MELBOURNE, Australia — Defending champion Serena Williams and No. 5-ranked Maria Sharapova were drawn into the same section for the Australian Open on Friday, setting up a potential quarter-final match featuring the 2015 finalists.
Six-time champion Williams has a tough draw starting in the opening round against Camila Giorgi of Italy, who finished 2015 at No. 34 and was the highest-ranked player who was not seeded for the season’s first major which begins Monday.
Williams, who just missed a calendar year Grand Slam last year when she lost in the U.S. Open semifinals, could also meet former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
Williams and Sharapova entered the tournament with injury concerns — Williams had to pull out of the Hopman Cup team event in Perth due to left knee soreness, and Sharapova withdrew as defending champion from the season-opening Brisbane International because of soreness in her left forearm.
Both have been practising at Melbourne Park, and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley on Friday said Williams and Sharapova were fit.
Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., will represent Canada in the Grand Slam event.
Bouchard will open her tournament against world No. 121 Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia in what will be their first meeting. Currently ranked world No. 47, Bouchard made the quarter-finals in Melbourne a year ago and the semifinals in 2014.
In the second round, Bouchard could face a tough task in world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who owns a 1-0 advantage over the Canadian.
Seeded No. 13, Raonic will face off in the first round against Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who he beat just one week ago en route to his title in Brisbane. The 25-year-old’s path could then include Tommy Robredo and No. 21 Viktor Troicki before a potential fourth-round meeting with former champion, No. 4 Stan Wawrinka.
Pospisil’s draw will see him take on a challenging opening opponent in No. 14 seed Gilles Simon. The two athletes have only faced off once before, in 2013, with Pospisil taking the first set and earning the win when Simon subsequently retired. Pospisil, currently ranked No. 39, sits in the same quarter as world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. His best result at the Australian Open is the third round in 2014 and 2015.
In the women’s draw, Second-seeded Simona Halep will open against a qualifier, while two-time champion and 14th-seeded Victoria Azarenka, who won last week’s Brisbane International and appears free from injury for the first time in several years, will play Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium.
Halep and Azarenka are in the same half of the draw, along with No. 8 Venus Williams, who has drawn Johanna Konta of Britain to open.
"She’s got a bounce to her step," Tiley said of Azarenka.
Novak Djokovic will open his title defence against Chung Hyeon of South Korea and, if results go with rankings, could meet No. 7 Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals and No. 3 Roger Federer in the semis.
Federer, who has won four Australian titles among his 17 majors, opens against Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, and possibly Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second and No. 27 Grigor Dimitrov in the third.
Federer won his last Australian title in 2010 and made four semifinals in a row before losing in the third round last year to Andreas Seppi.
No 2-ranked Andy Murray will open again Alexander Zverev of Germany and in the same half of the draw, 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka takes on Dmitry Tursonov.
Fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal, who could meet fourth-seeded Wawrinka in the quarter-finals, opens again fellow Spaniard and 2009 Australian Open semifinalist Fernando Verdasco.
The floater in that quarter of the draw is No. 13 Milos Raonic, who plays Lucas Pouille of France in the first round. Raonic beat Federer in the Brisbane International final last week.
Lleyton Hewitt, who will play his 20th and last Australian Open before retiring and has already been hired as the country’s Davis Cup captain, will play fellow Australian James Duckworth in the first round.
The closest Hewitt came to capturing his national title was when he lost the 2005 final to Marat Safin.
"It’s a dream first round for the event that Hewitt and Duckworth match-up," Tiley said of the two players who needed wild cards to get into the main draw.
Another Australian, No. 16-seeded Bernard Tomic, will play Uzbekistan veteran Denis Istomin in the first round, and 29th-seeded Nick Kyrgios plays Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.