British No1 Johanna Konta faces a stern challenge to match her successful recent visits to the Australian Open after being handed a tough draw at the opening grand slam of the year.
Ninth seed Konta plays American world No92 Madison Brengle in a routine first-round clash but danger lurks in the later rounds, with sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and world No1 Simona Halep her likely opponents in the four round quarter-finals respectively.
Konta – Britain’s leading hope in the absence of the injured Andy Murray – reached the semi-finals of a grand slam event for the first time in Melbourne two years ago and made the last eight in 2017. But her preparations for this tournament, which begins on Monday, have been disrupted by a hip injury.
British No2 Heather Watson, who continued her encouraging form by reaching the semi-finals of the Hobart International on Thursday, faces world No50 Yulia Putintseva in the first round. Defending champion Serena Williams is absent as she focuses on regaining fitness following the birth of her first child.
Kyle Edmund, the only Briton in the men’s draw, meets big-serving US Open finalist Kevin Anderson first. Champion Roger Federer begins his defence against Aljaz Bedene, who this month switched allegiance back from Britain to Slovenia.