Australian Open: Andy Murray to play Go Soeda in first round
Last Updated: 11/01/14 3:10pm
Andy Murray: Tough half of the draw
Andy Murray will begin his Australian Open campaign with a first-round clash against Japan's Go Soeda.
The Wimbledon champion is seeded fourth as he plays his first big event since his recent return to competitive tennis following back surgery in September.
But he faces a tough task to reach his fourth final in Melbourne as he finds himself in the same half of the men's singles draw as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro.
Federer is a potential quarter-final opponent for the three-time runner-up, who is seeded to face world No 1 Nadal in the semi-finals.
But Murray should have a comfortable opener against the diminutive Soeda, who has played in only eight Grand Slam tournaments and has never advanced beyond the second round.
The 29-year-old reached a career-high ranking of 47th in July 2012, but he has now slipped outside the world's top 100.
Nadal, whose only victory in Melbourne came in 2009, will play home hopeful Bernard Tomic and is scheduled to face hard-hitting Argentine Del Potro in the last eight.
Expected to be fit
Novak Djokovic will open his quest for a fourth consecutive Australian Open title against Slovakia's Lukas Lacko, and the Serbian will have a likely quarter-final with eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who he edged out in a five-set thriller 12 months ago.
Laura Robson, Britain's only direct entrant into the women's draw, faces a difficult first-round encounter against Wimbledon semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens.
Robson arrives at Melbourne Park having yet to complete a match this season as she struggles to recover from a wrist injury.
But the left-hander has been able to practice this week and is expected to be fit to take on the 18th seed when the first Grand Slam of the year gets under way on Monday.
Elsewhere in the women's draw, top-seed and world No 1 Serena Williams will open her bid for an 18th major title against Australian wildcard Ashleigh Barty.
The five-time champion faces a potentially tricky fourth-round opponent in home favourite Sam Stosur, who beat the American in the 2011 US Open final.
Two-time defending champion and second seed Victoria Azarenka will play Sweden's Johanna Larsson, while third seed Maria Sharapova takes on American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.