Azarenka, Serena Williams drawn in same half at Australian Open

Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia - Defending champion Victoria Azarenka and title favourite Serena Williams are in the same half of the draw at the Australian Open, meaning they could meet in the semifinals.

Top-ranked Azarenka has lost 11 of her 12 matches against Williams, who increased her career haul to 15 Grand Slam titles last year by winning at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, the French Open champion, is on the other half of the draw and could meet Venus Williams in the third round.

Novak Djokovic's bid for a third consecutive Australia Open title got a boost when No. 2-ranked Roger Federer and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray both landed in the other half when the official draw was made Friday.

Top-ranked Djokovic will face Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round and also has fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych in his quarter of the draw and fourth-seeded David Ferrer in his half. Ferrer is the highest-ranked Spaniard in the tournament in the absence of 11-time major winner Rafael Nadal, who hasn't played on the tour since Wimbledon due to a left knee injury.

Federer will play Benoit Paire of France in the first round and has a potential third-round match against local hope Bernard Tomic. Federer, a four-time Australian Open winner, could face Murray in the semifinals. Murray, who ended a 76-year drought for British men at Grand Slam events when he won the U.S. Open last year, has a potential quarter-final against sixth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion.

Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., seeded No. 13 in the men's bracket, takes on Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic in the first round, while Ottawa's Jesse Levine will meet Tommy Robredo of Spain. Peter Polansky, also of Thornhill, is still taking part in men's qualifying.

On the women's side, Azarenka has a first-round match against Romania's Monica Niculescu and is in the same quarter as former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki and seventh-seeded Sara Errani. Serena Williams will play Edina Gallovits-Hall of Romania in the first round and is in the same quarter as 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens, who is seeded 29th.

Vancouver's Rebecca Marino will meet China's Shuai Peng in her opening match, while Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., and Eugenie Bouchard of West Mount, Que., are taking part in women's qualifying.

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