The draw has been released for the 2012 Australian Open and there is the prospect of some tantalising matchups. I will be previewing each eighth section of the men's draw and will make predictions on the eight people who will reach the quarterfinals and where I think the shock in each section will happen.
The top eighth is home to defending champion and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. You have to feel he will be happy with his draw for the opening rounds, two matches that in fairness he should easily win.
His third-round opponent should be a bit tougher. It should be Radek Stepanek, but Potito Starace and Nicolas Mahut especially could provide challenges. I do see it going with the seeds and Stepanek facing Djokovic and Novak managing to win in straight sets.
The bottom half looks like it will be more competitive. Milos Raonic, Philipp Petzschner, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick should all win their first-round matches, although I do see Robin Haase taking a set off Roddick.
The second-round matches will be very competitive, but I see Raonic winning impressively. I think Hewitt, with the backing of the home fans, can spring a surprise on Roddick but will be knocked out by Raonic. This will leave a fourth-round tie of Raonic vs. Djokovic in which I can see Djokovic winning in four sets and Raonic looking impressive.
Player in the Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic
Shock of the eighth: Lleyton Hewitt defeating Andy Roddick
There is some real quality in this bit of the draw and potential for some shocks. Janko Tipsarevic has gotten fairly lucky with his opening draws. Dimitry Tursunov is a quality player on his day but hasn't reached top form in a while and will likely struggle.
Tipsarevic's opponent in the third round will likely be Mikhail Youzhny or Richard Gasquet. I see Gasquet winning in straight sets as Youzhny has only really performed once in the Australian Open. The third-round tie between Tipsarevic and Gasquet would be a five-set epic that Tipsarevic would take.
The other side of the eighth looks fairly easy for David Ferrer. Rui Machado is not going to trouble him, and in the next round I assume Ryan Sweeting, who doesn't have enough for Ferrer, will be through.
Ferrer's third-round opponent is a bit less easy to predict. Juan Ignacio Chela struggles with the Australian Open, not getting past the first round since 2007, and I see Michael Russell shocking him. However, I can't see him beating Igor Kunitsyn in the next round.
Ferrer will likely dispatch his third-round opponent with ease, whomever it is. I see the fourth-round match being another five-setter, with Tipsarevic taking it again.
Player in the Quarterfinals: Janko Tipsarevic
Shock of the eighth: David Ferrer losing to Janko Tipsarevic
This is one of my favourite eighths of the draw. The favourite is Andy Murray, but by no means does he have an easy run. I think Murray will overcome both his opponents rather comfortably in the first two rounds against Ryan Harrison and Xavier Malisse but will drop a set.
The ties to face him in the third round will be closely contested. I'm going to go with Ernests Gulbis to win, but Murray will beat him in the third round.
In the other half Viktor Troicki and Gael Monfils have to be favourites. Juan Carlos Ferrero, Mikhail Kukushkin and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez are all capable on their day of running Troicki close, but I still see him going through with relative ease.
Monfils has an easier path despite Thomaz Bellucci being a more than capable player, but he never seems to perform in the Australian Open. Monfils and Troicki I can see being another brilliant third-round match. I can't see Troicki having enough to beat Monfils and will go down in four sets, while in the fourth round I can see Monfils taking Murray to a fifth set before losing.
Player in the Quarterfinals: Andy Murray
Shock of the eighth: Andy Murray dropping sets in the early rounds.
I feel this is one of the weakest eighths in the draw. Gilles Simon has a relatively simple run to the third round, as does Kei Nishikori, although with Matthew Ebden being backed by his home crowd he could be a dangerous opponent.In the third-round tie I can see Simon overcoming Nishikori mainly due to his experience of being in bigger games.
In the bottom half I see Marcel Granollers and Ivan Dodig making it through to set up a match. I give Dodig the advantage over Granollers mainly due to his impressive performance in last year's Australian Open. I also think Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will have quite an easy run to the third round, where he will dispatch Dodig. I really cannot see him losing a set to any of these players. I think he will use this to his advantage against Simon in the fourth round and will dispatch of his compatriot with ease.
Player in the Quarterfinals: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Shock of the eighth: Ivan Dodig will knock out Marcel Granollers.
Another eighth I think will be a competitive one. Gilles Muller is a good player and will likely put pressure on Mardy Fish, who will eventually come through. Alejandro Falla and Fabio Fognini are both capable players, and I see whoever gets through also troubling Fish.
His opponent in the third round will also probably have come through a tough path. Juan Monaco is the seed but I can see Philipp Kohlschreiber causing a shock by defeating Monaco. He will likely face Albert Montanes in the next round and he will come through sightly easier. In the third round I can see Kohlschreiber defeating a tired Fish, who has been pushed by his opponents.
The opposite side of the eighth is headlined by Juan Martin Del Potro. His first-round opponent is Adrian Mannarino, and I see Del Potro taking him to pieces before doing similar work to James Ward or Blaz Kavcic. Being British I suggest Ward will be the one to make it through.
In the third round I see Del Porto coming up against Yen-Hsun Lu, who will defeat Florent Serra in Round 2. I still think Del Potro will have it all his way and heading into his fourth-round tie against Kohlscreiber will be full of confidence and will get a good win.
Player in the Quarterfinals: Juan Martin Del Potro.
Shock of the eighth: Philipp Kohlscreiber will defeat both Juan Monaco and Mardy Fish.
There is some potential for real good matchups here. Alexandr Dolgopolov is the top seed in the top half and impressed me last year with wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling. This year he comes up against Greg Jones and probably Tobias Kamke, if he overcomes Jones. I see him winning both matches relatively unnoticed.
The fight to face him in the third round I see being fiercely contested. Sam Querrey, Bernard Tomic and Fernando Verdasco are all capable players. I think Tomic will eventually beat Verdasco in a five-setter and will take four sets to beat Querrey. All this will mean Dolgopolov is facing a tired Tomic and will once again win relatively easily.
The other side is really all about one man, Roger Federer. The world No. 3 and 16 Grand Slam title winner will be pleased with his fairly easy passage through to the third round. In the third round it is likely he will come up against ace machine Ivo Karlovic or Juergen Melzer. I think it will be Melzer with Karlovic no loner the player he once was. Federer will likely dispatch Melzer quite easily.
The fourth-round match between Federer and Dolgopoov will be a fiercely contested one in my mind. Dolgopolov will take him to five sets in a grueling tie, but Federer has the experience to see it through.
Player in the Quarterfinals: Roger Federer
Shock of the eighth: Bernard Tomic will beat Fernando Verdasco.
I really think Tomas Berdych will be happy with his draw here, Neither Albert Ramos nor Olivier Rochus is likely to provide much resistance. His third-round tie will probably be Kevin Anderson or Sergiy Stakhovsky. Although Anderson is a decent player, I can't see either of them having enough to defeat Berdych.
The other half of the draw has eight players capable of playing good tennis and springing a shock on any given day. Benoit Paire is a good young player, but on the hard courts I cannot see him beating Stanislas Wawrinka, but he will take a set off him. Marcos Baghdatis is one of the most well-liked tennis players around, and I think he will have a good run here. He will get past Benjamin Becker in the first round before defeating Wawrinka in Round 2.
His opponent in Round 3 is really hard to call. Nicolas Almagro is the seed but is mainly a clay player, although two fourth rounds would show otherwise. Lukasz Kubot did well in Wimbledon last year, but I see Almagro overcoming him here. Grigor Dimitrov is a really talented player who I can see beating Jeremy Chardy before taking Almagro four sets.
In the third round I think Baghdatis will continue his good form, beating Almagro and then producing a big shock by beating Berdych.
Player in the Quarterfinals: Marcos Baghdatis.
Shock of the eighth: Marcos Baghdatis reaching the quarterfinals.
Another eighth with the potential for some good ties. John Isner is the top seed in the top half but in Round 2 he will probably come up against David Nalbandian, who I think can use his experience to beat Isner.
I think Nalbandian's opponent in the third round will come from a second-round tie of Nikolay Davydenko and Feliciano Lopez. Lopez isn't always the best on hard courts, but Davydenko doesn't seem to show up for majors. I will still go with the Russian this time, however I think Nalbandian gets the best of him in Round 3.
The opposite side sees Rafael Nadal as top seed. I think he will dispatch Alex Kuznetsov in Round 1 and will have a few problems with Tommy Haas in Round 2 but overcome them. In the third round he will come up against either Ivan Ljubicic or Donald Young. Hopefully Young can build on his fourth round in the U.S Open last year and defeat Ljubicic.
Nadal will probably have little problems against either opponent. Then in the fourth round I believe Nalbandian will be the first man to take a set off him in the Australian Open.
Player in the Quarterfinals: Rafael Nadal
Shock of the eighth: David Nalbandian getting to Round 4 and Donald Young defeating Ivan Ljubicic.