Basketball

Murray could meet Federer in quarters

Classic clash on the cards if Swiss great gets past fourth round, where he is likely to meet Nishikori

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.

Murray, the world No. 1 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 the fourth Grand Slam title of his career and his first in Melbourne, where he has reached the final five times.

Marchenko, ranked 93rd in the world, and potentially Taiwanese Lu Yen-hsun 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 Scot 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.

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.

SMOOTH START

Federer was handed the smooth start he would have hoped for after his lengthy period away. He will face qualifiers in the opening two rounds.

Fifth seed Kei Nishikori, though, is arguably a more likely opponent for Murray in the last eight as the Japanese is likely to meet Federer in the fourth round.

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 was given one of the tougher opening rounds against Spain's Fernando Verdasco.

Verdasco knocked out compatriot and 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the opening round at Melbourne Park last year and had five match-points against Djokovic in their recent clash at the Qatar Open.

"I've obviously never beaten him here," Murray said of his dismal Australian Open record against Serb Djokovic.

"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. 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."

Ninth seed Nadal opens up against Florian Mayer.

Meanwhile, six-time champion Serena Williams was handed a tough draw while defending champion Angelique Kerber has a slightly easier route towards another final.

American Williams, bidding for a 23rd Grand Slam crown, faces former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in the opening round.

Second seed Williams, who lost the top ranking to Kerber last year, could then encounter in-form Briton Johanna Konta in the fourth round and Slovak sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova in the quarters.

US OPEN CONQUEROR

She could potentially then meet her US Open conqueror Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals.

World No. 1 Kerber starts with a first-round clash against Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko and could meet Spanish seventh seed and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals.

Romania's world No. 4 Simona Halep opens with a match against American Shelby Rogers and could face a quarter-final against either Ukrainian 11th seed Elina Svitolina or Russian eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. - WIRE SERVICES

Roger FedererANDY MURRAYtennis