Serena Williams could face a fourth-round match against top-seeded Simona Halep, or perhaps her sister, Venus, in the Australian Open, which begins Monday.
Williams, who is seeded 16th and seeking a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title, will play her first match Tuesday against 71st-ranked Tatjana Maria. In the second round, she could face the 2014 Wimbledon runner-up, Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que.
Venus Williams could be Halep’s third-round opponent, meaning the Williams sisters could faceoff in the fourth round. The last time they faced each other in Melbourne was in the 2017 final, which Serena won 6-4, 6-4 while two months pregnant.
Halep drew Kaia Kanepi for a first-round match for the second consecutive Grand Slam event. In the opening match of the 2018 U.S. Open, Kanepi decisively blasted the top-seeded Halep off the court, winning 6-2, 6-4 and sending shock waves through the tournament in its first hours.
Though she has maintained the No. 1 ranking she consolidated by winning last year’s French Open, Halep has not won a match since her loss to Kanepi more than four months ago, running up a five-match losing streak as she struggled with a back injury.
Fourth-seeded Naomi Osaka, who beat Serena Williams in the final of the U.S. Open last year, is also in the top half of the draw. Osaka could face the two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the third round.
The bottom half of the women’s draw is anchored by second-seeded Angelique Kerber, last year’s Wimbledon champion. She could face fifth-seeded Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals.
The defending women’s champion, Caroline Wozniacki, seeded third, is also in the bottom half of the draw. She could face 30th-seeded Maria Sharapova, the 2008 champion, in the third round.
In men’s singles, third-seeded Roger Federer, seeking a third consecutive title and seventh over all, was drawn into the bottom half of the draw with second-seeded Rafael Nadal. They could meet in the semi-finals.
Federer’s road there will not be easy. He opens against 99th-ranked Denis Istomin. He could face 14th-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round, and sixth-seeded Marin Cilic or 10th-seeded Karen Khachanov in the quarter-finals.
Nadal has struggled with his durability on hard courts, completing only one of the 12 tournaments he entered on the surface last year before withdrawing or retiring from a match. Nadal received a comfortable opening-round match; he will face 238th-ranked James Duckworth, an Australian wild card.
Nadal could face fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson or ninth-seeded John Isner in the quarter-finals. Isner faces a rare challenge in his first round: an opponent taller than he is. The 6-foot-10 Isner will face Reilly Opelka, a 21-year-old from Michigan who breaks the 7-foot barrier.
In the top half, top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, opens against a qualifier and could face the wild card Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round. Djokovic, who is seeking his seventh Australian Open title, beat Tsonga for his first in the 2008 final. In the quarter-finals, Djokovic could face eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who won the ATP event in Brisbane on Sunday for his first title in three years.
The only other Grand Slam champion in the top half of the draw with Djokovic is unseeded Stan Wawrinka, who opens against Ernests Gulbis and could face 16th-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic or Nick Kyrgios in the second round. Those players are in the quarter of the draw anchored by fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev, who was the champion of the year-end ATP Finals in London last year and who has yet to reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam.
Mouratoglou sees no crackdown on courtside coaching
Serena Williams’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou expects on-court coaching to continue virtually unchecked at the Grand Slams despite the furore during last year’s U.S. Open final when he attempted to guide her mid-match.
Mouratoglou gestured to Williams in the stands during her defeat by Japan’s Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows, leading to a code violation and sparking a heated row between the American great and the chair umpire.
Williams, who denied seeing Mouratoglou’s signalling, was incensed at the official’s strict interpretation of the rule and said after the match that she felt like the victim of sexism.
The Australian Open has followed the U.S. Open’s lead by trialling on-court coaching during qualifying this year but the practice remains banned for the main draw events starting Monday.
Mouratoglou, however, believes the rule will remain patchily enforced at Melbourne Park and the other three Grand Slams, and coaches will not feel extra pressure to comply.
“As you know, 99 per cent of the matches it’s tolerated,” Mouratoglou said in an interview on Thursday. “It’s something that people don’t even think about it, just do it every match. And it doesn’t make any problem."