Melbourne, Australia (Sports Network) - 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.
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
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
Venus reached her lone Aussie Open final in 2003 and lost to her younger
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
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 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 in the semis. Li was a season-opening titlist in Shenzhen in
her native China last week.
The 2013 Aussie Open will get underway on Monday.
The Sports Network