A possible Round-of-16 clash between World No.1 Ashleigh Barty and two-time champion Naomi Osaka highlights the 2022 Australian Open women's singles draw, which was released Thursday at Melbourne Park.
No.1 seed Barty and No.13 seed Osaka landed in the loaded top quarter of the draw, with No.5 seed Maria Sakkari and No.9 seed Ons Jabeur looming as potential quarterfinal opponents.
Barty is seeking to add a Grand Slam title on home soil to her growing list of majors. The Aussie Barty won the 2019 Roland Garros title, her first at a major, then followed up with a Wimbledon crown last year. Barty will take on a qualifier in her opening-round match.
It will be challenging if her path has to go through defending champion Osaka, who has won four hard-court majors over the past four seasons. Osaka won her first Australian Open title in 2019 before earning another trophy last year. Her title defense will begin against rising Colombian teenager Camila Osorio.
If they meet, Barty and Osaka would break a level head-to-head, which is currently tied at two wins apiece. One of Osaka's wins came at the 2018 Australian Open, where she defeated Barty in the third round.
The second quarter features No.4 seed Barbora Krejcikova, the reigning Roland Garros champion, as well as No.8 seed Paula Badosa. Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013), seeded 24th, was drawn into this quarter as well.
Also in the second quarter is 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, seeded 11th, and No.18 seed Coco Gauff. Kenin and Gauff potentially might meet in an all-American third-round match, but Kenin would first have to get past another of her compatriots, Madison Keys, in the first round.
In the bottom half of the draw, Garbine Muguruza leads the third quarter as the No.3 seed. If seeds were to hold, her quarterfinal opponent would be No.6 seed Anett Kontaveit, which would be a rematch of the final WTA match of 2021. Muguruza defeated Kontaveit to win the season-ending Akron WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
Muguruza might also have to get through a tricky fourth-round match against either No.14 seed Simona Halep or No.17 seed Emma Raducanu, who could face off in the third round. Raducanu, the reigning US Open champion, meets 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in an eye-catching first-rounder.
Also lurking in that quarter is No.12 seed Elena Rybakina, who reached the Adelaide International final last week, as well as former Australian Open semifinalists Danielle Collins, Elise Mertens and Vera Zvonareva. Mertens and Zvonareva will square off in the opening round.
No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka leads the fourth quarter, and she will play Australian wildcard Storm Sanders in the first round. This section also includes No.7 seed Iga Swiatek and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
A possible third-round match could take place between 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, the No.16 seed, and 23rd-seeded Leylah Fernandez. Fernandez upset Kerber during her breakthrough run to last year's US Open final.