Tennis-Open-Federer, Henin handed kind draws for Melbourne

MELBOURNE Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:48am GMT

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MELBOURNE Jan 11 (Reuters) - World number one Roger Federer will begin the defence of his Australian Open title against Argentine Diego Hartfield after the draw was made at Melbourne Park on Friday.

The Swiss, bidding for his 13th grand-slam title, was handed a kind draw in the early stages, though he could face a quarter-final against seventh seed Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, whom he beat in the final 12 months ago.

Federer had to pull out of the warm-up event at Kooyong because of a virus but is expected to be fully fit to play.

Third seed Novak Djokovic is his projected semi-final opponent, though Argentine David Nalbandian, who beat Federer twice at the end of last year, is lurking in the same half.

Second seed Rafael Nadal, number six Andy Roddick, eighth seed Richard Gasquet and number nine Andy Murray are all in the opposite half.

Nadal and Roddick will both play qualifiers in the first round, while Murray has a tough opening match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world number 38 from France.

Women's top seed Justine Henin of Belgium takes on Aiko Nakimura of Japan in the first round.

The Belgian, who won the French Open and U.S. Open in 2007, has a seemingly clear path through to the quarter-finals, where she is scheduled to play fifth seed Maria Sharapova.

However, the Russian is likely to face a tough second-round match against former champion Lindsay Davenport.

Davenport, who is unseeded this year, has won three titles in her four events since returning to the tour in September, having had a year off, during which she had her first child.

Serena Williams will begin the defence of her title against Jarmila Gajdosova, a Slovakia-born wildcard now playing for Australia.

The seventh seed, who won her eighth grand-slam title 12 months ago, is scheduled to play third seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in the quarter-finals, while Henin would be her likely semi-final opponent.

American Venus Williams, seeded eighth, is in the opposite half and could play Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, whom she beat to win the Wimbledon title last year, in the fourth round.

Williams would then be likely to play fourth seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in the quarter-finals.

World number 12 Tommy Haas, a former semi-finalist at Melbourne Park, pulled out on the eve of the draw because of injury. (Editing by John O'Brien)

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