MELBOURNE, January 16, 2009 (AFP) – Serena Williams, chasing her fourth Australian Open title, has drawn sister Venus and in-form Russian Elena Dementieva in her half of the women's singles draw for the year's first grand slam which starts next Monday.
The second-seeded American is looking for her 10th grand slam title, but has been given few favours by the draw’s computer.
She starts off against China’s Meng Yuan and has a potential quarter-final against Russian eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and a possible semi-final against either her sixth-seeded sister Venus or fourth-seeded Dementieva.
Dementieva crushed Williams in straight sets in their semi-final of the Sydney International on Thursday.
Venus Williams kicks off her Australian campaign against Angelique Kerber, while Dementieva faces another German, Kristina Barrois.
World number one Jelena Jankovic has Russian third seed Dinara Safina and fifth-seeded Serbian Ana Ivanovic in her top half of the draw.
Jankovic begins with a match against Austrian Yvonne Meusburger and could come up against number seven seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the quarter-finals.
Safina will play fellow Russian Alla Kudryavtseva in the first round, while Ivanovic has drawn German Julia Goerges.
Defending champion Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the Open amid fitness concerns after a shoulder injury last year.
In men’s draw, Spain’s world number one and top seed Rafael Nadal will have British contender Andy Murray in his half of the men’s singles for the Australian Open.
Murray, the fourth seed, is bidding to become Britain’s first men’s grand slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936.
Second seed Roger Federer, chasing one more slam title to equal the record 14 set by American Pete Sampras, has defending Australian champion Novak Djokovic in his bottom half of the draw, made here on Friday.
Nadal begins his campaign against Belgian Christophe Rochus and could face unseeded former world number one and Australian finalist Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round.
Hewitt, whose ranking has slipped to 74 after hip surgery last August, has a tough first-up opponent in former finalist and 13th seed Chilean Fernando
Murray’s first-round opponent is Romanian Andrei Pavel and he also has last year’s beaten finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in his quarter of the draw.
Federer, beaten by Djokovic in last year’s semi-final, takes on Italian Andreas Seppi in the first round and could meet 2005 champion and 26th seeded Russian Marat Safin in the third round.
Djokovic starts off with a qualifier and has American seventh seed Andy Roddick and Argentine 10th seed David Nalbandian in his quarter of the draw.