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henin on track to get clijsters

The Williams sisters are on one side of the Australian Open draw, but most of the early intrigue is on the other side, which includes Belgium pair Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin.

Defending champion Serena Williams cannot meet her sister, sixth-seeded Venus, until a potential semi-final at the Melbourne Park event, which starts Monday.

If wildcard Henin is to get that far in her Grand Slam comeback she may have to beat Olympic champion and fifth-seed Elena Dementieva in the second round and US Open champion Clijsters in the quarter-finals. That's if Henin gets past fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round on Monday.

It was Clijsters' run to the US Open title in only her third tournament back from retirement ---- including a semifinal win over 2008 champion Serena Williams -- that inspired Henin to return to the tour.

On the same side as Clijsters and Henin, but in the bottom section, 2008 champion Maria Sharapova could meet second seed Dinara Safina in the fourth round and third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, the reigning French Open champion, in the quarter-finals.

Roger Federer is on top of the men's draw, in the same half as third seed Novak Djokovic.

The other leading contenders are on the other side see defending champion Rafael Nadal and Britain's Andy Murray in the same section, while US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick are in the same quarter.

Federer will play Russian Igor Andreev in the first round, could face home favourite Lleyton Hewitt or 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis in the fourth round, and someone like Fernando Verdasco or sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters before a potential chance at Djokovic in the semis. Davydenko beat Federer last week in Doha, and has won six titles since August.

Djokovic had an upset win over Federer in the 2008 Australian Open semi-finals, in the year he won the title, but the Serbian hasn't won another major since. Federer, meanwhile, last year broke Pete Sampras's record for most men's singles majors.

Andy Murray lost rankings points by not defending his Doha title this year and it cost him as he dropped out of the top four for the first time since 2008, which means he couldn't avoid having one of the top players in his section. He'll, therefore, likely have to beat Nadal to make the semi-finals.

Number one seed Serena Williams will take on Urszula Radwanska, of Poland, in her first-round match and could play Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro -- who had an upset win over Venus Williams in the second round here last year -- in the third round.

Her likely quarter-final rivals are seventh seed Victoria Azakrenka, of Belarus, or Serbia's 2008 Australian runner-up Ana Ivanovic.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Louk Sorensen and Conor Niland both had victories earlier today at the Australian Open Men's singles Qualifiers in Melbourne.

Louk Sorensen defeated the number 26 seed Michael Yani (USA) on a scoreline 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. He will now play Daniel King-Turner (NZL) for a place in the main draw of the first Grand Slam event of the year. The last time he played Turner was in 2008 in Bolzano, Italy which Sorensen won 4-6 6-4 6-3.

Conor Niland had a 2-6 6-1 6-4 win over the number 28 seed Jesse Witten (USA) and plays Ricardo Hocevar (BRZ) in the final round tomorrow.


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