Djokovic, Federer on opposite sides of draw
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 Canada’s 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.
The 25th-seeded Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., will open against 82nd-ranked Spaniard Pablo Andujar.
One of the most intriguing men’s first-round matches features 16thseeded Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., a 2016 Wimbledon finalist, against mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios, who is unseeded after his ranking slid from No. 13 into the 50s, but has tour-level wins over Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to his credit.
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.”