I’m not sure if you know this, so let me tell you: Grand Slam draws are like crack to fans of the Challenger circuit. They’re like the ultimate Challenger event: a tourney featuring players ranked between 100 and 300, and nearly everyone plays. Granted, there are only three rounds instead of five, and it’s kinda like the tourney gets canceled halfway through, but my point stands: pretty much every challenger-level player of interest is here, gunning for a place in a grand slam main draw. What’s not to like?
And after a few glitches and false starts, the Australian Open men’s qualifying draw has finally been unlocked and unleashed upon unsuspecting (or, in my case, very suspecting) cybercitizens. And in my tried and true OCD-tinged maniacal fashion, I am here to break it all down for you. No info-nugget will remain unearthed, no useless factoid shall remain buried, no know-balls will remain unlobbed. (Huh? Well, you get the idea.)
Let’s dig in!
Much as I want to be impressed by Blaz Kavcic’s Chennai Open showing (he beat Jeremy Chardy and destroyed Robert Kendrick before falling 3&3 in the quarters to Berdych), I’m gonna be silly right from the get go and say there are no obvious favorites in this segment. A line-by-line breakdown:
 Blaz Kavcic SLO (World Ranking #100) v [W] Benjamin Mitchell AUS (#610): a tough draw for the likeable 18-year-old Queenslander, but not a completely impossible task for the lad who made the final in Bendigo and took Brisbane International quarterfinalist Matt Ebden to two tough TB sets at the Tennis Australia AO Wildcard Playoffs (having a lead in both sets). I’ve seen both play their fair share of matches, and to my mind they’re similar in game, style, speed, grit and even countenance. Blaz just does everything a bit better than Ben does. Odds are extremely good Blaz beats Ben in straights. But I expect Mitchell to give a good account of himself, I really do.
Rik de Voest RSA (#179) v Laurent Recouderc FRA (#204): Recouderc won their only match 6-4 6-4 two years ago on hard courts in Dubai. The big South African, however, has had better recent results, reaching the semis of the Charlottesville Challenger and the quarters in Knoxville at the end of last year. So on recent form as well as ranking, I’ll buck the two-year-old head-to-head data and pick Rik. Kavcic has never played de Voest, but he manhandled Recouderc 2&0 last June on clay, if you want to hedge yer bets.
Greg Jones AUS (#254) v Olivier Patience FRA (#196): The two have never met before, but Greg’s gonna win this one. Based on absolutely no data at all. Just trust me on this one. I’m tired.
Guillermo Alcaide SPA (#216) v  Ilija Bozoljac SRB (#152): Bozoljac beat Alcaide pretty comprehensively 6-3 6-2 in a recent meeting at the US Open qualifying tournament. And even though the Spaniard has played more matches recently (and gave Tsung-Hua Hang a pretty good fight in the Brazil F1 QF’s), I’d expect Bozo to make it through to face Greg in the next round. Those two have never met neither.
Who makes it through: De Voest beats Bozoljac (what? He’s won the only two matches they’ve played!)
Second quarter: this is where Simone Bolelli tries not to screw things up, as is his wont. He faces some fairly formidable competition along the way, but they’re all people he should honestly beat. Will he? Probably not. Let’s have a closer look: