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Tomic draws Nadal in Open first round

By AAP .
10 January 2014 01:53PM EST

BERNARD Tomic has received a nightmare Australian Open draw, thrust into a first-round confrontation with world No.1 Rafael Nadal.

Fellow young gun Ashleigh Barty will take on world No.1 Serena Williams in the women's first round - while top-ranked Australians Samantha Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt have fared only slightly better at Friday's draw in Melbourne.

Stosur, the 17th seed, will open against Czech Klara Zakopalova - the same player she faces in the Hobart International semi-finals on Friday.

Australia's only seeded player, Stosur could potentially meet Serb 14th seed Ana Ivanovic in the third round, then Williams in the fourth, meaning it will take something special if she is to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

In-form Hewitt faces Italian 24th seed Andreas Seppi.

While he's avoided an early-round showdown with the sport's heavyweights, he could meet Japan's 16th seed Kei Nishikori in round three then Nadal in the fourth round.

That's assuming Tomic can't pull off a massive first-round upset.

Nadal missed last year's Open with a knee injury, but the 2009 champion finished 2013 in superb form, amassing 10 titles for the season.

Tomic's only previous meeting with Nadal came in the third round of the 2011 Australian Open, which the Spaniard won in straight sets.

The 21-year-old Tomic bowed out of the past two Australian Opens at the hands of 17-times grand slam champion Federer, who opens against young Australian wildcard James Duckworth.

Six of Australia's nine men in the singles draw face seeds in round one.

"There was a hole in my seat I was going to fall through. It's tough draws for them," tournament director Craig Tiley said.

"Going into their home slam, you look for opportunities early and, wow, to be playing Serena and Rafa and Roger, it's a tough ask."

Marinko Matosevic faces Nishikori in round one.

Former world No.1 Boris Becker, now coach of defending champion Novak Djokovic, said the Nadal-Tomic clash would be the first-round highlight.

"There's a reason Nadal is ranked one and Tomic is ranked around 50, but on a good day, surprises happen in tournaments," Becker said.

"Bernard is playing well in Australia, against the No.1 player in the world, it will be something everyone is glued on television to."

Barty's doubles partner Casey Dellacqua will start her tournament against Russian Vera Zvonareva, a former world No.2 on the comeback trail from a long injury absence.

Dellacqua said Barty should consider her first-round clash with all-conquering Williams as an opportunity rather than a horror draw.

"What an experience for Ash to be able to play the No.1 in the world in Australia, in her backyard," she said.

Jarmila Gajdosova plays German ninth seed Angelique Kerber.

WHO THE AUSTRALIANS PLAY IN THE FIRST ROUND OF THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN:

MEN
*Bernard Tomic v 1-Rafael Nadal
*Lleyton Hewitt v 24-Andreas Seppi (Ita)
*Marinko Matosevic v 16-Kei Nishikori (Jpn)
*James Duckworth v 6-Roger Federer (Sui)
*Jordan Thompson v 20-Jerzy Janowicz (Pol)
*Sam Groth v 28-Vasek Pospisil (Can)
*Nick Kyrgios v Benjamin Becker (Ger)
*Matthew Ebden v Nicolas Mahut (Fra)
*Thanasi Kokkinakis v Igor Sijsling (Ned)

WOMEN
*Ashleigh Barty v 1-Serena Williams (USA)
*17-Samantha Stosur v Klara Zakopalova (Cze)
*Casey Dellacqua v Vera Zvonareva (Rus)
*Jarmila Gajdosova v 9-Angelique Kerber (Ger)
*Storm Sanders v Camila Giorgi (Ita)
*Olivia Rogowska v Mariana Duque-Marino

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