As far as draws go, Andy Murray’s path to the Australian Open final could be described as favourable, especially compared with what it could have been. However, there is still the spectre of a familiar foe waiting at the end of the line.
First round: Alexander Zverev
Murray has never played Zverev in a professional match before but beat him comfortably last week at the Hopman Cup. The 18-year-old German is considered one of the game’s rising stars but he is surely still a year or two away from causing Murray serious problems.
Second round: Sam Groth
Groth is best known for his humongous serve, which is still the fastest recorded on the planet after he shot 163.7 miles per hour in 2012. The Australian, ranked 66th in the world, will have home support on his side but Murray should still be too strong.
Third round: Joao Sousa
Portugal’s Sousa shares the same agent as Jose Mourinho in Jorge Mendes but the world No 33 will have to do more than park the bus against Murray, whom he lost to in four sets at the French Open last year and has never beaten in six attempts.
Fourth round: Bernard Tomic
Tomic was once considered one of the game’s most promising youngsters but off-court controversy has clouded his talent and, now 23, he has only once reached a grand slam quarter-final. Dangerous on his day, yes, but it would be a major shock if Murray failed to go through.
Quarter-final: David Ferrer
Murray would have been eager to avoid a Spaniard in the last eight but it was Rafael Nadal’s name, not Ferrer’s, he may have dreaded most. Ferrer remains a canny operator but has lost all of his last six matches against Murray, including on his favoured clay at the 2015 French Open.
Semi-final: Stan Wawrinka
It could be Wawrinka or Nadal in the last four but on recent form, the former will be favourite. The Swiss powerhouse can blow anyone away when he finds his groove as proven by his stunning win over Djokovic at Roland Garros last year. Make no mistake, Murray would have to be at his very best to win.
Final: Novak Djokovic
Few would be surprised to see another Murray-Djokovic climax given the pair have shared three of the last five finals in Melbourne. Djokovic won all of those and would be hot favourite again given Murray has lost 10 of their last 11 contests. Is 2016 the year he begins to turn the tide?
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