Australian Open 2016 Draw: Defending Champion Serena Williams Won’t Have It Easy

The Australian Open draw revealed that number one seed Serena Williams could face a challenging path to winning her seventh title at the competition this year. In the first round of the Australian Open, Williams will face world No. 35 Camila Giorgi, the highest-ranked player not to be seeded.

“That’s a tough match up for Serena,” former coach Paul Annacone said at the draw according to USA Today. He went on to say what spectators can expect of the match.

“Camila has experience and plenty of firepower. In many ways, I think it’s a good thing for Serena. She’s playing a familiar face. Even though it’s a tough match, it clicks you into your concentration right away. It will be an exciting one to watch.”

The reigning champion’s potential path doesn’t get any easier. It’s possible that she could clash with Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round and is seeded to play Maria Sharapova, the No. 5 seed, in the quarterfinals. Sharapova and Williams were the finalists of the 2015 Australian Open.

William’s biggest threat is Victoria Azarenka. A Belarusian professional tennis player, and former world No. 1 that’s currently ranked world No. 16. If they are to meet in the 2016 Australian Open, it would not be until the final.

The defending champion is the favorite to win the Australian Open, but her recent form and fitness are still in question. Williams had to pull out of the Hopman Cup in Perth last week due to a left knee inflammation. Williams did report a bill of good health yesterday at the draw ceremony.

“Everything’s actually really well,” she said. “I’m feeling really good. I’m excited about it. I’ve been training every day … [The knee] feels good.”

Williams’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told The New York Times she is healthy and ready to play in the Australian Open when it starts on Monday.

“She experienced swelling” he said. “Her knees simply responded badly to a treatment that she received a few days before the Hopman Cup.” He also made the following clarification.

“It’s nothing to be concerned about, but she had to take an extra week of rest so that the swelling could go away. It has now cleared up, and we can prepare as we would wish to for the Australian Open.”

Overhead shot of Serena Williams serving a tennis ball

In the last 5 Australian Opens, Williams has won the title (2015), lost in the 4th Round (2014), lost in the Quarterfinal (2013), finished 4th (2012) and did not play in 2011.

Serena Williams had an outstanding 2015 season. She was named the AP’s female athlete of 2015, won the Australian Open on hard courts in January, the French Open on clay in June, and Wimbledon on grass in July.

According to Centre Daily William’s has won the Australian Open six times previously (’03, ’05, ’07, ’09, ’10, ’15), boasts five singles titles in 2015, and 69 career singles titles. Other notable achievements at major competitions include three French Opens titles (’02, ’13, ’15), six Wimbledon titles (’02, ’03, ’09, ’10, ’12, ’15), and also six U.S. Open titles (’99, ’02, ’08, ’12, ’13, ’14).

On the men’s side of the Australian Open, defending champion Novak Djokovic will face Chung Hyeon and, if results go with rankings, could meet No. 7 Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Roger Federer in the semifinals.

[Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images]