Azarenka misses out on a seeding at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka faces the prospect of drawing a top player in the first round at the Australian Open after missing out on a seeding Wednesday.
Last year was one to forget for Azarenka - injuries to her left foot, then right knee and right foot restricted her to just 24 matches last year and her WTA ranking has dropped to 41. The top 32 players are seeded, and tournament officials went strictly by the rankings released Monday to determine the seedings list this year on both the men's and women's side.
No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 2 Maria Sharapova will be on opposite sides of the draw after their world rankings were reflected in the seedings for the first major of the year.
Former No. 1-ranked Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013 and reached two Grand Slam quarterfinals in 2014 during an injury-interrupted year, dropped from a No. 32 year-end ranking.
Azarenka's first-round loss last week at the Brisbane International to Karolina Pliskova, after wasting two match points in the second set, cost her any chance of climbing back into the top 32.
China's Li Na has retired and won't be defending her Australian title. Dominika Cibulkova, the losing finalist last year at Melbourne Park, is seeded No. 11. Eugenie Bouchard, the 20-year-old Canadian who last year reached the semifinals at the Australian and French Opens before making the Wimbledon final, is seeded No. 7.
On the men's side, Nos. 1-3 Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are all seeded ahead of defending men's champion Stan Wawrinka, who No. 4.
U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori of Japan was seeded fifth, one spot ahead of three-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray.
On Wednesday, Nadal had a strong training session at Melbourne Park, indicating he might be overcoming some recent health and injury issues.
Nadal was sidelined for three months with a right wrist injury after Wimbledon. He briefly returned at Beijing in late September where he advanced to the quarterfinals. He then had appendix surgery in early November which he is still recovering from.
''This is the third comeback of my career after injury, so we will see how it goes,'' Nadal said.