Serena Williams, Osaka drawn in same half at Australian Open

First up for the seven-time Australian Open champion Williams will be Laura Siegemund of Germany.

Serena Williams. - AP

Serena Williams has been drawn into the same quarter at the Australian Open as No. 2-ranked Simona Halep and the same half as Naomi Osaka in her latest bid for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title.

First up for the seven-time Australian Open champion will be Laura Siegemund of Germany. And that’s her immediate focus.

US Open champion Osaka will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round and has major winners Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, last year’s runner-up in Australia, Venus Williams and Bianca Andreescu in her quarter.

Defending champion Sofia Kenin is on the top half of the women’s draw along with No. 1-ranked Ash Barty and they could potentially meet in the semifinals again. Kenin won that encounter last year on her way to a breakthrough major title.

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Novak Djokovic’s bid for a third consecutive Australian title, and ninth overall, could get tricky. He has an opener against Jerome Chardy and three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev are in his quarter.

Top-ranked Djokovic and Zverev were playing against each other in an ATP Cup doubles match when the draw was made Friday for the season-opening major. Djokovic edged Zverev in the second singles match to pull defending champion Serbia level at 1-1 with Germany, with the winner advancing to the final.

Rafael Nadal, aiming to win a record 21st major singles title — he moved equal with Roger Federer by winning the French Open last year — will open against Laslo Djere and could face fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

The official draw was delayed by a day because all play was suspended on Thursday while 160 players had to isolate and get tested for COVID-19 after a worker in one of the tournament hotel quarantine hotels tested positive.

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