The bid of the world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, for a third successive Australian Open title has been given a boost with a relatively smooth draw in the first grand slam of the season.
The Serb will kick off his title defence with a first round tie against unseeded Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the draw announced yesterday and faces no major hurdles until a potentially dangerous quarter-final against fifth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych.
In a top half of the draw free of 'Big Four' rivals Roger Federer, Andy Murray and the absent Rafa Nadal, a possible semi-final clash with fourth seed David Ferrer, looms for Djokovic.
Former world number one Federer faces a tough first week in his bid to add to his record 17 grand slam titles, however.
The four-time champion will also play an unseeded Frenchman in Benoit Paire in his opener, but is likely to face former top-10 player Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in the second round before another potentially tricky clash with local hope Bernard Tomic in the third.
U.S. Open champion Murray will start his campaign against unseeded Dutchman Robin Haase but the Briton is likely to have one eye on Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, who looms as a possible quarter-final opponent.
In the women's draw, Serena Williams will start her bid for a sixth Melbourne title against Romania's Edna Gallovits-Hall, with a potential quarter-final clash against former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Williams would then be in line for a showdown with defending champion Victoria Azarenka.
Top seed Azarenka plays another Romanian, Monica Niculescu, in her first round with former world number one Caroline Wozniacki a potential quarter-final opponent.
Second seeded Russian Maria Sharapova faces a perilous first week, with a likely third round encounter against Venus Williams following her opening match against compatriot Olga Puchkova.