19 January - 1 February 2015
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Put yourself on court with ReturnServe. From analysing returns on the court to measuring social sentiment. Data is a game changer. IBM.
Serena Williams

It was fitting that the AO2014 draw was held in the shadows of Margaret Court Arena, as it's the arena's namesake who currently towers over all others when it comes to Australian Open records.

Should No.1 seed Serena Williams win her sixth Australian Open title in two weeks time, she will move into equal second place with Nancye Bolton for the overall number of singles titles won.

The American finds herself in a quarter of the draw that features a significant amount of young talent – Ashleigh Barty, Madison Keys, Laura Robson, Eugenie Bouchard and Lauren Davis – and players with strong Grand Slam credentials in Sam Stosur, Ana Ivanovic and Sara Errani.

The full women's singles draw for AO2014 can be viewed here.

Williams' title quest will begin against Australian wildcard Barty who showed in Brisbane last week that she can hold her own against more experienced players by completing an impressive win over Australian Open semifinalist Daniela Hantuchova.

But Williams is an entirely different proposition.

The top seed will be favoured to make it to the semis where she's likely to meet 2013 and 2011 finalist Li Na. But with fellow big hitters in Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Sabine Lisicki and her 2012 tormentor Ekaterina Makarova spread throughout the top half of the draw, Williams will be wary every time she steps on court.

Her 2013 conqueror, Sloane Stephens, is safely ensconced in the bottom half of the draw where she is in a quarter that features fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and second seed Victoria Azarenka who Stephens could meet in the fourth round.

Azarenka is aiming to follow in fellow No.2 Novak Djokovic's footsteps and win her third straight Melbourne major. But she still has a way to go to catch Court who won an incredible seven straight singles titles between 1960 and 1966.

The Belarusian's tournament will begin with Johanna Larsson in the first round who she holds a 1-0 record against. Should Azarenka safely navigate the opening rounds, fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska looms as her potential opponent in the quarters, which could lead to a possible semifinal versus third seed Maria Sharapova.

The 2008 champion here, Sharapova begins with a tough first-up encounter with the colourful Bethanie Mattek-Sands who upset Radwanska in Sydney earlier this week.

Sharapova will like her chances of making it to the quarters where eighth seed Jelena Jankovic is likely to be waiting. Jankovic and Sharapova are the sole top 10 seeds in their quarter, however, with 11th seed Simona Halep and unseeded trio Francesca Schiavone, Andrea Petkovic and Kristina Mladenovic floating in this quarter, nothing is certain.

Young stars Bouchard, Halep and Donna Vekic’s fortunes will be closely followed when the tournament gets underway on Monday.

In her first main draw in Melbourne, Bouchard is seeded No.30 – the first time she has been seeded at a major. Bouchard will play the winner of the Asia-Pacific Australian Open Wildcard Play-off, Hao Chen Tang.

Eleventh seed Halep comes in off the back of an excellent second half of 2013 but a shock first-round loss in Sydney earlier this week was not ideal. Having proved herself at WTA level, Halep will be hoping to make it to her first quarterfinal – or better – at a major. Opening against a qualifier will be welcome news to the 22-year-old Romanian but a potential fourth-round match-up with Jankovic is her fate if matches are won according to rankings.

Vekic will also play a qualifier in the opening round and will be hoping to improve on her second-round showing in 2013 when she fell to then world No.1 Wozniacki.

Australian No.1 Sam Stosur, seeded 17th, will begin her campaign against Klara Zakopalova, Casey Dellacqua takes on the unseeded Vera Zvonareva, Jarmila Gajdovosa faces ninth seed Kerber, Storm Sanders plays Camila Giorgi and Olivia Rogowska takes on Mariana Duque-Marino.

Five first-round matches to watch

[1] Serena Williams (USA) v [WC] Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
The present versus the future in this clash between world No.1 Williams and local hope Barty.

[22] Ekaterina Makarova (USA) v Venus Williams (USA)
Makarova ousted younger sister Williams in the biggest upset of all in 2012, can unseeded Venus get revenge for the Williams clan?

Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) v [3] Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Sands has already tasted an upset this summer, can she repeat the dose against the Queen of Sweets or will she leave with a bitter taste in her mouth?

Julia Goerges (GER) v [7] Sara Errani (ITA)
Seventh seed Errani won’t be loving this draw – Goerges is a former top 15 player and possesses a big game.

Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v [20] Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
A tough one for Domi – Schiavone may not be at the height of her powers but the former Roland Garros champ loves a scrap – remember that four hour, 44-minute marathon against Svetlana Kuznetsova?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015
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