Johanna Konta reached the last four of the Australian Open in 2016
2018 Australian Open
Dates: 15-28 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Watch highlights on BBC Two, the BBC Sport website and app. Live commentary on the best matches on BBC Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra and online.

British number one Johanna Konta will play American Madison Brengle in the first round of the Australian Open, which gets under way on Monday.

The 26-year-old, seeded ninth, leads the British singles challenge in the absence of Andy Murray, who is recuperating after hip surgery.

Kyle Edmund and Heather Watson are the only other Britons with direct entry into the main draw.

Naomi Broady could yet join them through qualifying.

Reigning champion Serena Williams is the other notable absentee following the birth of her first child four months ago, but Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka appear ready to play despite injury worries in the build-up.

Britons handed tough draws

Konta has reached the quarter-finals and semi-finals on her last two visits to Melbourne, but has a potentially tough route through the draw this time.

The Sydney-born Briton could face sixth seed Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round and top seed Simona Halep in the quarter-finals.

First she must overcome world number 92 Brengle, who has won three of her four matches against Konta, although the Briton was the victor when they last met in 2016.

Edmund, the only British man in the draw following Murray’s withdrawal, faces a difficult opening match against 11th seed Kevin Anderson.

The South African, 31, won their only previous meeting in five sets at last year’s French Open.

“He’s very physical, his forehand is dangerous, it’s going to be a tough match, but every match is tough out here,” said Anderson, the US Open runner-up.

“The guys [in Melbourne] say the courts are playing a little quicker, which could help my serve a little bit.”

Edmund, 23, is ranked 49th and will arrive in Melbourne after pulling out of the warm-up tournament in Auckland as a precautionary measure because of an ankle issue.

Watson, 25, plays 23-year-old Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan – ranked 24 places higher at 50th – in the first round.

Djokovic set for early test

Novak Djokovic is a six-time winner of the men’s singles competition

Second seed Roger Federer begins the defence of his title against Aljaz Bedene, who returned to playing under the Slovenian flag on 1 January after nearly three years as a British player.

In the same half of the draw, Djokovic, seeded 14th as he returns from injury, faces American Donald Young in round one and potentially Frenchman Gael Monfils in round two.

Should the Serb make it to the last 16 he could meet fourth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, who plays Italian Thomas Fabbiano in round one.

Top seed Rafael Nadal plays Victor Estrella Burgos, the world number 81 from Dominican Republic, in his opening match.

Women’s top seed Halep plays Australian teenager Destanee Aiava in her opening match, with former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova a potential third-round opponent.

Maria Sharapova, the 2008 champion, will play German world number 46 Tatjana Maria.

The Russian, 30, is ranked 47th and unseeded after failing a doping test at the 2016 Australian Open and subsequently serving a 15-month ban.

Danish second seed Caroline Wozniacki will begin her bid for a first major title against Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu, while Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, the third seed, plays France’s Jessika Ponchet.

Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

Brengle can be an awkward opponent, but is 83 places adrift of Konta in the world rankings. Some mighty tough second-week matches potentially lie in wait, but given the way Konta finished last season – with five defeats in a row – she would relish the opportunity at a venue where she has reached a quarter-final and a semi-final.

Djokovic looks to have a treacherous route to a potential semi-final with Federer, but I’m told his elbow feels fine after appearing in two exhibition events on Wednesday.

Another with a brutal draw is Maria Sharapova, who has the 2016 champion Angelique Kerber as a potential first-week opponent.

The Russian carried the trophy on to court for the draw ceremony in the absence of the defending champion Serena Williams. It was an uncomfortable moment given she herself was missing last year because of a doping ban.

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