MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Top seed and defending champion Serena Williams will face a tricky first-round opponent in world number 35 Camila Giorgi when she begins her quest for a seventh Australian Open crown and could later meet Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals.
The draw for the season’s first grand slam, conducted at Melbourne Park on Friday, gave fifth seed Sharapova, runner-up to Williams last year and champion in 2008, a first-round tie against 58th-ranked Japanese Nao Hibino.
Second seed Simona Halep, who is battling a nagging Achilles problem, faces a qualifier first up while Garbine Muguruza, among the most exciting prospects in women’s tennis, is seeded third and will meet 86th-ranked Estonian Annett Kontaveit.
Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, still chasing a first grand slam title, plays American Christina McHale.
Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, seeded 14th, looms as a dangerous floater in the draw and will play 44th-ranked Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford