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Murray opens against world No. 112 Soeda

ESPN staff
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Murray has been working hard with coach Lendl © Getty Images
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Andy Murray faces a tough route to the Australian Open final, with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same half as the Scot - who will open against Japanese world No. 112 Go Soeda.

But the draw has been kind to Murray in the early stages, who will face the winner between two qualifiers should he get through to the second round.

Former winner Boris Becker, now coach of defending champion Novak Djokovic, said of Murray: "I saw him in Abu Dhabi and I saw him perform in Doha. The big question for him with his back surgery is how quickly can he get match fitness.

"He's the first to say he needs many more matches to get into top shape but he's been in the final three times, he knows exactly how to play well in this tournament and he loves Australia. And with Ivan Lendl in his corner, I'm sure he'll be well prepared."

And as Djokovic held the trophy in a photo shoot before Friday's draw, he joked that having his fingerprints on it might in some way help him win the title for a fourth consecutive year.

The draw certainly didn't dent the Serbian's chances, with top-seeded Nadal, No. 4 Murray, No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro and No. 6 Federer all stacked in the opposite half.

Becker added: "It's a loaded half, that's for sure."

Wilko: Murray's right - he won't win

Murray has played just four competitive matches since his surgery © Getty Images
  • Andy Murray is recovering from back surgery and if he is to win the Australian Open he will likely need to get past Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic following an unfavourable draw for the Scot.
  • The man himself says he probably won't win in Melbourne - and ESPN's resident tennis expert and former British No. 1 Chris Wilkinson agrees.
  • Click here to read the full article

The top half of the men's draw was the talking point, starting with Nadal's first-round match against Australian Bernard Tomic.

"I think that'll be a night match, for sure," Becker quipped. "But a tough, tricky one for both players. Tomic will certainly have the home support."

Nadal missed last year's Australian Open with a left knee injury during a seven-month absence from the tour. He returned to win 10 titles in 2013 and regain the No. 1 ranking, overtaking Djokovic in October.

Tomic reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2011 and has been ranked as high as No. 27.

His only previous meeting with Nadal resulted in a straight-sets defeat in the third round of the 2011 Australian Open.

Nadal also has No. 25 Gael Monfils, former No. 1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt and 16th-seeded Kei Nishikori in his section.

Federer opens against Australian wild-card entry James Duckworth and likely quarter-finals in that half would feature Nadal against del Potro and Federer against Murray.

Djokovic will face Lukas Lacko in the first round in the bottom half of the draw, which also contains No. 3 David Ferrer, No. 7 Tomas Berdych and No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka.

On the women's side, the draw was less kind for Laura Robson, who faces Belgian 18th seed Kirsten Flipkens.

Top-ranked Serena Williams opens against Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty, and has 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur and two-time finalist Li Na in her half.

Two-time defending Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova are in the opposite half, meaning they cannot meet Williams until the final.

In the bottom half of the women's draw, Azarenka faces Johanna Larsson of Sweden in the first round, while Sharapova takes on American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and could face former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in the quarter-finals and Azarenka in the semis.

Stosur, Australia's only seeded player at No. 17, opens against Czech Klara Zakopalova, the same player she was set to play in the Hobart International semifinals Friday.

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