Australian Open 2014: Andy Murray draws Go Soeda
Australian Open 2014
- Venue: Melbourne Park
- Dates: 13-26 January
Coverage: Daily live radio and text coverage on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Sport website, mobiles, BBC Sport app; Watch the finals live on BBC TV
Three-time finalist Andy Murray will open his Australian Open campaign against Japan's Go Soeda next week.
Wimbledon champion Murray will face the 29-year-old world number 112 for the first time on Monday or Tuesday.
The 26-year-old Scot goes into the first Grand Slam of 2014 having only returned to action two weeks ago following back surgery.
A man returning from back surgery can have few complaints about a draw which pairs him with a player outside the top 100 and then a qualifier, in the opening couple of rounds. Andy Murray has played only one truly competitive match since mid-September and will need to be match sharp to face the challenge of the second week.
Novak Djokovic wouldn't relish another quarter-final against Stan Wawrinka after last year's five-hour duel, but is in the easier half. Rafa Nadal may have to beat both Bernard Tomic and Gael Monfils just to reach the last 16.
Laura Robson enjoys beating seeds and Kirsten Flipkens would fit the bill nicely - the problem is that a wrist injury has restricted her to completing just half a match in the warm-up events.
British number one Laura Robson faces Belgian 18th seed Kirsten Flipkens in round one.
The British contingent in singles could yet be boosted, with Heather Watson set to play in the final round of qualifying on Saturday.
Murray took the opportunity to get some more court time with an exhibition match against Lleyton Hewitt on Friday.
After hitting at Melbourne Park in the afternoon the Scot took the short journey to Kooyong, former site of the Australian Open, where he lost 7-6 7-6 to Hewitt but showed no ill-effects from a significant workout.
Murray has now played three exhibitions and two ATP matches since Boxing Day, but he said last week that it would be "unrealistic" to expect him to win the title this year so early in his comeback from surgery.
However, he has an impressive record at Melbourne Park, having reached three of the last four finals - and it has taken eventual champion Djokovic to stop him for the last three years.
The draw has been relatively kind in the early stages, with fourth seed Murray up against the winner of a match between two qualifiers if he gets past Soeda.
If he can make it to week two, there is the prospect of a potential quarter-final against Roger Federer and semi-final against Rafael Nadal.
Former champion Boris Becker, now coaching defending champion Djokovic, said of Murray: "I saw him in Abu Dhabi [after Christmas] and I saw him perform in Doha [last week].
"The big question for him with his back surgery is how quickly can he get match fitness.
"He's the first to say he needs many more matches to get into top shape but he's been in the final three times, he knows exactly how to play well in this tournament and he loves Australia. And with Lendl in his corner, I'm sure he'll be well prepared."
Murray's potential route to glory
Round one: Go Soeda (Jpn)
Round two: Qualifier
Round three: Feliciano Lopez (Spa, 26th seed)
Round four: John Isner (US, 13th seed)
Quarter-final: Roger Federer (Swi, 6th seed)
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal (Spa, 1st seed)
Final: Novak Djokovic (Ser, 2nd seed)
Becker added: "Whoever has won the US Open and has won Wimbledon can win the Australian Open."
Robson, 19, has been struggling with a wrist injury but has been practising in Melbourne and is expected to be fit to face Flipkens, a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year.
Away from British interest, the pick of the men's first-round draw is world number one Nadal up against Australian hope Bernard Tomic.
Djokovic begins against Slovakian Lukas Lacko, while sixth seed Federer faces Australian wildcard James Duckworth.
The women's draw also threw up an fascinating opener for the home crowd as 17-year-old wildcard Ashleigh Barty faces the daunting challenge of taking on world number one Serena Williams.
Second seed and two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka begins against Sweden's Johanna Larsson.
The Belarusian is in the same half of the draw as third seed Maria Sharapova, who plays American Bethane Mattek-Sands.