Romania’s world No 1 Simona Halep will face Australian wild card Destanee Aiava as her first round opponent at the Australian Open, while Thursday’s draw could also see her go up against Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.
Halep, who has been beaten in the first round four times in Melbourne, must first overcome Aiava if she is to realise her dream of going on to win a first Grand Slam title.
This year’s Australian Open field is wide open following the decision by 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams not to defend her title in Melbourne, saying she was not quite ready to compete after giving birth in September.
Last year’s British quarterfinalist Johanna Konta is in the same quarter as Halep and faces American Madison Brengle first up.
Danish former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, the second seed after her resurgence in 2017 when she reached eight finals, opens against Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the bottom half of the draw.
Wozniacki is projected to face French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the quarters.
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is in the same half of the draw as Halep and takes on France’s Jessika Ponchet in the opening round.
Muguruza, seeded three, could face another Frenchwoman, Caroline Garcia, in the quarters.
The 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, who on Monday moved back into the world’s top 50 for the first time since returning from a 15-month doping ban, is unseeded and takes on 47th-ranked German Tatjana Maria in the first round in the same section of the draw.
Evergreen 37-year-old Venus Williams, who last won a Slam in 2008, is seeded five and has a first-round encounter with Swiss Belinda Bencic, who teamed up with Roger Federer to win the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth last week.
Williams could face Ukraine’s fourth seed Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals.