Melbourne, Australia – The draw for the Australian Open was revealed on Friday and reigning champion Victoria Azarenka could face five-time winner Serena Williams in the semifinals at Melbourne Park.
The world No. 1 Azarenka is the reigning Aussie Open champ, having topped former titlist Maria Sharapova in last year's Down Under final. But if the Belarusian star wants to make a return trip to the title match, she may have to get past Williams in the semis in order to do so.
Azarenka will open defense of her lone Grand Slam title against Romanian Monica Niculescu and could go relatively untested until the quarterfinals, where she could meet seventh-seeded French Open runner-up Sara Errani or 10th- seeded former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who will open up against tough German Sabine Lisicki in the Aussie heat.
And if Azarenka can make it all the way back to the final, she could encounter a second-seeded Sharapova in a rematch of last year's title tilt at Rod Laver Arena.
The former top-ranked Sharapova, who, like Williams, is a career Grand Slam holder, will open her 2013 Aussie fortnight against fellow Russian Olga Puchkova. The tall superstar could face 25th-seeded fellow former No. 1 and seven-time major champion Venus Williams in the third round, while a potential quarterfinal opponent could be fifth-seeded German left-hander Angelique Kerber.
Venus, who reached her lone Aussie Open final in 2003 and lost to her younger sister, will open her 13th Aussie Open against Kazakhstan's Galina Voskoboeva.
Sharapova or Kerber could meet fourth-seeded Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska or sixth-seeded 2011 Aussie Open runner-up and former French Open champion Li Na in the semifinals.
The third-seeded Serena currently holds the Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Olympic titles and already owns an Open Era-record five Australian Open championships. The American great is also fresh off her title in Brisbane last week.
The former No. 1 Serena will be opposed by Romanian Edina Gallovits-Hall in the opening round next week and could go untested until the quarterfinals, where she could meet eighth-seeded former Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova.
A trip into the semis could produce an Azarenka-Serena top half blockbuster.
Serena beat Azarenka in last year's U.S. Open finale.
The left-handed Kvitova will open against former French Open champion and former Roland Garros runner-up Francesca Schiavone and could battle rising British fellow southpaw Laura Robson in the second round or rising American Sloane Stephens, seeded 29th in Melbourne, in the third round.
In addition to the 2008 champion and 2007 runner-up Sharapova, Radwanska and Li, the bottom half of the women's draw also features ninth-seeded long-time Aussie crowd favorite Samantha Stosur, who will open up against Taiwan's Kai- Chen Chang. Stosur is a former U.S. Open champion and French Open runner-up, but has never reached the quarterfinals at her home Slam. She could face the aforementioned Li in the fourth round in Melbourne.
Radwanska, fresh off her season-opening title in Auckland last week, will open up against Aussie Bojana Bobusic and could face 13th-seeded former No. 1 and 2008 Aussie runner-up Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round. The tough Pole could encounter Li or Stosur in the quarters before a potential semifinal meeting with Sharapova. Li was a season-opening titlist in Shenzhen in her native China last week.
Li will open against Kazakhstan's Sesil Karatantcheva
The 2013 Aussie Open will get underway on Monday.