Barty set to face stern test in Adelaide

Darren Walton
Ashleigh Barty faces a tough draw at the Adelaide International ahead of the Australian Open

Ashleigh Barty faces another gruelling week trying to restore order in Adelaide after her shock early exit from the Brisbane International.

The world No.1 was handed a bye at Saturday's draw and will play tough Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Estonian Anett Kontaveit in her opening match.

Hoping to bounce back from her loss to American world No.53 Jennifer Brady in her first outing of the summer, Barty is certain of a major test if she passes the second round of the Adelaide International.

The top seed is slated to run into former world No.1 and three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber, 2018 US Open winner Sloane Stephens, a qualifier or classy young Czech Marketa Vondrousova in the quarter-finals.

Barty beat Vondrousova in last year's French Open final on the way to becoming Australia's first women's world No.1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.

The other big names in Barty's top half of the draw are Swiss fourth seed Belinda Bencic and American seventh seed Sofia Kenin.

Having lost to Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in November in Australia's heartbreaking Fed Cup final defeat, Barty is looking to avoid three-straight slip-ups for the first time since returning to tennis in June 2016 after an 18-month hiatus.

Adelaide will be Barty's last tournament before arriving at Melbourne Park as the country's first women's top seed at the Australian Open since Dianne Fromholtz in 1977.

Australian No.2 Alja Tomljanovic, who received a wildcard, faces a qualifier in the first round for the right to play second-seeded Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.

Priscilla Hon faces Barty's regular doubles partner, German Julia Goerges, after also earning a wildcard.

With reigning Australian Open champion and world No.2 Novak Djokovic withdrawing on Saturday, Barty's countryman Alex de Minaur has been named top seed in the men's event.

Fresh off his ATP Cup heroics in Brisbane and Sydney, de Minaur also enjoys a first-round bye and will meet either Davis Cup teammate Jordan Thompson or Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his tournament opener.

The world No.18 is projected to meet American eighth seed Reilly Opelka in the quarter-finals and Spanish fourth seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the semis.

Canadian world No.21 Felix Auger-Aliassime is the second seed in big-time tennis's long-awaited return to Adelaide, where Australians James Duckworth, Alexei Popyrin and Alex Bolt have all received wildcards into the main draw.

Duckworth starts with a qualifer, with the winner to play Auger-Aliassime.

Popyrin is up against Serb Laslo Djere and Bolt opens against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.