Kooyong classic. 16/01/2020. Kooyong Classic . Nick Kyrgios vs Grigor Dimitrov. Nick Kyrgios serves at Kooyong today . Pic: Michael Klein
Kooyong classic. 16/01/2020. Kooyong Classic . Nick Kyrgios vs Grigor Dimitrov. Nick Kyrgios serves at Kooyong today . Pic: Michael Klein

Groth: Why Aussie looms as big roadblock for legend

NICK Kyrgios can beat Rafael Nadal at this Australian Open.

He just has to get there.

Thursday night's draw - as it always does - threw up a tricky path full of snakes and ladders for just about every player.

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If Nick gets through his first couple, he'll meet Karen Khachanov in the third round, which is tough.

He's part of this new Russian brigade that's coming through - Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev.

If the Nick that shows up is the one we've seen so far in the summer, he should breeze through and then Khachanov will be his first real test.

I think Rafael Nadal will walk through the first week. Obviously it's the match-up with either Khachanov or Nick that could be his undoing.

He's got Pablo Carreno-Busta in his section, but shouldn't be too worried - his fellow Spaniard returning to the scene of his famous blow-up here last year. There's just no one that can trouble him.

The only players he really has trouble with are ones who are able to be aggressive and beat him with pace, but it's a double whammy here - the courts are playing slow and there's no one in his section that can do that.

But then could come Kyrgios.

You talk about the type of game style that troubles Nadal, and it's the guys that give him no rhythm, serve big, that's the sort of match up.

Nick believes he can beat him, and so do I.

Whether he can beat him over five sets at a slam is different, but Nadal is going to be tight.

They've walked such different paths to be here - one is meticulous in his training and the other speaks of his hatred for practising.

They couldn't be more opposite - both great players, but polar opposites.

Roger Federer is taking a real risk with limited lead-up play.
Roger Federer is taking a real risk with limited lead-up play.

Kyrgios took on Federer in Wednesday night's Rally for Relief, and the Swiss master just didn't quite look himself.

He's had no real match play heading into the Australian Open, but that could count for little given his experience and record.

But anytime you do that, the sharpness you get from playing is at risk.

You'd be so silly to write him off, but early in the tournament is where he's going to be vulnerable.

If he's going to win a 21st Grand Slam here, he can't afford to get into dogfights early, either.

He could meet John Millman in the third round, who we know has beaten him before at a slam, so on paper he might look OK but there's definitely a few tough obstacles to maneuver there.

Novak Djokovic needs to look out for a Spaniard - and not the one you might think.

Roberto Bautista-Agut is in insane form, and could beat Stefanos Tsitsipas to make his way to Djokovic.

He's beaten him before, and I think he could be my smoky. He looked very, very good during ATP Cup. Novak's on another level in Australia, but better watch his back.

There will be plenty of pressure on Ash Barty to perform.
There will be plenty of pressure on Ash Barty to perform.

On the women's side, all eyes are on Ash Barty.

She's top-ranked, but there's danger at every turn.

She fell short against Alison Riske in the round of 16 at Wimbledon and they could meet again.

She won on Thursday easily in Adelaide, but you have to wonder whether the toll of losing the Fed Cup has been a great one.

At the end of the year, the Queenslander was carrying herself with bounce and confidence, but the emotion of the loss would have burned.

It would have been the greatest way to cap a brilliant season, but how did it really affect her? Let's just hope it's not still a great load to bear.

Sloane Stephens is a big name to watch who could go out in the first round, and could open up the door for Sam Stosur to make a bit of a run.

Daniil Medvedev will prove hard to beat in Melbourne.
Daniil Medvedev will prove hard to beat in Melbourne.

The five first-round matches I can't wait for

DANIIL MEDVEDEV v FRANCIS TIAFOE

Tiafoe made the quarters last year so is defending a truckload of points. Just love the way Medvedev goes about it. If you want to look past the Aussies and the "Big 3", this is one that could be on a showcourt and an opportunity to see two great young players go head to head.

ROBERTO BAUTISTA-AGUT v FELICIANO LOPEZ

Two tough Spaniards. Bautista-Agut is playing unbelievably good tennis right now. He's a smokey to maybe even make a push. He could beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, which says it all.

SIMONA HALEP v JENNIFER BRADY

Another possible upset. I've tipped Halep to lift the trophy, but only if she can get a roll on. She always seems to be vulnerable early or go deep - for the sake of my tips I'm hoping it's the latter.

CHRIS O'CONNELL v ANDREY RUBLEV

The draw hasn't been very kind to Chris - he's run into Rublev who's on a 10-match win streak. For a guy that won so many matches last year, our man probably couldn't have run into a worse player early. It'll be tough, but he's got what it takes.

FABIO FOGNINI v RILEY OPELKA

A big upset chance here. Riley is a big-serving American and Fabio didn't really show up in Perth. You just don't know what's going to happen here and he might be ranked 12 in the year, but he's a big chance of going out early.



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