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Federer, Baghdatis could meet in quarters

Defending champion Roger Federer, bidding for his 10th Grand Slam title, could face last year's surprise finalist Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals at Australian Open.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2007 14:07 IST

Roger Federer got no favors when the rivals were lined up against him at the Australian Open.

The defending champion could face a quarterfinal against last year's losing finalist Marcos Baghdatis, but must get past a first-round match against one of the few men on tour with a winning record against him in head-to-heads.

While Federer's 3-6 record against second-seeded Rafael Nadal has been well documented - that pair can only meet in the final at Melbourne Park - his loss seven years ago to Bjorn Phau would have received scant attention.

Phau was allocated the spot immediately under Federer when the draw was made Friday, giving the 27-year-old German player the toughest first-round assignment of the Australian Open. Phau has one thing in his favor - he beat Federer 6-2, 6-3 in the first round at Washington in 1999, breaking serve five times.

In the meantime, their careers went in different directions. Federer has won nine Grand Slam singles titles and more than US$28.5 million in prize money and been ranked No. 1 since February 2004. Phau is ranked 83rd and has won US$936,126.

Federer should overcome his first hurdle. He beat Asian qualifier Denis Istomin 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round here last year and has not lost a first-round match at a Grand Slam since the French Open in 2003. He hit back immediately from there to win Wimbledon and has reached the semifinals or better at 11 of the last 13 majors.

Federer's third- and fourth-round opponents could be U.S. Open semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny and former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero. Baghdatis looms as a quarterfinal rival, with Andy Roddick and 2005 Australian Open champion Marat Safin at the bottom of Federer's half of the draw.

Baghdatis has a first-round match against 2003 Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuettler of Germany, while sixth-seeded Roddick will open against French wildcard entry Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Safin will play Benjamin Becker of Germany in the first round. Becker beat Andre Agassi in his farewell match at the U.S. Open last year and had the biggest jump of any player in the top 100, moving 419 places to No. 58.

The second-seeded Nadal could run into Britain's Andy Murray in the fourth round, and No. 5 James Blake and two-time major winner Lleyton Hewitt also are in the bottom quarter of the draw.

Nadal opens against American Robert Kendrick, whom he beat in five sets in the second round at Wimbledon last year. French Open champion Nadal and Murray were the only two players to beat Federer last year when the Swiss star compiled a 92-5 season and appeared in the final of all four Grand Slam finals, winning three - the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to achieve that feat.

Blake has a tough opener against former No. 1-ranked Carlos Moya- they're both into the semifinals at the Sydney International this week - and could renew his testy rivalry with Australia's Hewitt in the fourth round.

In the women's draw, top-seeded Maria Sharapova meets Camille Pin of France in her first-round match and could face eighth-seeded Patty Schnyder in the quarterfinals.

Three-time Australian Open champion and six-time finalist Martina Hingis will face Nathalie Dechy of France, a semifinalist in Melbourne in 2005, in her opening match and could meet fourth-seeded Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals.

Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo will play American Shenay Perry in the first round. Top-ranked Justin Henin-Hardenne, who retired from last year's final against Mauresmo, is skipping the Australian tournaments for family reasons.

Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams will opens against Mara Santangelo of Italy and could meet Michaella Krajicek in the second round and No. 5 Nadia Petrova in the third.

Williams, who won her last major here in 2005, will be competing at Melbourne without her sister, Venus, who pulled out this week with a lingering wrist injury.

First Published: Jan 15, 2007 14:07 IST