MELBOURNE, January 16 (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic will begin his search for an Australian Open eighth title against Jan-Lennard Struff, while Ash Barty’s bid to become the first homemade singles champion at the first Grand Slam of the year since 1978 starts against Ukraine Lesia Tsurenko .
Serbian Djokovic is defending champion after winning his seventh crown Melbourne Park record in last year’s final against Rafa Nadal, who is the top seed of this year and will face Bolivian Hugo Dellien as he aims for a 20th Grand Slam title .
American Serena Williams is just one of the Grand Slam titles in Australian Margaret Court’s record 24 and the eighth seed begins her bid for Melbourne Park’s eighth crown with a draw against Russian Anastasia Potapova.
Japanese Naomi Osaka, in third place, won her second Grand Slam crown in Australia last year and begins her title defense against Czech Marie Bouzkova.
Emerging American talent Coco Gauff twice plays champion Venus Williams, who beat in her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon last year.
Only one man has won more than Nadal’s major men’s singles titles and Swiss Roger Federer will open his quest for a 21st with a first-round match against American Steve Johnson.
French Open Barty champion, the first female seed and number one in the world, will try to end the 42-year-old Australian expectation for a home champion since the invisible Chris O’Neill won the title at Kooyong.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Shri Navaratnam)
((Nick.Mulvenney@tr.com; +61 2 9321 8190;))
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