Andy Murray could meet Roger Federer in Aus quarter-finals

Sir Andy Murray will play Ukraine's Illya Marchenko in the first round of the Australian Open and could meet Roger Federer in the last eight.

Andy Murray practises ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Picture: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images
Andy Murray practises ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Picture: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images

Murray, the world number one and top seed, was drawn in the same quarter as Federer, who is seeded a lowly 17th after missing the second half of last season through injury.

The Scot is chasing a fourth grand slam title of his career and his first in Melbourne, where he has reached the final five times.

In the women’s draw, Britain’s Johanna Konta, seeded ninth, was handed a tricky opening tie against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens.

Heather Watson and Naomi Broady will both face Australian opponents, with Watson playing the experienced Samantha Stosur and Broady up against Daria Gavrilova.

Britain’s three other male participants see Kyle Edmund face Santiago Giraldo, Dan Evans play Facundo Bagnis while Aljaz Bedene was paired with Victor Estrella Burgos.

Marchenko, ranked 93rd in the world, and potentially Yen-Hsun Lu in round two represent a kind start for Murray but the 29-year-old’s route could become tougher from the third round onwards.

The British number one is then due to meet big-serving American Sam Querrey, who beat Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year, before a potential fourth round match-up with the unpredictable Frenchman Lucas Pouille.

Pouille demonstrated his threat by ousting Rafael Nadal at the US Open in September.

Federer was always the banana-skin in the draw but Murray would certainly start as favourite against the 35-year-old, who is playing his first competitive tournament since Wimbledon. Fifth seed Kei Nishikori is arguably a more likely opponent in the last eight.

Stan Wawrinka is Murray’s potential semi-final opponent before another possible showpiece against second seed Djokovic, to whom the Briton has lost four previous finals here.

Djokovic, a six-time Australian Open champion, surrendered the world number one spot in November but undoubtedly remains Murray’s biggest threat. The Serbian was given one of the tougher opening rounds in Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.

“I’ve obviously never beaten him here,” Murray said. “I’ve lost to him four or five times, a couple of them were tough matches, a couple of them were very easy for him so I need to try to turn that around here.

“There’s a good chance that if I want to win the event I’ll have to play against him. He’s played unbelievably here, I think he’s won six times, which is an incredible record.

“Hopefully I can get by him this year but he’s definitely my biggest rival and someone I’ve been competing against for 18 years now.”

Federer was handed the smooth start he would have hoped for after his lengthy period away. He will face qualifiers in both the opening two rounds. Ninth seed Rafael Nadal opens up against Germany’s Florian Mayer.

There was no such comfort for Konta, however, who made a superb run to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park last year, but has landed in a brutal section of the draw.

After Flipkens, whom she lost to at Monterrey last year, the British number one may need to overcome the big-hitting 19-year-old Naomi Osaka, US Open semi-finalist Caroline Wozniacki, world number six Dominika Cibulkova and then Serena Williams just to reach the last four.

Williams, who is bidding to win an Open-era record 23rd grand slam title, faces Swiss up-and-comer Belinda Bencic in round one.

Top seed and defending champion Angelique Kerber starts against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.