Every Aussie player’s first round opponent at the Australian Open

Ajla Tomljanovic may have received a protected ranking to enter the Australian Open but there was nothing to stop her being drawn in the most daunting quarter of the women’s singles on Thursday.

The former Wimbledon and US Open quarter-finalist will take on experienced Croatian Petra Martic in the first round before a likely second round encounter with 11th seed Jelena Ostapenko, who will face Aussie wildcard Kimberly Birrell in her opening match.

Tomljanovic is in the top quarter of the draw, which is littered with unseeded former Australian Open champions including potential third-round opponent Victoria Azarenka and 2016 and 2020 winners Angelique Kerber and Sofia Kenin.

The latter pair are caught up in an early “group of death” with world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and 2021 finalist Danielle Collins, with only one of the quartet able to advance to the third round.

Collins, who pushed Ash Barty to a second set tie-break in the 2022 final, and Kerber, who is unseeded after an 18-month break following the birth of her child, will clash in the opening round as Swiatek faces Kenin.

West Australian wildcard Taylah Preston also faces a tough opening round battle against 19th seed Elina Svitolina, while compatriot Olivia Gadecki drew enigmatic American star Sloane Stephens, who won the US Open in 2017 but has not advanced past the first round of the Australian Open in four consecutive years.

Returning cult hero Daria Saville is on the other side of the draw from the rest of the Australian contingent with a first round clash against unseeded Pole Magdalena Frech, but would face an uphill battle to beat either 16th seed Caroline Garcia or two-time champion Naomi Osaka in the second round.

The only Australian male to draw a seeded opponent in the opening round was world No. 71 Rinky Hijikata, who will face 24th seed Jan-Lennard Struff.

Two pairs of Aussies have been drawn against each other, with Alexei Popyrin to play his 2023 doubles partner Marc Polmans and Aleksandar Vukic pitted against Jordan Thompson.

Wildcard Adam Walton is in the path of 10th seed Alex de Minaur if he beats his first round opponent, Italian Matteo Arnaldi, while Max Purcell will need to wait until the end of qualifying to learn his opponent, which could also be an Australian.

Thanasi Kokkinakis would likely play 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov in the second round if he wins his opening match, with the Bulgarian star entering the tournament in blistering form having overcome world No. 8 Holger Rune to win the Brisbane International final in straight sets on Sunday.

AUSTRALIAN MEN FIRST ROUND

Alexei Popyrin vs Marc Polmans

Chris O’Connell vs Cristian Garin (CHI)

James Duckworth vs Luca Van Assche (FRA)

Jordan Thompson vs Aleksandar Vukic

Jason Kubler vs Daniel Elahi Galan (COL)

No.10 Alex de Minaur vs Milos Raonic (CAN)

Adam Walton vs Matteo Arnaldi (ITA)

Thanasi Kokkinakis vs Sebastian Ofner (AUT)

James McCabe vs Alex Michelsen (USA)

Max Purcell vs Qualifier/Lucky Loser

Rinky Hijikata vs No.24 Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)

AUSTRALIAN WOMEN FIRST ROUND

Olivia Gadecki vs Sloane Stephens (USA)

Daria Saville vs Magdalena Frech (POL)

Taylah Preston vs No.19 Elina Svitolina (UKR)

Kim Birrell vs No.11 Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

Ajla Tomljanovic vs Petra Martic (CRO)

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