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Analysing the Australian Open draw for the favourites

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We take a look at the state of the men's and women's draw as the Australian Open reaches its second week...

Men's draw

The draw has very much opened up for Roger Federer as he bids to win a 20th Grand Slam title.

Injuries have ultimately wreaked havoc on the men’s seedings, and while the tournament benefitted from the initial return of Novak Djokovic, the Serbian's straight-sets defeat to Hyeon Chung has now gifted Federer a golden opportunity.

The Swiss dispatched Richard Gasquet in the third round, while Tomas Berdych awaits in the last eight after seeing off the talented Juan Martin del Potro.

With Djokovic no longer on the horizon, the Swiss could face Tennys Sandgren or Chung if he progresses past Berdych.

2018 Australian Open - Day 5

But what of top seed and world number one Rafael Nadal? The Spaniard is sitting prettier in the top half of the draw, but will know a simple path to the final is far from guaranteed.

Nadal avoided a slip-up against Argentine Diego Schwartzman – the 31-year-old's fourth-round opponent – but up next is sixth seed Marin Cilic.

Schwartzman and Cilic offer contrasting tests - at just 5'5", Schwartzman's energy around the court meant precision was key for Nadal, while Cilic is a relentless acing machine.

His ability to hold serve will always make him a dangerous prospect, and that was no more evident than when the Croatian won the 2014 US Open.

The other quarter in the top half of the draw appears to be favourable for third seed Grigor Dimitrov, but the Bulgarian will have to handle the weight of expectation on his shoulders after ending 2017 with victory in the ATP Finals.

Eyeing a semi-final meeting with Nadal, Dimitrov silenced home favourite Nick Kyrgios in the last 16, who was dreaming of glory himself after powering past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with British hope Kyle Edmund up next in the last eight.

TENNIS-GBR-ATP-FINALS

Women's draw

The absence of reigning champion Serena Williams means the title is there for the taking, and it’s no surprise to see that a number of high-profile names have already tumbled out.

The departure of Venus Williams and last year’s US Open champion Sloane Stephens makes for pretty reading if you’re fourth seed Elina Svitolina, who is now the last remaining seed in her quarter of the draw.

However, with Svitolina now in unchartered territory - having never reached the fourth round in Australia - quarter-final opponent Elise Mertens, ranked 37, will not be overawed by the Ukrainian’s lofty seeding.

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN

Svitlolina is one of three players in the top four that is yet to taste Grand Slam glory, though she is yet to experience the heightened pressure that has been placed on the current top two in recent years.

Top seed Simona Halep is just the seventh player in history to occupy the world number one spot without having won a Grand Slam, and she will hope to shake off that tag here at Melbourne Park.

The 26-year-old Romanian has a tricky path to the final, though she will be buoyed by the departure of two-time Grand Slam champion and third seed Garbine Muguruza.

Halep has overcome several early tests of her credentials and she will be confident of making the semi-finals for the first time, where one of Madison Keys or Angelique Kerber await.

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN

Meanwhile, second seed Caroline Wozniacki is carrying on the fine form which saw her clinch the year-ending WTA Finals trophy in October.

The Dane has a somewhat kind quarter in comparison to Halep, but questions will remain over whether she can handle this new-found expectation, having initially failed to do so when becoming world number one back in 2010.

The biggest danger standing in the way of Wozniacki and a first Australian Open final is a potential match-up with Svitolina in the semis.

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Topics:
Serena Williams
Novak Djokovic
Australian Open
Maria Sharapova
Roger Federer
Stanislas Wawrinka
Juan Martin Del Potro
Richard Gasquet
Tennis
Rafael Nadal

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