Roger Federer begins Australian Open title defense against Aljaz Bedene

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  • Federer drawn against Bedene
  • Nadal opens against Burgos

(CNN) — Roger Federer will begin the defense of his Australian Open title against Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene.

The world No. 2 has landed in the trickier half of the draw, where Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Alex Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils all potentially await.

Federer will also have to contend with Milos Raonic and Juan Martin del Potro in his section of the draw, and may have to beat David Goffin to reach the semifinals -- an opponent he lost against at the year-ending ATP Finals in November.

"I thought my game wasn't going to be good enough for that day and it was," Federer recalled of his epic 2017 final against Nadal.

"That fifth set against Rafa was maybe the best set I've ever played. It was definitely my highlight of 2017."

Rafael Nadal, last year's beaten finalist, is undoubtedly in the more favorable half and would avoid both Federer and Djokovic until the final.

The world No. 1 opens his campaign against 37-year-old Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos, while the biggest danger in his quarter of the draw is big-serving Croat Marin Cilic.

Six-time Australian Open winner Djokovic, who has dropped to 14th in the world after six months out with injury, will play American Donald Young and faces a potentially mouthwatering second-round match against Monfils.

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Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, also makes his return from injury and is drawn against Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis, while world No. 3 and last year's semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov faces two undecided qualifiers in his opening rounds.

Women's draw

The absence of reigning champion Serena Williams, who last week said she is "not where I want to be" following the birth of her daughter in September, gives several other protagonists the chance to come to fore in the women's side of the draw.

Williams remarkably revealed she was in fact two months pregnant when she won last year's title, beating older sister Venus in the final.

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In a recent interview with Vogue, Serena revealed some of the severe health complications she suffered in the weeks after giving birth to Alexis Olympia.

She described how "everything went bad" after a flawless emergency cesarean section. What followed was a lung clot, clotted blood in her abdomen and more than one operation, before spending six weeks unable to get out of bed.

Venus, seeded fifth this year, will be hoping to go one better and kicks off her bid for an eighth grand slam title with a tricky match against rising Swiss star Belinda Bencic.

World No. 1 Simona Halep faces 17-year-old Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava in the first round and could potentially face 2014 semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard in the second.

Wozniacki claimed the biggest title of her career in the WTA Finals at the end of last year and will be hoping to now add a maiden grand slam to her name.

The Dane has been handed a kind first round draw and will face Romanian Mihaela Buzărnescu.

Meanwhile, world No. 47 Maria Sharapova -- who is competing at her second grand slam since returning from a drug ban -- opens her campaign against Tatjana Maria of Germany.