It was billed as a “very special night in the tennis calendar” by an enthusiastic television host and by the end of it, progression at the 2019 Australian Open was looking a whole lot harder for a host of local contenders.
In the latest attempt of a sporting administrative process milked for television, the draw for the first grand slam of the tennis year was broadcast on TV, streamed online and held in front of a live audience.
Well, sort of.
Organisers spared the smattering of fans at Margaret Court Arena the tedium of individually revealing who was playing who across 64 first-round matches in both the men’s and women’s singles, announcing the draw in a manner similar to the way a television chef would utter: “And here’s one I prepared earlier.”
This dish was not a local delicacy, though, with unseeded pair Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic drawing tough first-up contests against stars Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic, seeded 16th and sixth respectively, meaning progression looks unlikely.
Australia’s top-ranked male fared better, with 27th seed Alex De Minaur to start against Portugal’s Pedro Sousa, while 15th seed Ashleigh Barty will face unseeded Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand in round one.
Wildcard James Duckworth was served up a clash against Spanish legend Rafael Nadal in round one, while Daria Gavrilova is on a collision course with US Open champion Naomi Osaka if she gets through a first-round battle with Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek.
Reigning champions Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki – who start with matches against Denis Istomin and Alison Van Utyvnack respectively – were in attendance at the unveiling of the draw, taking part in a panel discussion peculiarly held in the middle of Margaret Court Arena.
And while Federer said all the right things about the importance of the draw, Wozniacki hardly did her best to pump up the occasion.
“I never look at the draw because when I was at juniors I used to look and I used to lose,” she said.
“So then I stopped looking at the draw and I started winning.”
The Dane’s straight-shooting provided a rare piece of humour in a drawn-out affair.
The likes of Darren Cahill, Todd Woodbridge, Jelena Dokic and Sam Smith all offered valuable insight into the draw, with Cahill suggesting an upset in the Kyrgios-Raonic clash would not surprise him.
“None of the top eight players want any piece of him [Kyrgios],” he said.
“He’s coming into his home grand slam – he’s going to be pumped up and fired up.”
But this hour was not getting fans fired up.
That will come when the action begins at Melbourne Park.
Nights of a far more special nature are not far away.
Men’s draw analysis
Top seed Novak Djokovic will begin against a qualifier and could meet Jo Wilfried-Tsonga – who he beat in the 2008 Australian Open decider – in the second round.
Djokovic and Federer cannot play each other until the final but the latter could meet Marin Cilic, who he beat in the 2018 decider, much earlier after both were placed in the same quarter.
Andy Murray, a five-time finalist at Melbourne Park, enters the draw unseeded due to injury problems and faces a tough battle against 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in round one.
Nadal is surrounded by Australians in the draw and, if he beats Duckworth in round one, could face Matthew Ebden in round two and De Minaur in round three.
The winner of the Kyrgios-Raonic clash will face either Stanislas Wawrinka or Ernests Gulbis in a particularly tricky section of the draw.
Women’s draw analysis
World No.1 Simona Halep will be out for revenge when she faces unseeded Estonia Kaia Kanepi in round one.
The pair met in the first round at last year’s US Open and Kanepi won in straight sets.
Serena Williams returns to Melbourne Park and is seeking her first grand slam success since winning the event in 2018.
She begins with a clash against German Tatjana Maria.
Wozniacki could come up against Maria Sharapova in the third round, if both win through, while the draw was kind to Barty, who will have her eye on reaching the second week.
Ash Barty (15th seed) v Luksika Kumkhum (Thailand)
Daria Gavrilova v Tamara Zidansek (Slovenia)
Ajla Tomljanovic v Johanna Konta (Great Britain)
Sam Stosur v Dayana Yastremska (Ukraine)
Priscilla Hon v yet to be determined qualifier
Kimberly Birrell v yet to be determined qualifier
Destanee Aiava v Madison Keys (17th seed, United States)
Ellen Perez v Wang Yafan (China)
Zoe Hives v Bethanie Mattek-Sands (United States)
Alex De Minaur (27th seed) v Pedro Sousa (Portugal)
Nick Kyrgios v Milos Raonic (16th seed, Canada)
John Millman v Federico Delbonis (Argentina)
Matt Ebden v Jan-Lennard Struff (Germany)
Bernard Tomic v Marin Cilic (sixth seed, Croatia)
Jordan Thompson v Feliciano Lopez (Spain)
Jason Kubler v Thomas Fabbiano (Italy)
James Duckworth v Rafael Nadal (second seed, Spain)
Alexei Popyrin v Mischa Zverev (Germany)
Marc Polmans v Robin Haase (Netherlands)
Alex Bolt v Jack Sock (United States)