Ash Barty, Nick Kyrgios: A contrast in Aussie Open fortunes

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Australian world No. 1 Ash Barty shouldn't have too many issues in navigating her way through the opening rounds at the Australian Open, but things could get a little dicey for the Queenslander as the tournament enters the second week.

The 23-year-old begins her home Slam against Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, someone who has just two wins to her name in Melbourne since 2014. Barty would then face either world No. 44 Rebecca Peterson or the 48th-ranked Polona Hercog in what should be a comfortable second round match.

Barty will not meet a fellow top 20 player until the fourth round where she could either face American Alison Riske, who got the better of her at Wimbledon last year, or Croatian 13th seed Petra Martic. Needless to say, Barty will be hoping for a date with Martic, someone she has played and beaten twice in her career.

A quarterfinal match-up against Petra Kvitova would be the most likely scenario should Barty reach the second week. In what could be a wicked sense of déjà vu, Kvitova was responsible for ending Barty's Australian Open campaign at the same stage in 2019. Things won't get much easier should Barty turn the tables on the Czech with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams or 2019 Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka a likely semifinal opponent.

On the men's side of the draw, Nick Kyrgios, the No. 23 seed, could be set for a mouth-watering fourth round showdown against world No. 1 Rafael Nadal. With Alex de Minaur withdrawing from the tournament through abdominal injury, Kyrgios will be the highest ranked Australian male and will be searching for his first win at Melbourne Park since 2018 when he takes on little-known Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the opening round.

A tricky opponent awaits Kyrgios in the second round, either crafty Frenchman Gilles Simon or Argentinian journeyman Pablo Cuevas. Despite the early challenge, Kyrgios has never lost a match to either player.

If Kyrgios is able to slay Nadal in the fourth round, the draw would open up enormously and he would not face another member of the 'Big 3' until the final.

Fan favourite John Millman begins his Australian Open campaign against Frenchman Ugo Humbert. Like Kyrgios, Millman has a daunting task awaiting in the early rounds with the Queenslander a chance of facing 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the third round, although he did famously stun Federer in the fourth round of the 2018 US Open.

Alexei Popyrin, who made a memorable run to the third round at Melbourne Park last year, has been handed a difficult assignment, drawing alongside 2008 Australian Open finalist and 28th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. If he is to pull off an upset win, things don't get much easier with world No. 4 Daniil Medvedev his likely third round opponent.

Former French open champion Sam Stosur has been handed a rare Melbourne Park break, being draw alongside a qualifier. Her opponent won't be known until the weekend. The opening round isn't as straightforward for Ajla Tomljanovic who faces seeded Lativian Anastasija Sevastova.

Men's wildcards Andrew Harris and Chris O'Connell also copped a difficult assignment, drawing eight seed Matteo Berrettini and 17th seed Andrey Rublev, respectively.

Elsewhere, Marc Polmans faces Russian Mikhail Kukushkin, Alex Bolt will play Albert Vinolas Ramos and James Duckworth will meet Aljaz Bedene.