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Comfortable Australian Open starts for Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams

/ 10:05 PM January 16, 2020
Serena Williams australian open

FILE – In this Jan. 23, 2019, file photo, Serena Williams makes a forehand return to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. Williams will be competing in the Australian Open tennis tournament, beginning Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will take on Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the Australian Open first round next week while Serena Williams faces Anastasia Potapova in her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title.

The Spaniard is attempting to match Roger Federer’s record 20 Grand Slam singles titles on his least favorite surface, having won in Melbourne just once, back in 2009.

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Australian Nick Kyrgios could be waiting for him in the fourth round, the draw revealed Thursday.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic will start his bid to lift a record eighth Australian Open title against Jan-Lennard Struff.

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The Serb had a fine 2019, winning five titles including at Melbourne Park and Wimbledon on the way to ending the year as number two, behind only Nadal.

Fresh from helping his country win the ATP Cup, he will start his drive to extend his incredible Melbourne run — he holds a 68-8 record — against a German who crashed at the first hurdle last year.

Djokovic could meet Greek young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last eight.

The ageless Federer, 38, is up against American Steve Johnson in the third quarter of the men’s draw as he targets a seventh Australian Open title, winning his last in 2018.

Williams, who is seeking to match Australian Margaret Court’s record 24 major singles titles, gets underway against 90th ranked Russian Potapova with a potential quarter-final against defending champion Naomi Osaka.

Seeded eight, she heads into the tournament on the back of ending a three-year title drought by winning the Auckland Classic. She is gunning for an eighth Australian crown and her first Slam title since Melbourne in 2017.

Her sister Venus has a blockbuster first round clash against exciting young American Coco Gauff, with the winner potentially facing Osaka in the third round.

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Third seed Osaka starts her title defense against Marie Bouzkova.

World number one Ashleigh Barty opens against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko, with the French Open champion on a collision course with last year’s finalist Petra Kvitova in the last eight.

Fourth seed Simona Halep has a tough opening task against Jennifer Brady, who beat Barty and Maria Sharapova at the Brisbane International.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova takes on Kristina Mladenovic.

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TAGS: Australian Open, Grand Slam, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Tennis
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