The 2012 Australian Open will start on Monday, Jan. 16th and the draw for the event has been released. In the men's draw Novak Djokovic will be looking for his second-straight title at Melbourne Park and his third title overall at the Australian Open.
He is the favorite to win the event and there does not appear to be anything in front of the Serb in the opening three rounds. His draw starts with a match against Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, a 30-year-old player who has never won a Grand Slam singles match in his life.
Djokovic's second-round match will likely be against Santiago Giraldo, with a probable third-round match against either Nicolas Mahut or Radek Stepanek.
Should all the high seeds advance to the fourth round at the Aussie, however an unlikely occurrence that may be, here's who will face off to open week two at Melbourne Park.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Andy Roddick (15)
Janko Tipsarevic (9) vs. David Ferrer (5)
Gilles Simon (12) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6)
Which of these players is most likely to fall BEFORE the fourth round?
Mardy Fish (8) vs. Juan Martin del Potro (11)
Alexandr Dolgopolov (13) vs. Roger Federer (3)
Tomas Berdych (7) vs. Nicolas Almagro (10)
John Isner (16) vs. Rafael Nadal (2)
Astute tennis fans will notice that Nadal and Federer are on the same half of a draw in a Grand Slam event for the first time in a long time. The last time the two players met in a Grand Slam semifinal match was back at the 2005 French Open.
Dolgopolov could prove a tricky player for Federer should the two meet in the fourth round. The 13th seed definitely showcases flashes of brilliance, however he is an inconsistent player as well.
Roddick, Fish and Almagro are seeded to make at least the fourth round, but they are the players that I have the least confidence in.
I'm not convinced that Roddick will survive the first two rounds as the American is near Robin Haase, Lleyton Hewitt and Cedrik-Marcel Stebes in the draw.
I think Milos Raonic looks good to make the fourth round of the Aussie in Roddick's place, as the Canadian made the fourth round last year and has a recent hard-court title from Chennai.
Fish struggled down the stretch in 2011 and Gilles Muller, though less experienced, is a dangerous opponent in the first round. Muller made the fourth round of the 2011 US Open and if Fish is not at his best, he could be a high-seeded first-round casualty.
Even a prospective third-round match against either Philipp Kohlschreiber or Juan Monaco looks like a difficult match for Fish based on some of the losses he took in late 2011.
Nicolas Almagro has made the fourth round of the Australian Open in each of the last two years. Perhaps he deserves more credit than what I'm going to give him for making the fourth round again this season.
The Spaniard is a clay courter who frequently loses to lesser-ranked opponents on the hard-court surface. Anybody he faces at Melbourne Park could pick him off, including Lukasz Kubot, a player who made the fourth round in Melbourne two years ago.
Here are my quarterfinal predictions for the men's draw at the 2012 Australian Open:
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Janko Tipsarevic (9)
Andy Murray (4) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6)
Juan Martin del Potro (11) vs. Roger Federer (3)
Tomas Berdych (7) vs. Rafael Nadal (2)