a tricky match-up with either John Isner or Adrian Mannarino.
The ever-consistent Pablo Carreno-Busta could await him in the third round before he will likely be faced with the task of playing Djokovic in the fourth round.
Rublev/Thiem and Berrettini/Murray headline opening round
Current world No. 5 Andrey Rublev has landed former world No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the opening round of the Australian Open, in what is set to be a high-quality encounter.
Thiem battled injury in 2021 but is still capable of defeating elite players.
The first round has also tossed up an exciting match-up in the form of Matteo Berrettini against Andy Murray.
Whilst Murray may not be at the level he once was, it is still a blockbuster tie.
Tournament favourite Świątek lands tough draw
World No. 1 Świątek is the strong favourite to take out the women’s singles this year but will have to do it the hard way.
She will begin her Australian Open campaign with a tricky first round clash against Jule Niemeier.
By the third round, the Polish star could find herself battling against 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.
Last year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina is projected for the following match, before a stack of players including Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula and Barbora Krejčíková could stand in her way to the final.
Świątek has been playing tennis in a league of her own recently, but this year’s Australian Open will be one stiff test.
Tomljanović set to be tested
Australia’s top-ranked women’s player will need to be ready from the get-go in 2023, drawn to play Argentinian Nadia Podoroska in the opening round.
A demanding projected run will then follow, with six seeded players lined up in her way.
Potential consecutive matches against Victoria Azarenka (24), Madison Keys (10), Maria Sakkari (6), Jessica Pegula (3), Iga Świątek (1) and Ons Jabeur (2) is, well, a bit of a nightmare.
Kenin/Azarenka to play in first round
Two past winners of the Australian Open will face off in the opening round in 2023, with Sofia Kenin drawn against Victoria Azarenka.
Kenin has struggled since her 2020 triumph with a foot injury, whilst Azarenka has returned to the top 30 after her titles in 2012 and 2013.
As two players in very different phases of their careers, this should be a very interesting first round affair.