Daunting Open match-up looms for ‘Demon’ de Minaur

Gun Australian youngster Alex de Minaur has drawn a daunting opponent in the Australian Open first round – former top-10 player Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
Nanjing Night Net

De Minaur, in a rich vein of form in the lead-up to the first major of 2018, picked up a main draw spot after winning the Australian Open wildcard play-off last month.

De Minaur has already marched into the Sydney International quarter-finals and the 18-year-old was due to play Feliciano Lopez in the final eight on Thursday night.

Australia’s best hope in the men’s draw, Nick Kyrgios, will meet Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva. Kyrgios is the solitary Australian men’s seed but narrowly misses out on a coveted top-16 seeding by one place.

It’s a tough assignment for Australia’s second-ranked man, Matthew Ebden, who plays big-serving John Isner while countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis has a tricky assignment against Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Another Australian in the main draw, John Millman, plays Croatia’s Borna Coric.

Six-time winner Novak Djokovic faces early challenges in his return to the circuit.

Djokovic, in the unfamiliar surrounds as the 14th seed after not playing at all since Wimbledon, meets American Donald Young. But beyond that, Gael Monfils, looms in the second round.

Ashleigh Barty (18) and Daria Gavrilova (23) are the two Australian women to enjoy the protection of a seeding.

???Barty, who raced up the rankings in 2017, confronts Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, while Gavrilova will play a qualifier.

Veteran Australian Sam Stosur has a dangerous assignment against Monica Puig of Puerto Rico.

But it’s even worse for young Australian Destanee Aiava, who drew world No.1 Simona Halep.

The men’s and women’s events at Melbourne Park are both missing two of their top-32 players.

Defending champion Serena Williams and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova aren’t featuring at the Open, with five-time runner-up Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori unable to compete on the men’s side.

The withdrawal of Williams and unseeded star Victoria Azarenka means only two Australian Open champions feature in the women’s draw – 2008 winner Maria Sharapova and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.

FIRST ROUND MATCHES TO WATCH:

MEN’S

David Ferrer (Spain) versus Andrey Rublev (Russia)

Kevin Anderson (South Africa) v Kyle Edmund (Great Britain)

Roberto Bautista Agut (Spain) v Fernando Verdasco (Spain)

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) v Donald Young (USA)

Thanasi Kokkinakis (Australia) v Daniil Medvedev (Russia)

???WOMEN’S

Simona Halep (Romania) v Destanee Aiava (Australia)

Kristyna Pliskova (Czech Republic) v Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)

Venus Williams (USA) v Belinda Bencic (Switzerland)

Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia) v Francesca Schiavone (Italy)

Sam Stosur (Australia) v Monica Puig (Puerto Rico)

With AAP

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