Novak Djokovic, Simona Halep top seeds for Australian Open

Novak Djokovic reacts after breaking the serve of Juan Martin del Potro during the men's final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. (Adam Hunger/AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are aiming for the same record from opposite sides of the draw, leaving open the prospect of them playing in the final for a seventh Australian Open title.

Top-ranked Djokovic and defending champion Federer enter the season-opening major equal with Roy Emerson, who won his six Australian singles championships between 1961-67, before the Open era.

Serena Williams already has won seven Australian Open singles titles, and is a strong contender to add another after skipping last year’s tournament while on leave after having a baby.

Now seeded 16th, Williams was drawn into the same section Thursday as No. 1-ranked Simona Halep, the runner-up last year. The pair could meet in the fourth round.

Djokovic starts at the top of the draw and will open against a qualifier. Things could get much tougher quickly, with a potential second-round meeting against wild-card entry Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who he beat in the 2008 Australian final, and with Denis Shapovalov in the same section. Eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who opened the season with a title in Brisbane, is a potential quarterfinal rival and No. 4 Alexander Zverev looms as a semifinal opponent if both players advance that far.

Federer, who has won the last two at Melbourne Park in a career resurgence, is in the bottom half of the draw with second-ranked Rafael Nadal, who is returning from an injury layoff.

Aiming for a 21st Grand Slam trophy and a 100th career singles title, Federer will open against Denis Istomin. And with No. 6 Marin Cilic in the same quarter, there’s potential for a rematch of the 2018 final a few rounds early.

"I’m so close, I’ll give it a go," Federer said. "If I made 100 at the Australian I’d take it, I’d gladly accept it — and I’ll give it all I have."

But, he noted before heading out to practice after attending the tournament draw with his trophy, "the moment you find out the draw, that’s when you shift your focus to the first round and only the first round."

Cilic was drawn into the same section as five-time finalist Andy Murray, who is coming back from a long-term hip injury and is set to open against No. 22-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut.

Murray won only two games in an incomplete practice match with Djokovic at Melbourne Park, showing signs he’s still not fully fit after spending most of the last 18 months off the tour. Murray played at the season-opening Brisbane International last week, where he won his first-round match against James Duckworth but lost in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev in the second, limping between points and admitting he’s still dealing with his troublesome right hip.

One of the most intriguing men’s first-round matches features 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic against mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios, who is unseeded after his ranking slid from 13 into the 50s, but has tour-level wins over Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to his credit.

Williams will face Tatjana Maria in the first round, and could meet either Genie Bouchard or Peng Shaui in the second. Halep has drawn another first-round against Kaia Kanepi, who beat her at the same stage at last year’s U.S. Open, and a possible third rounder against unseeded Venus Williams.

Caroline Wozniacki, who won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne last year after a tough final against Halep, is in the same section as Maria Sharapova and has Petra Kvitova at the top of her quarter.

"The first time I came back here and hit on the courts, I thought, ‘OK, I’m home,"’ the third-seeded Wozniacki said of her return to Melbourne Park. "I feel like these courts are suited for me, so it’s incredible to be back. I’m just enjoying every minute of it."

Second-seeded Angelique Kerber, who won the Australian and U.S. Opens in 2016 and added the Wimbledon title last year, is in the same half as Wozniacki and has 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in her quarter.


Men’s Singles
1. Novak Djokovic, Serbia
2. Rafael Nadal, Spain
3. Roger Federer, Switzerland
4. Alexander Zverev, Germany
5. Kevin Anderson, South Africa
6. Marin Cilic, Croatia
7. Dominic Thiem, Austria
8. Kei Nishikori, Japan
9. John Isner, United States
10. Karen Khachanov, Russia
11. Borna Coric, Croatia
12. Fabio Fognini, Italy
13. Kyle Edmund, Britain
14. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Greece
15. Daniil Medvedev, Russia
16. Milos Raonic, Canada
17. Marco Cecchinato, Italy
18. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina
19. Nikoloz Basilashvili, Georgia
20. GrigorDimitrov, Bulgaria
21. David Goffin, Belgium
22. Roberto Bautista Agut, Spain
23. Pablo Carreno Busta, Spain
24. HyeonChung, South Korea
25. Denis Shapovalov, Canada
26. Fernando Verdasco, Spain
27. Alex de Minaur, Australia
28. Lucas Pouille, France
29. Gilles Simon, France
30. Gael Monfils, France
31. Steve Johnson, United States
32. Philipp Kohlschreiber, Germany

Women’s Singles
1. Simona Halep, Romania
2. Angelique Kerber, Germany
3. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark
4. Naomi Osaka, Japan
5. Sloane Stephens, United States
6. Elina Svitolina, Ukraine
7. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic
8. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic
9. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands
10. Daria Kasatkina, Russia
11. Aryna Sabalenka, Belarus
12. Elise Mertens, Belgium
13. Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia
14. Julia Goerges, Germany
15. Ashleigh Barty, Australia
16. Serena Williams, United States
17. Madison Keys, United States
18. Garbine Muguruza, Spain
19. Caroline Garcia, France
20. Anett Kontaveit, Estonia
21. Wang Qiang, China
22. JelanaOstapenko, Latvia
23. Carla Suarez Navarro, Spain
24. Lesia Tsurenko, Ukraine
25. Mihaela Buzarnescu, Romania
26. Dominika Cibulkova, Slovakia
27. CamilaGiorgi, Italy
28. Hsieh Su-wei, Taiwan
29. Donna Vekic, Croatia
30. Maria Sharapova, Russia
31. Petra Martic, Croatia
32. Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.