Rafa Faces Tough Start In Brisbane

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2018

Rafa Faces Tough Start In Brisbane

Nishikori, Dimitrov could meet in the quarter-finals

Top seed Rafael Nadal could face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his opening match of the 2019 ATP Tour season after being handed a tough draw at the Brisbane International.

The 32-year-old, competing at the Queensland event for the second time, will meet the former World No. 5 or a qualifier after a first-round bye. In his first tour-level event since retiring from his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in September, Nadal will be aiming to reach his second quarter-final in Brisbane.

On his debut in 2017, Nadal did not drop a set en route to the last eight before falling to defending champion Milos Raonic in three sets. The 80-time tour-level titlist’s appearance in Brisbane proved to be a solid starting block, with Nadal reaching his first Grand Slam final in almost three years at the Australian Open three weeks later.

If Nadal reaches the quarter-finals in Brisbane, he may need to overcome 2018 semi-finalist Alex de Minaur for a place in the last four. In 2018, De Minaur announced himself to the tennis world in front of his home fans, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane (l. to Harrison) before advancing to his maiden ATP Tour final at the Sydney International (l. to Medvedev). The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up is joined in the top quarter by countrymen Alex Bolt, Jordan Thompson and Alexei Popyrin.

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Also featuring in the top half of the draw is two-time champion Andy Murray (2012-’13), fourth seed Daniil Medvedev and 2016 winner Milos Raonic. Murray, who owns an unbeaten 9-0 record at the event, will open his 2019 campaign against Australian wild card James Duckworth in a repeat of their four-set encounter at the 2018 US Open. The winner of that clash will face Medvedev in the second round. The 22-year-old Russian lifted three ATP Tour titles in 2018, including his maiden tour-level trophy at the Sydney International.

Canadian No. 1 Raonic will begin his bid for a second Brisbane title against Aljaz Bedene. Raonic reached back-to-back finals at the tournament in 2015 (l. to Federer) and 2016 (d. Federer).

In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Kei Nishikori could meet Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals. Nishikori, who fell to Dimitrov in the 2017 championship match, will face Taylor Fritz or Denis Kudla for a place in the last eight, with former champion Dimitrov opening his season against Yoshihito Nishioka.

Third seed Kyle Edmund and defending champion Nick Kyrgios headline the third quarter of the draw. Edmund, who captured his first tour-level trophy at the European Open in October, will meet the winner of an all-qualifier first-round match, while Kyrgios will meet Ryan Harrison in a repeat of the 2018 final. Kyrgios overcame the American in straight sets to become the first home champion at the event since Lleyton Hewitt in 2014.

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