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Federer avoids Murray, but may meet Djokovic in semis

ROGER Federer could have to get past the only two men who've beaten him in the last five Australian Opens just to reach the final.

If he gets there, the only two active players with winning records could await. Top-ranked Rafael Nadal and fourth-ranked Andy Murray - each with winning records against Federer - were drawn together on the top half yesterday and are likely semifinal rivals.

Federer, bidding to equal Pete Sampras' record 14 grand slam singles titles, got a tough draw.

It starts with Andreas Seppi of the Italy in the first round, then could involve showdowns with former No. 1-ranked Carlos Moya in the second, 2005 Australian champion Marat Safin in the third and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Djokovic would likely have to win a quarterfinal against seventh-seeded Andy Roddick first.

The women's draw ensured there'd be no all-Williams final, with sisters Serena and Venus on course to meet in the semis.

Second-seeded Serena, the US Open champion, has won the Australian title every alternate year since beating Venus in the 2003 final. "It'd be great to win it again. I'm not really superstitious," she said this week. "Obviously I would like to win in 2009. To be honest I really wanted to win in 2008 but it didn't quite work out."

Venus, who won her fifth Wimbledon championship last year with a victory over Serena, rounded out the year by winning the season-ending WTA Championship.

The Williams loom as the top contenders with defending champion Maria Sharapova missing the tournament after months on the sidelines with an injured right shoulder.

Serena will open against Chinese wildcard Yuan Meng and could face 2006 champion and former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo of France in the fourth. Venus Williams would have to get past Beijing Olympics singles gold medalist Elena Dementieva to reach the semis.

In the top half, fifth-seeded Ana Ivanovic, who lost the 2008 Australian final to Sharapova and then won the French Open, could face third-seeded Dinara Safina of Russia in the quarterfinals and fellow Serb and top-ranked Jelena Jankovic in the semis.

Safina and her older brother Safin combined to get Russia into the final of the Hopman Cup in Perth earlier this month and, on their days, can match it with the best. Safin had an upset semifinal win over Federer before beating local favorite Lleyton Hewitt here in 2005, earning his first Australian crown after losing two finals at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic, the 21-year-old Serbian, beat Federer in the semifinals last year before collecting his first major title with a victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. Tsonga had a stunning win over Nadal in the semis last year and the pair could meet at the same stage again in two weeks - with Tsonga drawn into the same quarter as Murray.


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