Murray drawn against Agut in first round of the Australian Open
Andy Murray handed tough draw against world No 23 Roberto Bautista Agut in Australian Open first round while British No 1 Kyle Edmund will take on Tomas Berdych
- Andy Murray will be playing his first competitive match since September
- He struggled during a practice match against Novak Djokovic on Thursday
- Kyle Edmund is facing a tough opening match against Czech Tomas Berdych
Andy Murray faces a huge battle just to make it through the first week of the Australian Open after he joined Kyle Edmund in being handed an opening draw fraught with difficulty.
The twice Wimbledon champion, whose deflated ranking gave him no seeding protection, meets world No 23 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.
British No 1 Kyle Edmund, returning after making the semi-finals twelve months ago, was given one of the most dangerous ‘floaters’ in long time top tenner Tomas Berdych.
Andy Murray has been drawn against Roberto Bautista Agut for the Australian Open first round
Kyle Edmund was also given a difficult opener against former top-10 stalwart Tomas Berdych
Murray will face the winner of this year’s Qatar event, while Edmund will face the finalist, pitting them against two early season form horses.
Earlier on Thursday Murray played a serious practice match against Novak Djokovic and was beaten 6-1, 4-1, indicating the problems he is facing from a combination of ringrust and his chronic hip problem.
Now comes a huge test at a tournament where he has traditionally played so well before suffering his physical issues.
Even if he got past the rock solid Spaniard he would likely play home favourite John Millman, who knocked Roger Federer out of the US Open. Then he would be scheduled to encounter tenth seed Karen Khachanov, the powerful Russian of whom great things are expected this year.
Murray struggled when facing Novak Djokovic in a serious practice match on Thursday
The pair of Wimbledon winners leave the court after their full-blooded session in Melbourne
There is little point looking beyond that, or the fact that he is in the same half as defending champion Roger Federer and No 2 seed Rafael Nadal.
Thirteenth seed Edmund has a huge number of points after his Australian exploits of 2018 but he has pulled out the booming Czech, who missed the second half of last season and subsequently has a falsely deflated ranking of 57.
The indications are that the back problems Berdych suffered are behind him as he reached the final of the ATP Qatar Open earlier this month.
British No 2 Cam Norrie will face American Taylore Fritz, his doubles partner, who he beat on Thursday to make the semi-finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland.
Murray could be seen in animated discussions with his team following the encounter
Murray could not make life difficult for the world No 1, who was mainly on cruise control
Novak Djokovic meets a qualifier but could face Jo Wilfried Tsonga in the second round. Norrie could be paired against Federer in the third round.
Jo Konta, seeking to rediscover the form that saw her make the semi-finals two years ago, will meet adopted Australian Alja Tomljanovic, and might be paired against ex-Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza in the second round.
But most eyes were on Serena Williams, making her return to Grand Slam action after the controversial events of Flushing Meadows, since when she has not played.
Seeded No 16, Williams will face fellow mum Tatjana Maria of Germany, and that could be followed by Eugenie Bouchard, who is showing signs of running into form. Williams’s first severe test is scheduled to be top seed Simona Halep in the fourth round.
Serena Williams, seeded No 16, will face fellow mum Tatjana Maria of Germany
The pair met ahead of the Australian Open and played in front of a crowd on Thursday
Katie Boulter – one of a minimum three British women and three British men playing over the next fortnight – was given a difficult assignment against Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova, who has a formidably consistent record at this event.
Heather Watson will play 31st seed Petra Martic of Croatia. Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, who has recently been diagnosed with arthiritis, was drawn against Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck, who made Wimbledon’s fourth round.
As far as the British challenge is concerned, anyone who makes the second week of the singles will have had to have found their very best form from somewhere.
The Scot could be seen in clear discomfort during points of the match against Djokovic
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