World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and his U.S. Open conqueror Andy Murray have been put in separate halves of the men’s singles draw at the Australian Open, starting in Melbourne on Monday.

In the official draw made on Friday, Djokovic faces a potential semifinal against Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer, while 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer could face world No. 3 Murray in the last four.

Djokovic, bidding for a hat-trick of Australian Open victories after downing Rafael Nadal in a titanic five-set final last year, will start his defence against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round.

Second seed Federer, bidding for his fifth Australian title, begins his Melbourne campaign against Frenchman Benoit Paire, while Murray takes on Dutchman Robin Haase first up.

Eleven-time Grand Slam winner Nadal will miss the year-opening slam with a stomach virus.

Women’s draw

Meanwhile, world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and 15-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams were pitted in the same half of the women's singles draw.

Azarenka, who broke through for her first major title in beating Maria Sharapova in last year’s Melbourne final, faces a tough task to defend her crown with a potential semifinal against the American star.

Second seed Sharapova has Polish world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska in her bottom half of the draw.

Sharapova gets her campaign underway against fellow Russian Olga Puchkova. — AFP

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