INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - A year after returning to tour-level tennis at the event, Serena Williams was handed a tough draw at the BNP Paribas Open.
The 23-time major champion could face former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in a blockbuster second-round clash, as the full draw was revealed on Monday.
No.10 seed Williams, who played her first tour event in Indian Wells last year after the birth of her daughter, was drawn into the same quarter of the draw as No.4 seed Sloane Stephens and No.7 seed Kiki Bertens in the bottom half, and will face either Azarenka or Vera Lapko after an opening-round bye.
Azarenka defeated Williams in the final of the 2016 tournament, as she pulled off the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami before announcing her own pregnancy.
The task won't get any easier for the two-time Indian Wells champion should she pass that test, either - as a third-round match with No.20 seed and two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza looms before a fourth round with Bertens and a quarterfinal meeting with Stephens.
In the other quarter in the bottom half, No.2 seed Simona Halep will face the winner of Barbora Strycova or a qualifier first up, and could be projected into a fourth-round meeting with last year's runner-up, No.14 seed Daria Kasatkina, or No.22 seed Jelena Ostapenko.
On the top half of the draw, a rematch of a recent loss could be on the cards for defending champion and top seed Naomi Osaka.
The World No.1, who won her first career title in the California desert to explode onto the world stage last year, will face either Kristina Mladenovic or Zheng Saisai in her first match at the Premier Mandatory event this year.
The Australian Open champion lost to Mladenovic in her first match following her triumph Down Under, and first match as World No.1, at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last month.
Also lurking for Osaka in this section is No.25 seed and Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins, while the seeded projections could mean that the winner of a third-round clash between Dubai champion and No.23 seed Belinda Bencic and No.13 seed Caroline Wozniacki could face Osaka in the last 16, before a potential Melbourne rematch No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.
Rounding out the top half's other quarter is No.3 seed Petra Kvitova, who could face the unseeded Venus Williams should the American pass her opening test against Andrea Petkovic, first, with No.8 seed Angelique Kerber, No.9 seed Aryna Sabalenka and No.24 seed and former quarterfinalist Lesia Tsurenko on the horizon.
To see the full women's singles draw, click here.