Maria Sharapova of Russia makes a backhand return against Flavia Pennetta of Italy during their singles match at the WTA tennis finals in Singapore on Thursday, 29 Oct. , 2015. - AP Photo
AFP: Maria Sharapova will open her Australian campaign with a match against Ekaterina Makarova following Friday’s draw for the Brisbane International.
Defending champion and third seed Sharapova will play world number 23 Makarova in a rematch from last year’s Australian Open semi-final.
“This was a grand slam semi-final last year in Australia,” five-time grand slam champion Sharapova told reporters.
“For a first match, it’s a pretty high-quality match against a pretty tough opponent.” World number four Sharapova, 28, who beat Ana Ivanovic in last year’s Brisbane final, leads Makarova 6-0 in their past meetings.
World number two and top seed Simona Halep has drawn a bye for her opening round but could face two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka in the second round.
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza is the second seed. After a first-round bye she will face either American Varvara Lepchenko or Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
The women’s field boasts nine of the world’s top 20 as well as former world number ones Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic.
In the men’s draw, Australian wildcard Ben Mitchell or a qualifier are in line to become Roger Federer’s first opponent in 2016.
The 17-time grand slam champion Federer will receive a first-up bye.
Australia’s seventh seed Bernard Tomic will take on Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in the first round.
The tournament begins on Sunday.