Serena Williams to play Camila Giorgi first at Australian Open

Top seed and defending champion Serena Williams will face a tricky first-round opponent in world number 35 Camila Giorgi when she begins her quest for a seventh Australian Open crown and could later meet Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals.

Second seed Simona Halep is battling an Achilles injury

Serena Williams hits a forehand return during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday. (Mark Baker/The Associated Press)

Top seed and defending champion Serena Williams will face a tricky first-round opponent in world number 35 Camila Giorgi when she begins her quest for a seventh Australian Open crown and could later meet Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals.

The draw for the season's first grand slam, conducted at Melbourne Park on Friday, gave fifth seed Sharapova, runner-up to Williams last year and champion in 2008, a first-round tie against 58th-ranked Japanese Nao Hibino.

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard will take on 121st-ranked Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia in her opening match of the tournament. The world 47th-ranked player made the semifinals in 2014 and the quarter-finals last year. It will be her first unseeded Grand Slam since the 2013 US Open.

Second seed Simona Halep, who is battling a nagging Achilles problem, faces a qualifier first up while Garbine Muguruza, among the most exciting prospects in women's tennis, is seeded third and will meet 86th-ranked Estonian Annett Kontaveit.

Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, still chasing a first grand slam title, plays American Christina McHale.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, seeded 14th, looms as a dangerous floater in the draw and will play 44th-ranked Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.

Milos Raonic, ranked 13th in the world, will face Lucas Pouille​ of France in the first round. Raonic beat Pouille just a week ago enroute to his title in Brisbane.

The third Canadian competing, Vasek Pospisil is slated to take on 14th seed Gilles Simon.

With files from Tennis Canada

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