Djokovic, Federer on opposite sides of Aussie draw

Djokovic, Federer on opposite sides of Aussie draw
Defending men's champion Switzerland's Roger Federer holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup as he leaves Margaret Court Arena following the official draw ceremony ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are each aiming for a record seventh men’s Australian Open title and the draw has ensured they can’t play each other at Melbourne Park until the final.

Serena Williams already has seven Aussie titles, and is a strong contender to add another after skipping her title defense in 2018 while she was on leave after having a baby.

Now seeded 16th, Williams was drawn into the same section Thursday as No. 1-ranked Simona Halep, the runner-up here last year. The pair could meet in the fourth round.

No. 1-ranked Djokovic starts at the top of the draw and will open against a qualifier. He has the potential of a second-round meeting against wildcard entry Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He defeated Tsonga in the 2008 Australian final. Djokovic also has a potential quarterfinal against No. 8-seeded Kei Nishikori.

No. 4 Alexander Zverev is in the same half and looms in the semifinals if both players advance that far.

Defending champion Federer is in the bottom half of the draw with No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal.

Aiming for a third consecutive Australian title and a 21st Grand Slam crown, Federer will open against Denis Istomin. And with No. 6 Marin Cilic in the same quarter, there’s potential for a rematch of the 2018 final a few rounds early. Cilic has Andy Murray, who is coming back from a long-term hip injury, in his section.

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