The Australian Open draw has been announced and for our top-running Aussies, this year’s competition will be a test.
Paying the price for narrowly missing a seeding, Ajla Tomljanovic has copped a horror Australian Open draw.
Australia’s top women’s hope in the absence of retired reigning champion Ash Barty, Tomljanovic should ease through her opening match against Argentina’s world No.192 Nadia Podoroska.
But then it gets treacherous for the world No.35.
Tomljanovic could face 2020 champion Sofia Kenin or two-time Open winner Victoria Azarenka in round two.
It won’t get any easier if the 2022 Wimbledon and US Open quarter-finalist makes it to the last 32, with in-form 10th seed Madison Keys – a semi-final loser to Barty last year – potentially waiting in round three.
Tomljanovic could also play sixth seed Maria Sakkari in the last 16 and world No.3 Jessica Pegula in the quarter-finals.
Tomljanovic must be cursing her wretched luck. The 29-year-old had been in line for a precious first-time grand slam seeding at her home major until having to withdraw from the season-opening United Cup with a knee injury.
As a result, Tomljanovic dropped two places in the rankings on Monday, the day the seedings were announced.
A star of Australia’s charge to last year’s Billie Jean King Cup final, Tomjlanovic enjoyed her finest season in 2022.
In addition to famously ending Serena Williams’ decorated career in New York, Tomljanovic became the first Australian woman since former world No.1 Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1979 to reach the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open in a calendar year.
Nick Kyrgios has drawn Russian world No.99 Roman Safiullin in the Australian Open first round, while fellow home seed Alex de Minaur will start against a qualifier.
If he wins his opener, Kyrgios is certain to face a Frenchman next – either veteran Richard Gasquet or talented youngster Ugo Humbert.
Which dangerman Kyrgios could strike in the third round was the most compelling question to be answered at Thursday’s draw in Melbourne.
Seeded 19th, Kyrgios is guaranteed to avoid a top-eight rival until at least the second week – if he makes it that far.
Potentially standing in the way of Australia’s chief title hope and a place in the last 16 were a batch of exciting youngsters and some of the heaviest hitters in men’s tennis.
He landed 19-year-old Holger Rune, the Scandinavian prodigy who has just gatecrashed the world’s top 10 after a breakout 2022 highlighted by a run to the French Open quarter-finals.
If it’s not Rune, Kyrgios could face a testing third-round encounter with crafty American serve-volleyer Maxime Cressy.