British players were handed two blockbuster draws at the Australian Open with Jack Draper taking on defending champion Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray meeting Matteo Berrettini.
Draper, 21, has risen fast up the rankings and has begun the season in good form, beating Karen Khachanov to reach the semi-finals of the Adelaide International on Thursday.
Nadal battled to a 21st grand slam title in sensational fashion in Melbourne 12 months ago but is yet to win a match in 2023 and has lost six of his last seven matches.
There is no doubt Draper, who played Novak Djokovic on his Wimbledon debut in 2021, will relish the occasion as he looks to make a huge statement.
Murray, who claimed an encouraging 6-3 6-3 victory over Australian Alex De Minaur at the exhibition Kooyong Classic, will be cursing his luck after finding himself paired with 13th seed Berrettini.
The Italian reached the Wimbledon final in 2021 and was a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park 12 months ago, while he defeated Murray in the third round of the US Open last summer.
Kyle Edmund, playing at the tournament for the first time since 2020 following three knee operations, was also out of luck, drawing 11th seed Jannik Sinner.
There was better news for the two British men’s seeds, with 11th seed Cameron Norrie drawing young French wild card Luca Van Assche while 25th seed Dan Evans
Title favourite Novak Djokovic will take on Roberto Carballes Baena and is in the same quarter of the draw as Nick Kyrgios, who meets Roman Safiullin.
Last year’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev faces American Marcos Giron and could face a rematch with Nadal in the last eight.
In the women’s draw, Emma Raducanu will open her campaign against German Tamara Korpatsch if she recovers from an ankle injury in time.
The British number one is battling to overcome the problem she suffered in Auckland last week and at least has avoided a seed, instead drawing 74th ranked Korpatsch.
Raducanu was again out on the practice courts at Melbourne Park on Thursday and looked to be moving fairly well.
She could meet seventh seed Coco Gauff in the second round, while British number two Harriet Dart will face 32nd seed Jil Teichmann.
World number one Iga Swiatek faces a potentially tough opener against Wimbledon quarter-finalist Jule Niemeier and two former Australian Open champions, Victoria Azarenka and Sofia Kenin, will meet in the first round.
Jodie Burrage and Yuriko Miyazki were bidding to add to the British ranks in the main draw but both were beaten in the final round of qualifying.
Burrage lost 6-3 1-6 6-2 to France’s Selena Janicijevic while Miyazaki pushed former top-10 player Coco Vandeweghe to a deciding tie-break before going down 6-3 6-7 (3) 7-6 (1).
Among those who did make it were a pair of Czech teenagers – 15-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova, who joins sister Linda in the draw, and 16-year-old Sara Bejlek.