Swiatek could face 2 past champs in Australia; Djokovic-Tsitsipas rematch would be a quarterfinal

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Tournament referee Wayne McKewen, right, and Craig Tiley, tournament chief executive officer, conduct the draw ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

MELBOURNE – Top-ranked Iga Swiatek will face 2020 champion Sofia Kenin in the first round and potentially 2016 winner Angelique Kerber or Danielle Collins in the second in a tough start to her bid for a first Australian Open title.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic’s bid for a record-extending 11th Australian Open title will start against a player who was in the qualifying rounds and could include a third round against Andy Murray and a quarterfinal against last year's runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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The draws to determine singles brackets were held Thursday, with the return of former champions Naomi Osaka, Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki to Melbourne Park after maternity breaks resulting in some high-pressure opening rounds.

Osaka, who has won the Australian Open and U.S. Open titles twice, opens against No. 16 Caroline Garcia and is in the same quarter of the draw as U.S. Open winner Coco Gauff.

Three-time major winner Kerber will start against Collins, who beat Swiatek in the semifinals here in 2022 on her way to the final. That was three-time French Open winner Swiatek’s best run at the Australian Open so far. Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko are also seeded players in Swiatek's quarter.

Wozniacki, the 2018 champion, will meet 2023 semifinalist and 20th-seeded Magda Linette in the first round, while defending champion Aryna Sabalenka opens against a qualifier.

Third-seeded Elena Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion who lost the Australian Open final to Sabalenka last year, has a challenging opening match against former No. 1-ranked Karolina Pliskova.

Possible women's quarterfinals could be: No. 1 Swiatek vs. No. 7 Marketa Vondrousova, and Rybakina vs. No. 5 Jessica Pegula on the top half; No. 2 Sabalenka vs. No. 6 Ons Jabeur, and No. 4 Gauff vs. No. 8 Maria Sakkari on the bottom half.

As well as the potential 2023 final rematch between Djokovic and No. 7 Tsitsipas, other men's quarterfinals could be: No. 4 Jannik Sinner vs. No. 5 Andrey Rublev in the top half; No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No 6 Alexander Zverev, and No. 3 Daniil Medvedev vs. No. 8 Holger Rune on the bottom half.

Two unseeded past Wimbledon finalists returning from injuries could be challenging obstacles for Top 10 players in the first round, with Tsitsipas against Matteo Berrettini and local hope, No. 10 Alex de Minaur, against big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.

The first 15-day Australian Open will start Sunday.


AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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