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Murray & Djokovic kept apart until Australian Open final

ESPN staff
January 11, 2013 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »

Andy Murray will kick off his bid for a maiden Australian Open crown against big-serving Dutchman Robin Haase, following Friday's draw.

Murray, twice a beaten finalist in the last three years, is looking to build on a hugely successful 2012 season, which saw him break his grand slam duck at the US Open.

Melbourne has always been one of his favourite events, and he has been handed a stylistically favourable first-round draw against world No. 54 Haase, a man whose power Murray should be able to absorb and counter when the tournament begins next week.

However, there is history between the two players, with Haase racing into a two-set lead over the world No. 3 at the 2011 US Open only to cede his advantage in a five-set epic.

Crucially, Murray has also been drawn in the opposite side of the draw to defending champion and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, whom he can only face in the final. Djokovic beat the Brit in the 2011 final.

Instead a potential semi-final meeting with Roger Federer awaits Murray if he reaches the last-four, with Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexandr Dolgopolov lining up to prevent Murray getting that far. If he overcomes Haase, the winner of Joao Sousa and John-Patrick Smith awaits in round two.

Federer's path to the semi-finals is littered with pitfalls from the third round onwards, following an opener against Benoit Paire. The Swiss master is likely to meet home favourite Bernard Tomic - who has already beaten Djokovic this year - in round three, before power-hitters Milos Raonic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lie in wait.

Djokovic, meanwhile, takes on Paul Henri-Mathieu in round one and should be comfortable until the quarter-finals, where Tomas Berdych is on collision course with the champion.

In the women's draw, British No. 1 Heather Watson meets world No. 89 Alexandra Cadantu, while Laura Robson will take on Melanie Oudin, whom she beat in qualifying last year.

Should Robson progress, she will face either former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone or 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova in the second round. Watson, meanwhile, has fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanksa on the horizon in round three.

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka has been drawn against Monica Niculescu of Romania, and is in the same half of the draw as the red-hot Serena Williams. One other notable clash sees Maria Sharapova heading for a third-round encounter with Venus Williams.

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