Dream draw for Djokovic in quest to defend Australian Open title
As three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic held the Australian Open tennis trophy in a photo shoot before Friday's draw, he joked that having his fingerprints on it may help him win the title for a fourth consecutive year.
The draw certainly did not dent Djokovic's chances, with top-seeded Rafael Nadal, No 4 Andy Murray, No 5 Juan Martin del Potro and No 6 Roger Federer all stacked in the opposite half for the tournament which starts on Monday.
Djokovic's new coach, six-time grand slam champion Boris Becker, duly noted that Nadal, Federer and Co were in "a loaded half, that's for sure".
Djokovic, on a 24-match winning streak, opens against No 90-ranked Lukas Lacko.
Djokovic conceded it was an advantage to avoid the other favourites early, but said: "Regardless of the draw … I need to direct my attention to my next opponent. There are plenty of players who are able to win the Australian Open this year or any other grand slam title."
On the women's side, top-ranked Serena Williams opens against Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty and has 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur and two-time finalist Li Na in her half.
Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova are in the opposite half, meaning they can only meet Williams in the final.
The top half of the men's draw was a talking point, namely Nadal's first-round match against Australian Bernard Tomic.
"That'll be a night match, for sure," Becker quipped. "But a tough, tricky one for both players. Tomic will certainly have the home support."
Nadal missed last year's Australian Open with a left-knee injury in a seven-month absence. He returned to win 10 titles last year and regain the No 1 ranking.
Tomic's only meeting with Nadal resulted in a straight-sets defeat in the third round of the 2011 Australian Open.