Aus Open: Federer, Hewitt could meet in semis

Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt were placed in the same half of the Australian Open draw Friday.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:39 IST
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Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt were placed in the same half of the Australian Open draw Friday, meaning two of the favorites for the season's first major could meet in the semifinals. Top-ranked Federer will play an Asian wild card entry, Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, in the first round of the tournament beginning Monday. Third-seeded Hewitt, who lost in the second round and quarterfinals of two warmup tournaments, opens against Robin Vik of the Czech Republic. Haas, Davydenko in contention Possible opponents in Federer's quarter are former No. 2-ranked Tommy Haas of Germany and fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko. Haas, who upset Federer in an exhibition tournament this week, opens against former world junior champion, 14th-seeded Richard Gasquet of France. Second-seeded Andy Roddick and fourth-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina, both in the bottom half of the draw, have drawn qualifiers for their first-round matches. Federer, who beat Max Mirnyi in an exhibition match on Friday, said he wasn't thinking as far ahead as a semifinal with Hewitt, "because it's too far away in the draw." First of all, he wanted to know something about Istomin. "I cannot tell you one thing about him," Federer said. "I have no clue how old he is, how he looks, if he is left of right handed - it's definitely tricky." Istomin, 19, received a wild card as winner of the 2005 Asian Championship at Tashkent. He's 2-1 in Davis Cup, his only tour-level matches. He's a right hander who did not play much juniors, has one challenger level title and improved from a No. 931 ranking at the end of 2004 to No. 195 last week. In his Grand Slam debut, he'll play on center court against Federer - who went 81-4 last season and has won six majors. Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport will play Australian wild card entry Casey Dellacqua in the first round in a tough quarter of the women's draw that also features Venus Williams and 2004 champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova takes on Sandra Kloesel of Germany in the first round while defending champion Serena Williams, also in Sharapova's quarter and Davenport's half, has a tough opener against China's Li Na. Second-seeded Kim Clijsters of Belgium, bothered by a hip injury, will face Cho Yoon-jeong of South Korea. She's in the same quarter as Martina Hingis, a three-time Australian Open singles champion on a comeback after a three-year retirement, and 1995 champion Mary Pierce. Hingis to face Zvonareva Hingis has drawn Vera Zvonareva in the first round, while Pierce plays Nicole Pratt of Australia. Third-seeded Amelie Mauresmo, who won the season-ending WTA Championship and was a finalist here in 1999, has No. 7 Patty Schnyder, No. 12 Anastasia Myskina, No. 16 Nicole Vaidisova and India's Sania Mirza in her quarter. The men's draw has been hit by the injury withdrawals of defending champion Marat Safin (left knee tendinitis), 2005 French Open winner Rafael Nadal (left foot injury) and four-time Melbourne Park singles champion Andre Agassi (left ankle strain). Thomas Johannson, the 2002 Australian Open winner, also is questionable - he has a right shoulder injury and withdrew from the Sydney International this week. Clijsters may play Clijsters pulled out of the same tournament in the quarterfinals Wednesday with a left hip injury, but still hopes to play in Melbourne. Australian Open chief executive Paul McNamee said despite some high-profile absentees, the men's draw contained 17 of the top 20 players and the women's draw featured all of the top 20 players. "The men's first round is pretty fearsome, the best I've seen in a while," said McNamee. "Lleyton falling into Roger's half is pretty tough - he'd just love to get to the semifinal and have a crack at it then." McNamee said MRI scans had cleared No. 2-ranked Clijsters of any serious injury and she'd confirmed she would play in the Open. "She completes the book of the top 20 women. She's got some niggles but says she's going to play and I believe it," McNamee said. (AP)