Djokovic, Federer on opposite sides of Australian Open

No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic starts at the top of the draw and will open against a qualifier.

MELBOURNE, Australia—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 on 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.

In Sydney, Aliaksandra Sasnovich’s impressive start to the season continued on Thursday with a straight-sets win over Timea Bacsinszky to advance to the Sydney International semifinals.

The No. 33-ranked Sasnovich, who made it to the quarterfinals last week in Brisbane, was in control most of the way to beat the Swiss, 6-3, 6-3.

Sasnovich will face two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber for a spot in the final. Kvitova and Kerber played later Thursday.

Ashleigh Barty, who beat top-seeded Simon Halep on Wednesday, advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Elise Mertens, breaking the Belgian player’s serve six times.

“I thought it was a little bit of a slow start, but it was good to get the ball rolling mid to late in that first set,” Barty said.

Barty will meet Yulia Putintseva or Kiki Bertens in the semifinals.

In men’s quarterfinals on Thursday, eighth-seeded Andreas Seppi upset top-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, and No. 3 Diego Schwartzman beat Yoshihito Nishioka, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (1).

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