Australian Open: Federer, Nadal add intrigue

By Dejan Kalinic 12 January 2017 161
Australian Open: Federer, Nadal add intrigue

The returning Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are adding even more than usual to the Australian Open.

The duo's injuries in 2016 have seen them slip down the rankings, Nadal to ninth and Federer eight places below him.

Expectations are, for the most part, low.

With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray picking up where they left off – winning through to a final, this time in Doha – the world's top two will fancy their chances of meeting in yet another decider at Melbourne Park.

But their paths, and those of Federer and Nadal, shape as being far different.

There is every chance the Swiss maestro and Spanish star – 31 grand slams between them – could meet in the third round.

The round of 32 – Federer v Nadal, the pair whose epic battles have been reserved for eight major finals and three semis and never earlier at grand slams.

Of the past five years, the ninth and 17th seeds have been due to meet in the third round three times – 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Federer-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Nadal-Richard Gasquet would still be decent battles, but are less appealing.

However, just the presence of Federer and Nadal in their unfamiliar places in the draw is sure to provide some life to the first week.

A knee injury saw Federer play just 28 matches last year, but he looked in decent form at the Hopman Cup.

He had wins over Gasquet and Dan Evans, while losing a battle against talented German Alexander Zverev.

Nadal, meanwhile, reached the quarter-finals at the Brisbane International, with easy wins against Alexandr Dolgopolov and Mischa Zverev.

But Milos Raonic claimed a rare win over Nadal, who battled a wrist injury last year.

Zverev and Raonic shape as just two potential threats to Djokovic and Murray, along with the likes of Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.

The depth of the field highlights the challenge awaiting Federer and Nadal, with their draws set to provide a greater – and more entertaining – test.

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Dejan Kalinic