Getty Images

Angelique Kerber Set For Australian Open Defense While Serena Williams Handed Tough Start In Draw

German star Kerber opens week one against world number 61 Tsurenko.

World number one Angelique Kerber will begin her title defence against Lesia Tsurenko at the Australian Open, while Serena Williams has been handed a tricky start in her quest to chase down the grand slam record.

Returning to Melbourne Park for the first time since stunning Williams in last year's final, German star Kerber opens week one against world number 61 Tsurenko.

Kerber, whose preparation for the season's first slam has been indifferent following losses in Brisbane and Sydney, has been drawn in the same half as Simona Halep.

Also winner of the US Open in 2016, Kerber could meet French Open champion and seventh seed Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals.

Williams will kick things off against talented Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic.

Working her way back to full fitness having only returned to action after a prolonged spell on the sidelines due to shoulder problems, the second seed is sure to be tested by 19-year-old Bencic.

Bencic has form against the 22-time grand-slam champion, who is two adrift of Margaret Court's record, having defeated the American veteran at the Canadian Open in August 2015.

Things do not get any easier for Williams - who suffered a second-round exit in Auckland - should she advance, with Lucie Safarova or Yanina Wickmayer awaiting in the second round, while a last-eight showdown with 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova could await.

 

Notable first-round matches:

Angelique Kerber [1] v Lesia Tsurenko

Serena Williams [2] v Belinda Bencic

Agnieszka Radwanska [3] v Tsvetana Pironkova

Simona Halep [4] v Shelby Rogers

Karolina Pliskova [5] v Sara Sorribes Tormo

Dominika Cibulkova [6] v Denisa Allertova

Garbine Muguruza [7] v Marina Erakovic

Johanna Konta [9] v Kirsten Flipkens

Venus Williams [13] v Kateryna Kozlova

Caroline Wozniacki [17] v Arina Rodionova