Men's draw: Nadal, Djokovic on track for semifinal clash

  • Matt Trollope

Long-time rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have landed in the same half of the men's singles draw at Australian Open 2022, putting them on track for a blockbuster semifinal clash.

MORE: Men's singles draw for AO 2022

Djokovic, the world No.1, top seed and three-time defending champion, is playing for an incredible 10th title at Melbourne Park – as well as a men's record 21st Grand Slam singles title. 

But Nadal is also chasing Slam title No.21, with the Spaniard and the Serb currently inseparable having each won 20 major trophies.

At the same time, the game's talented younger generation, led by No.2 seed, AO 2021 runner-up and reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, will attempt to stop both Djokovic and Nadal from adding to their legendary CVs.

Medvedev and No.4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas are positioned to meet in the bottom-half semifinal, while third seed Alexander Zverev finds himself in Nadal's quarter.

Projected quarterfinals 

[1] Novak Djokovic v [7] Matteo Berrettini

Should Djokovic and Berrettini meet in the quarters, it would be a rematch of the 2021 Wimbledon final, won by Djokovic in four. Djokovic, on paper, is more likely to reach that stage; he opens against young compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic, faces a tricky-but-winnable second-rounder versus Tommy Paul, and must contend with seeds Lorenzo Sonego, Cristian Garin and Gael Monfils, last week's Adelaide International champion. Against Monfils, Djokovic is 17-0.

Djokovic practices at Rod Laver Arena this week

Berrettini, who begins against highly-rated 20-year-old American Brandon Nakashima, faces a possible third-round meeting with an even younger, more highly-rated prospect in Carlos Alcaraz, the No.31 seed who last year become the Open Era's youngest ever US Open quarterfinalist. Also lurking in this segment is in-form Brit Cameron Norrie, who would face either Berrettini or Alcaraz in the last 16. But Norrie, seeded 12th, has drawn a tough first-round opponent in Sebastian Korda.

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[3] Alexander Zverev v [6] Rafael Nadal

Joining Zverev and Nadal here are Wimbledon semifinalists Denis Shapovalov and Hubert Hurkacz, and Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev, the No.18 seed who is currently thriving in Sydney. Zverev has drawn fellow German Daniel Altmaier first up and could face either Shapovalov or big-serving American Reilly Opelka, the 23rd seed, in round four. But he will no doubt have his sights set on a crack at Nadal; it would be a chance to avenge his five-set defeat to the Spaniard at AO 2017, and would earn him a first victory over a top-10 player at a Grand Slam in 12 attempts.

Nadal, meanwhile, enters the tournament in form having won last week's Melbourne Summer Set title. He opens against Marcos Giron, before a possible second-round meeting with Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis, who is currently enjoying a stellar fortnight in Adelaide. Former world No.8 Karen Khachanov looms as a third-round opponent, while either Hurkacz or Karatsev could await in the last 16.

[8] Casper Ruud v [4] Stefanos Tsitsipas

This is another dense section of the draw, also featuring Jannik Sinner, Roberto Bautista Agut, Taylor Fritz, Grigor Dimitrov, Alex de Minaur and five-time finalist Andy Murray. Ruud, who has drawn Alex Molcan in round one, recorded his best Slam result at AO 2021 with a fourth-round run and may have to overcome De Minaur – who clashes first with Italian rising star Lorenzo Musetti – in round three to repeat the feat. Sinner is projected as Ruud's fourth-round opponent, but Murray or No.21 seed Nikoloz Basiliashvili could stop Sinner in round three. Murray and Basilashvili will meet for the second time in a week, after the Scot won a high-quality three-hour marathon at the Sydney Tennis Classic on Wednesday. 
 

Tsitsipas bowed out at the semifinal stage last year

Tsitsipas, meanwhile, is targeting a third Australian Open semifinal and begins his quest against Swede Mikael Ymer. No.26 seed Dimitrov looms in round three – in what would be a clash of majestic all-court playing styles – while either Bautista Agut or Fritz could be waiting in the last 16, should Fritz get past a likely second-round clash with AO 2019 quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe.

[5] Andrey Rublev v [2] Daniil Medvedev

This is a tough draw for Rublev, who faces a projected quarterfinal meeting against a friend and fellow Russian who has completely dominated their match-up – including a straight-sets win at AO 2021. And it's a tricky path for Rublev to even get to that stage; resurgent US Open 2014 champion Marin Cilic lurks in round three, with No.9 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime possibly beyond that in the round of 16.

Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev returns to Melbourne as a Grand Slam winner

Medvedev, who faces Swiss Henri Laaksonen first up, is aiming for back-to-back AO finals, and a second straight major title after his breakthrough in New York. A potential blockbuster awaits Medvedev in the second round against Nick Kyrgios – who opens against a qualifier – while fellow big servers Jan-Lennard Struff, John Isner and Maxime Cressy also populate this bottom segment of the draw. But Medvedev's returning prowess, a strength mirrored by 13th seed Diego Schwartzman, could see he and Schwartzman navigate those threats to set up a fourth-round showdown.

Unseeded threats

Alexander Bublik
At world No.35, electric shotmaker Bublik is the highest-ranked unseeded player in the draw. After opening against a qualifier, he could face No.17 seed Monfils – now under an injury cloud following his second-round retirement at Adelaide International 2 – for a place in the last 32.

Maxime Cressy
A throwback to the serve-and-volley era, Cressy last week advanced to the Melbourne Summer Set final – where he performed admirably against Nadal – and in the first round takes on No.22 seed Isner, who has lost three of four matches to open the 2022 season.

Tallon Griekspoor
The Dutchman is undefeated since the US Open, although most of his recent wins have come on the Challenger circuit. He takes a 28-match win streak into his first-round match against Fabio Fognini and has improved his ranking from No.133 to No.62 in the past four months.

Arthur Rinderknech
The world No.58 is through to the Adelaide semifinals, has won four of his six matches so far in 2022, and could prove too much for Alexei Popyrin in the first round and No.24 seed Dan Evans in the second.

Best first-round matches 

[12] Cameron Norrie v Sebastian Korda
[7] Matteo Berrettini v Brandon Nakashima
[32] Alex de Minaur v Lorenzo Musetti
[WC] Andy Murray v [21] Nikoloz Basilashvili
[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas v Mikael Ymer
[24] Dan Evans v David Goffin
[9] Felix Auger-Aliassime v Emil Ruusuvuori