Roger Federer, seeking an 18th Grand Slam title in his 18th season on tour, will ease into 2015 with a match against either a wild-card entry or a qualifier at the Brisbane International next week.
Federer, who arrived in Australia on Saturday, has a first-round bye in the Australian Open tune-up tournament. Then the 17-time Grand Slam champion will play the winner of a match between Australian wild-card entry John Millman and a yet-to-be-determined qualifier.
Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who beat Federer in the final last year, will play compatriot Sam Groth in his first match after the draw was conducted Saturday.
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Hewitt and Federer are on opposite sides of the draw and could not meet each other until the final. Hewitt will have a tough time getting there, though, with potential matches against South African Kevin Anderson in the second round and Milos Raonic of Canada in the quarterfinals.
Federer last won a Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2012, but feels good about adding a fifth Australian Open title this year.
Coming back from a disappointing 2013, Federer won more matches (73) than any player last year and moved back to No.2 behind Novak Djokovic.
”Overall it was a great season for me,” Federer said Saturday. ”I was consistent and I was playing positive, attacking tennis just the way I want to play and I gave myself chances at quite a few of the slams. This year I hope I can go one step further because going close is not quite good enough.”
On the women’s side, top-seeded Maria Sharapova also has a bye and then a second-round match against either Germany’s Sabine Lisicki or a qualifier.
In other warm-up events for the Australian Open, the Hopman Cup mixed-team event gets underway in Perth on Sunday with Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard leading Canada against the Czech Republic and Australia playing Poland in the second match.
On Monday, Serena Williams takes to the court for the United States against Italy and Andy Murray is scheduled to lead Britain against France.
Murray beat Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-0 in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi on Friday and is set to play Djokovic in the final before flying to Perth. His preparations for the Australian Open could be curtailed, however, after he felt pain in his left shoulder during his win over Nadal.
The Scot was planning to have a scan on his shoulder later Saturday.
”It’s a bit sore. I don’t know exactly what happened,” he said. ”It was quite painful at the end and it’s quite strange because I’ve never had anything happen to my left shoulder before. I’ll need to see how I am when I wake up in the morning.”
The Hopman Cup has already been hit hard by injuries. Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who beat Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, pulled out with a back injury. Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic and American Jack Sock were also out due to injury.
In New Zealand, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams will headline the field at the ASB Classic beginning Monday.
The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, begins Jan. 19 in Melbourne.
AP Sports Writer Steve McMorran contributed to this story from Wellington, New Zealand.