Nadal v Djokovic Open final a possibility

The Australian Open draw has thrown up the tantalising prospect of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic rekindling the most enduring rivalry in men's tennis in the Melbourne Park final.

No two men in history have clashed in more grand slam title matches than Nadal and Djokovic, who are also locked in a compelling race to win the most men's singles majors.

Now the withdrawal of injured world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, Nadal's promotion to top seed, Djokovic's return after last year's sensational deportation from Australia and some good old-fashioned luck in the draw have put the two titans on course for a 10th grand slam final showdown.

Nadal, leading the all-time men's grand slam titles race with 22, and 21-times major winner Djokovic, could have landed in the same half of the draw and been headed for a cut-throat semi-final.

Instead, Nadal is projected to meet Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semis with Djokovic in line to play Norwegian second seed Casper Ruud if the Open's top four live up to their rankings.

Should a Nadal-Djokovic final materialise, it would mark a 60th showdown between the two legends.

Djokovic leads their career series 30-29 but the Serbian trails Nadal 5-4 in grand slam finals after losing their most recent at the 2020 French Open.

Australian seeds Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur both have a chance to scupper hopes of a Nadal-Djokovic final on January 29.

De Minaur and Djokovic could clash in the fourth round, potentially for the right to take on Kyrgios in the quarter-finals.

In his return to Melbourne after last year's immigration controversy, the fifth-ranked Djokovic will open his bid for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title against Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.

But the main first-round focus will be on Nadal, who faces a challenging match-up with rising British star Jack Draper.

Draper, 21, was a semi-finalist in the Next Gen Championships in November and has also made the semi-finals of the Adelaide International 2 Open lead-up event.

The feature first-round match of the Open is five-time finalist Andy Murray against Italian Matteo Berrettini, the 13th-seeded 2021 Wimbledon runner-up to Djokovic.