Djokovic faces Baena, Swiatek meets Niemeier at Australian Open

Novak Djokovic (AFP Photo)MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic will begin his quest for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title against Roberto Carballes Baena while top-ranked Iga Swiatek meets Jule Niemeier, following the draw for the year’s first Grand Slam on Thursday.Defending champion Rafa Nadal will look for his first win of 2023 when he takes on Jack Draper in his opener, as the Spanish top seed looks to put an injury-hit 2022 and a shaky start to the new season behind him.Read AlsoAustralian Open title can be balm for Djokovic after deportation sagaNovak Djokovic may never forget his deportation from Australia over his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID, but the Serb will hope a record-extending 10th major in Melbourne provides closure to his storied career’s most controversial chapter.Nadal won last year’s title in an epic final beating Russian Daniil Medvedev, who takes on Marcos Giron first. Second seed Casper Ruud — twice a runner-up on the Grand Slam stage last year — plays Tomas Machac.Swiatek, who has largely dominated the women’s game after the retirement last year of Australian Ash Barty following her triumph at Melbourne Park, starts her bid for a fourth major with a potentially tricky clash against German Niemeier.Read AlsoAustralian Open: Undercooked Nadal targets number 23 at Melbourne ParkRafael Nadal will head into the Australian Open undercooked and with only one win to his name since September’s U.S. Open, but it would surprise nobody if he retained the title he won for the second time last year.Women’s world number two Ons Jabeur will begin her latest attempt to become the first Arab player to claim a Grand Slam singles title when she plays Tamara Zidansek. Tunisian Jabeur was runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.Sofia Kenin and Victoria Azarenka will meet in an opening round clash featuring two former champions.