- The women’s draw for the Australian Open was made on the Rod Laver Arena
- Maria Sharapova was chosen to bring the trophy on court beforehand
- The Russian missed last year’s tournament as she was serving a drug ban
Great Britain’s big Grand Slam hope Jo Konta will face American Madison Brengle in the opening round of the Australian Open next week.
The ninth seed reached the semi-finals and quarter-finals at Melbourne in the last two years and will hope to take advantage of the absence of champion Serena Williams.
Fellow British hopeful Heather Watson has been drawn against Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.
Maria Sharapova was chosen to bring the Australian Open trophy out on court
The Russian missed last year’s tournament as she was serving a drug ban at the time
Sharapova failed a drug test for taking meldonium at the same tournament two years ago
But the draw on Thursday was overshadowed by the sight of Maria Sharapova bringing the trophy on court at the Rod Laver Arena ahead of the draw.
The Russian, who won in Melbourne 10 years ago, is making her first return to the Grand Slam event since failing a drug test at the tournament two years ago.
The 2008 champion tested positive for taking meldonium in 2016 and received a two-year doping ban, reduced to 15 months on appeal.
She was unable to compete at the tournament last year as she was still serving the ban, which only ran out in April 2017.
British No 1 Jo Konta is ninth seed in Melbourne and will face American Madison Brengle
World No 1 SImona Halep is among the favourites and will face Destanee Aiava
Last year’s runner-up Venus Williams has been drawn against the promising Belinda Bencic
ONES TO WATCH
Simona Halep v Destanee Aiava
Eugenie Bouchard v Oceane Dodin
Jo Konta v Madison Brengle
Venus Williams vs Belinda Bencic
Maria Sharapova vs Tatjana Maria
Mihaela Buzarnescu v Caroline Wozniacki
The 30-year-old was denied a wildcard at the French Open and missed out on an appearance at Wimbledon due to injury.
She made her Grand Slam return at the US Open in August, where she lost to 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova.
The five-time Major winner will face Tatjana Maria in the first round.
World No 1 Simona Halep has been drawn against Destanee Aiava, and could face Eugenie Bouchard in the second round if she overcomes Oceane Dodin.
Last year’s runner-up Venus Williams plays Belinda Bencic in one of the ties of the round, while No 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki plays Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu.
No 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki plays Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu in the first round