Clijsters, Henin could meet in quarters
If Henin is to get that far in her Grand Slam comeback, she could have to beat Olympic champion and fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva in the second round and U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals. That's if Henin gets past fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.
"Every match -- first round and then potential second round and third rounds -- it's arguably some of the best tennis we're going to see for a long time," tournament director Craig Tiley said at Friday's draw at Melbourne Park.
It was Clijsters' run to the U.S. Open title in only her third tournament back from retirement -- including a semifinal win over 2008 champion Serena -- that inspired Henin to return to the tour.
On the same side as Clijsters and Henin but in the bottom section, 2008 champion Maria Sharapova could meet No. 2-ranked Dinara Safina, routed by Serena in the final here last year, in the fourth round and No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the reigning French Open champion, in the quarters.
Sharapova was unable to defend her title at Melbourne Park last year following surgery on her right shoulder that kept her off the tour for 10 months.
Roger Federer is on top of the men's draw, in the same half as No. 3 Novak Djokovic. The other leading contenders are on the other side: defending champion Rafael Nadal and Britain's Andy Murray are in the same section; U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick are in the same quarter.
Federer will play Igor Andreev of Russia in the first round, could face former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt or 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis in the fourth round and someone like Fernando Verdasco or sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters before a chance at Djokovic in the semis. Davydenko beat Federer last week in Doha and has won six titles since August.
Djokovic had an upset win over Federer in the 2008 Australian Open semifinals before winning the final. He hasn't won another major since. Federer, meanwhile, won his 14th and 15th Grand Slam titles at the French Open and Wimbledon last year to break Pete Sampras' record for most men's singles majors.
Federer won three Australian titles and lost to the winner here three other times over the last six years.
Last year, it was Nadal in the final, when the Spaniard was ranked No. 1 and won a major for the first time on hard courts.
Murray lost rankings points by not defending his Doha title this year and it cost him. He dropped out of the top four for the first time since 2008, meaning he couldn't avoid having one of the top players in his section. He'll have to beat Nadal to make the semifinals.
Serena will take on Urszula Radwanska of Poland in her first-round match and could play Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro, who had an upset win over Venus in the second round here last year, in the third round.
Her likely quarterfinal rivals are No. 7 Victoria Azakrenka of Belarus or 2008 Australian runner-up Ana Ivanovic.
"It's the strongest field we've had for a long, long time," Ivanovic said. "It's exciting to be part of ... so many former No. 1 players. If you're going to win a Grand Slam, you want to deserve it."
Ivanovic is among the eight former No. 1-ranked players in the 128-strong women's draw. Along with Serena and Venus, the others are Henin, who spent a total of 117 weeks at the top before quitting in May 2008; Clijsters; Safina; Sharapova; and eighth-seeded Jelena Jankovic.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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2010 AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Women's singles: Serena Williams, United States
Roger Federer, Switzerland
Men's doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan, United States
Women's doubles: Serena and Venus Williams, United States
Mixed doubles: Cara Black/Leander Paes
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