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Defending champion and five-time titlist Roger Federer takes part in the Australian Open draw ceremony on Margaret Court Arena on Thursday night.

Draw Analysis: Federer's Tough Test At Australian Open

ATPWorldTour.com breaks down the draw of the first major of 2018

If Roger Federer is to capture his sixth Australian Open crown, he’ll have to go through a minefield to clinch his 20th Grand Slam crown.

Having taken part in the Australian Open draw ceremony on Margaret Court Arena Thursday night, the Swiss superstar watched on as he realised he’d need to potentially beat a resurgent Juan Martin del Potro, six-time former champion Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev and 2014 titlist Stan Wawrinka if he is to reach his seventh final at the first major championship of the year.

Federer’s first task will be to prepare to meet Slovenian Aljaz Bedene in the first round.

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Speaking during an on-court interview, Federer said, “It’s great to be back. I don’t normally like going to draws, as they freak me out. I only like to see the draw sheet and see who my first-round opponent is.”

Federer beat his great rival, 2009 champion Rafael Nadal, in last year’s final 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

“It was an amazing final for me and an amazing moment in my life,” said Federer. “I had a great four to six weeks of tennis training, and many months before that to get myself ready for the training. I thought physically I would be ready, but my game and wins weren’t going to come.

“I was thinking perhaps I might get to the quarter-finals, semi-finals at best, then run into a red-hot Djokovic, Nadal or Murray and my game wouldn’t be good enough for that day. But it was, ending with the epic match against Rafa. The fifth set was perhaps the best set I played. It was the highlight of my year, beating my Wimbledon win later in the year.”

Nadal, as the top seed, opens his quest for a 17th Grand Slam championship against Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic. The Spanish superstar has a 51-11 record at the major, including two further runner-up finishes in 2012 (l. to Djokovic) and 2014 (l. to Wawrinka), and will be contesting his first tournament of 2018. Sixth seed Marin Cilic, also in the top quarter of the draw, will play Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round.

Grigor Dimitrov, the Nitto ATP Finals champion and third seed, who advanced to the semi-finals last year, starts against a qualifier with No. 17 seed Nick Kyrgios – who opens against Rogerio Dutra Silva – or No. 15 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga potential fourth-round opponents.

The third quarter of the draw features fourth seed Zverev, fifth seed Dominic Thiem and two players returning to competition after lengthy injury lay-offs: ninth seed Wawrinka and No. 14 seed Djokovic.

Zverev will face Italian Thomas Fabbiano in the first round with a potential third-round encounter with his older brother, No. 32 seed Mischa Zverev, on the cards. Djokovic, with a 57-7 mark at Melbourne Park and who starts against American Donald Young, could then lie in wait for the World No. 4 German. Wawrinka challenges Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the first round, while Thiem plays Guido Pella of Argentina.

Del Potro, the No. 12 seed, who is competing at the major championship for the first time since 2014 and will return to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings on Monday, faces American Frances Tiafoe in the first round. Seventh seed David Goffin, who finished as the runner-up at last year’s Nitto ATP Finals, will play a qualifier, while No. 22 seed and 2016 semi-finalist Milos Raonic, a potential fourth-round opponent for Federer, faces Slovakian Lukas Lacko.

Main draw play will get underway at the Australian Open on 15 January.

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