Nadal, Jankovic debut as Australian Open top seeds

January 16th, 2009 - 2:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Rafael NadalSydney, Jan 16 (DPA) New number one players Rafael Nadal and Jelena Jankovic line up as top seeds for the first time when the Australian Open begins Monday.Nadal, practising privately this week at Melbourne as is Jankovic, opens against Belgian Christophe Rochus as the Spaniard tops a Grand Slam draw for the second time since dethroning Roger Federer from the lead spot last August.

Jankovic, who holds a narrow points margin over Serena Williams, opens with Austrian Yvonne Meusburger.

Men’s second seed Federer finds himself on the “safe” side of the draw, with British threat Andy Murray put into Nadal’s top half.

Were Federer to face Murray at Melbourne Park, it could not be before the final, and would mark a re-run of the US Open title match won four months ago by the Swiss.

Fourth-seeded Murray is bidding to end the British title drought at majors, with Fred Perry the last Briton to win a Grand Slam when he lifted Wimbledon in 1936.

Murray begins with Romanian veteran Andrei Pavel after having beaten Federer twice already this month.

Federer, starting the search for the 14th Grand Slam title which will pull him level with the all-time best of Pete Sampras, plays Italian Andreas Seppi in the first round before progressing to either Carlos Moya of Spain or a qualifier.

Federer is drawn to meet defending champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, the stage where the Serb knocked out the Swiss a year ago.

Djokovic initiates the first Grand Slam title defence of his career as he faces a qualifier.

2008 losing finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga faces a fight for fitness as he remains flat in bed to try and cure a reported bulging disc in his back which forced him from a Sydney quarter-final.

Doctors say the Frenchman will need to remain in bed for several days.

Home hero Lleyton Hewitt, 2005 runner-up to Marat Safin, will need to be on his game from the start as he faces a battle of former finalists when he plays Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez (2007 against Federer).

Women’s second seed Williams, who ran out of puff in a Sydney semi-final loss this week, should have all of her trademark bluster back by the time she begins against wildcard Meng Yuan of China.

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