Djokovic lurks as Aus Open danger

Published by AAP

Six-time champion Novak Djokovic enters the Australian Open at his lowest seeding since 2012; Getty Images

Novak Djokovic’s ranking slump has him lurking dangerously as the man to avoid when the Australian Open draw is made tonight.

For six years, Djokovic hasn’t been seeded outside the top two at a Grand Slam – positions occupied by legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in 2018 at Melbourne Park.

A torrid run of results last year coupled with injury has positioned the sport’s terminator at his lowest seeding at a major since the 2007 Open.

Barring late pull-outs, Djokovic will be seeded 14th, and en route to meeting either Nadal, Federer, third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov or world No.4 Alexander Zverev in the fourth round.

A blockbuster match-up with Nadal or Federer would be the earliest meeting between the sport’s heavyweights at a major in memory.

Nick Kyrgios, Australia’s highest-ranked player at world No.17, will be treated the same as Djokovic and avoid the top seeds until the fourth round should one man ranked higher than him drop out of the draw to put him as 16th seed.

On the women’s side of the draw, Australia has two seeds – but for the first time since 2009, Sam Stosur won’t be among them.

World No.19 Ashleigh Barty will lead the local charge, with in-form Daria Gavrilova to enjoy a seeding due to her world No.25 ranking.

Simona Halep will be the top-seeded woman at Melbourne Park, thanks to her charge to the top of the rankings with Australian Darren Cahill as coach.

Halep was a first-round loser at the year’s first Grand Slam in both of the last two years.

Both draws have been hit by high-profile absentees.

All-time great Serena Williams will be absent after giving birth to her first child in September, with two-time champion Victoria Azarenka unable to attend due to a child custody battle.

Five-time beaten finalist Andy Murray pulled out of the Open to have hip surgery, with Kei Nishikori also missing from the draw.

The draw, usually held on the last Friday morning before the tournament’s start, has been moved to prime time.

Maria Sharapova, who returns to the tournament for the first time since 2016, and Federer will be involved in the ceremony at Margaret Court Arena.

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