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Australian Open men’s singles draw breakdown: Nadal, Medvedev in difficult top half

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal ascended to the No. 1 seed for the Australian Open when fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz withdrew, but at least for the time being it has not done the defending champion any good. Nadal was dealt a tough hand when the draw ceremony for the season’s first Grand Slam was held on Thursday afternoon at Melbourne Park. The 22-time Grand Slam winner is in a loaded top half of the bracket that also includes Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Daniil Medvedev. 
With main-draw action beginning on Monday, it’s time to break down the 2023 Australian Open men’s singles draw. 
Nadal’s quarter 

Nadal won’t get caught looking ahead to what could be an extremely difficult second week of the tournament because right off the bat he has to face rising star Jack Draper. There is no guarantee that the two-time Aussie Open champion will even make it out of the first round. If he does, Brandon Nakashima could be awaiting him in round two prior to a possible fourth-round date with familiar foe Frances Tiafoe. Medvedev, Hubert Hurkacz, Denis Shapovalov, and recent Adelaide runner-up Sebastian Korda are also looming large in this section. Rough. 
Best first-round matchup — (1) Rafael Nadal vs. Jack Draper 

It will be a clash of generations when these two left-handers collide in a blockbuster first-round showdown. Although the rankings (No. 2 and No. 40) do not suggest competitiveness, the reality is that Draper has a real chance to win this one. Nadal has struggled physically dating back to last summer’s U.S. Open, whereas Draper has been on an absolute roll over the past year. Things could get interesting quickly Down Under. 

Best potential second-round matchup – (10) Hubert Hurkacz vs. Lorenzo Sonego 
Best potential third-round matchup – (29) Sebastian Korda vs. (7) Daniil Medvedev 

Possible surprises – As mentioned above, Nadal is at risk of losing right away. If Draper doesn’t take him out, Brandon Nakashima would have a shot in round two. If it’s Nadal vs. Tiafoe in the last 16 (just as it was during the 2022 U.S. Open), lightning could certainly strike twice. Speaking of up-and-coming Americans, Korda upsetting Medvedev in the third round would not be the strangest result when you consider respective current form. 

Tsitsipas’ quarter 

On paper there is plenty of danger for Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime in this section. Nonetheless, there is a good chance that both guys go untroubled on their way to the quarterfinals. Jannik Sinner struggled with a knee injury last week in Adelaide and fellow Italian Lorenzo Musetti was plagued by a should issue at the United Cup. Borna Coric has not done anything since making a surprise run to the Cincinnati title last summer. Unless Sinner makes a miraculous recovery, the sailing could be smooth for Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime. 

Best first-round matchup — Jiri Lehecka vs. (21) Borna Coric 

Even if Coric is 100 percent (the shoulder injury that kept him out for almost a year in late 2021 and early 2022 continues to be a question mark), Lehecka will likely be a problem in round one. The 21-year-old Czech finished runner-up to Nakashima at the 2022 NextGen ATP Finals, posted a win over Alexander Zverev at the United Cup and played well this week in Adelaide. Sound the upset alert. 

Best potential second-round matchup – Tallon Griekspoor vs. (32) Botic van de Zandschulp 
Best potential third-round matchup – (17) Lorenzo Musetti vs. (15) Jannik Sinner 

Possible surprises — I can’t see Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime losing early—or at all prior to the quarters unless Sinner has a clean bill of health. However, more than a few unseeded players have a good chance to reach at least the third round. Among them are Lehecka, Tallon Griekspoor, Marton Fucsovics, and Yibing Wu. Lehecka could go all the way to the last 16, as Cameron Norrie is not an unbeatable third-round opponent. 

Djokovic’s quarter 

Djokovic moved up to the No. 4 seed thanks to Alcaraz’s withdrawal and he is already reaping the benefits. The 35-year-old Serb obviously avoids the other top-four seeds until at least the semifinals and he also finds himself in a soft quarter of the draw. Djokovic may be dealing with a minor hamstring injury at the moment, but assuming he is anywhere close to 100 percent he will likely have a cakewalk to at least the quarterfinals. Andrey Rublev is a possible opponent at that stage, but the Russian is struggling to begin 2023, has never advanced to the semis of a slam, and has to play Dominic Thiem in round one and potentially Nick Kyrgios in the last 16. 

Best first-round matchup — (5) Andrey Rublev vs. (WC) Dominic Thiem 

It’s hard to know what Thiem is going to bring to the table, but the potential for this matchup to deliver something special is off the charts. Thiem won plenty of matches last fall as his comeback from wrist surgery picked up steam, so he is certainly capable of being competitive. It should also be noted that Rublev lost his opening matches in each of his first two tournaments this year. The Russian will have to be on red alert right from the start in Melbourne. 

Best potential second-round matchup – John Isner vs. (22) Alex de Minaur 
Best potential third-round matchup – (19) Nick Kyrgios vs. (9) Holger Rune 
Possible surprises — Who will be Djokovic’s quarterfinal opponent? Rublev, Kyrgios, and Holger Rune are the obvious favorites, but Rublev has a bad draw, Kyrgios can spontaneously combust at any moment, and Rune is still a teenager. Thiem could make a serious run if he upsets Rublev, or that result could open the door for someone like Emil Ruusuvuori, Daniel Elahi Galan, or Maxime Cressy.  

Ruud’s quarter

Welcome to the weakest section of the bracket, where Taylor Fritz probably has to be the biggest winner in the entire draw. Fritz was on fire for much of last season and kicked off his 2023 campaign by leading Team USA to the United Cup title. He should not have much trouble getting to at least the Aussie Open quarterfinals, although Miomir Kecmanovic could provide a bit of a test in round three and you never know if Alexander Zverev will heat up if he can get a couple of wins under his belt. On the other side of this quarter, Casper Ruud could be challenged by Matteo Berrettini, Roberto Bautista Agut, Tommy Paul, and/or Jenson Brooksby. 

Best first-round matchup — (13) Matteo Berrettini vs. Andy Murray 

Murray has not yet gotten himself into seeded position for Grand Slams (currently No. 49 in the rankings), so he continues to be at the mercy of draws. The 35-year-old Scot has another bad one, this time against Berrettini in round one. They faced each other twice last summer, with the Italian prevailing in the Stuttgart final (6-4, 5-7, 6-3) and in the U.S. Open third round (6-4, 6-4, 6-7(1), 6-3). Berrettini is a clear favorite, but Murray never goes down without a fight—especially at Melbourne Park. 

Best potential second-round matchup – David Goffin vs. (12) Alexander Zverev 
Best potential third-round matchup – Tommy Paul vs. (2) Casper Ruud 

Possible surprises — I can see Ruud taking a step back following his breakout 2022 season—a “sophomore slump” so to speak. It could start in Melbourne, where Brooksby likely awaits in round two and Paul is a potential opponent in the last 32. Brooksby, Paul, or the winner of a first-round battle between Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Alexander Bublik is more than capable of making it all the way to the quarterfinals. Also look for either David Goffin or J.J. Wolf to capitalize on the Zverev-Diego Schwartzman part of the draw and earn a place in the second week. 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.