Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic
AFP

Melbourne: Novak Djokovic begins his Australian Open title defence against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and has landed in arguably the toughest section of the men’s draw following Friday’s ceremony.

The world No.1, an eight-time champion at Melbourne Park, finds himself in a quarter with a host of current and former top-10 players, Alexander Zverev, Gael Monfils, Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka – and could meet Dominic Thiem in the semifinals in a rematch of last year’s final.

Serena Williams’ path to a record-equaling 24th major trophy at AO2021 is set, with the 39-year-old on course to face Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty in succession.

For the second straight year, Barty enters her home Grand Slam as the top seed – and for the second year running she is drawn to face spirited American Kenin in the semifinals.

Barty opens against Montenegrin Danka Kovinic and could meet could friend and compatriot Daria Gavrilova in the second round.

It would a fire works of a sort in the first round matches. Czech 25th seed Karolina Muchova knows the havoc a free-swinging Jelena Ostapenko can cause, and will need to be on her game from the off against the 2017 French Open champion for their first-time meeting in the opening round.

Despite her second-week draw being a minefield of major champions, third seed Osaka won’t be looking beyond a dangerous first round when she meets former world No.13 and two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The duo have split two prior meetings.

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