Roger Federer will face former British player Aljaz Bedene as he next week begins the defence of his Australian Open title from last year.
Bedene, who has reverted to representing his native Slovenia after failing to gain permission to play in the Davis Cup for GB – despite being a joint citizen – will be the 36 year-old Swiss’s opening opponent as he props up the lower half of the draw as second seed.
Federer could meet Milos Raonic in the fourth round and potentially Belgium’s David Goffin in the quarters, the player who defeated him at the ATP Finals at the 02 Arena in November.
Roger Federer came on court with his 2017 trophy as the reigning Australian Open champion
In the absence of Andy Murray, who posted a picture of himself on social media at a seaside restaurant having lunch with his team and mother Judy, Kyle Edmund will be the only British man in the draw. In a surprise reverse Cam Norrie was earlier knocked out of the second round qualifying by Australian John-Patrick Smith 6-4 6-2.
The draw did Edmund few favours, pitting him in the first round against US Open finalist Kevin Anderson, who beat him in five sets at Roland Garros last year. If Edmund was to come through that he could face Uzbek Denis Istomin, who sensationally upset Novak Djokovic here a year ago.
Last year’s quarter finalist, Jo Konta, will be up against American Madison Brengle in the first round and could meet number six seed Karolina Pliskova in the fourth.
Heather Watson, who today beat Donna Vekic to make the semi-finals of the WTA event in Hobart, 6-0 6-4, drew Kazakhstan’s pocket battleship Yulia Putintseva.
The pre-amble to the draw involved on court interviews with Federer and, much more controversially, Maria Sharapova, who is returning to Melbourne Park for the first time since testing positive for Meldonium two years ago.
While there were few other active former champions available to add some stardust to the draw on Margaret Court Arena, it was not exactly a good look for the sport – again – as she paraded the trophy and then got a less than Paxman-like interview from host broadcaster Channel Seven.
Djokovic, in his unaccustomed fourteenth seeding place as he has not played since Wimbledon, faces a potentially difficult second round against Gael Monfils, who has been in strong early season form.
World number one Rafael Nadal got an easy start against Dominican veteran Victor Estrella Burgos. Nadal is in the same half as ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov, who could face a huge fourth round against 17th Nick Kyrgios, who is fresh from winning the Brisbane International and looks like he is taking his tennis more seriously than usual.
The wide open women’s draw threw up a fascinating section around Sharapova. The controversial Russian could meet Anastasija Sevastova in the second round, who knocked her out of the US Open last sixteen in September.
If she survived that she would meet 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, who is showing signs of recapturing her best form after an unhappy stint as world number one.
In the absence of new mother Serena Williams top seed Simona Halep could meet Eugenie Bouchard in the second round, and possibly Petra Kvitova in the third.