Serena draws Kuznetsova in 2020 opener

Daniel Gilhooly
Serena Williams will opens her Australian Open build up against Svetlana Kuznetsova in Auckland

Serena Williams' preparation for the Australian Open will begin with a testing match, drawn to face fellow-veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round at Auckland's ASB Classic.

Top seed Williams is using the tournament starting on Monday to prepare for her shot at a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles crown in Melbourne.

The 38-year-old, who made a low-key arrival in Auckland on Friday, is a surprise returnee to New Zealand's biggest tournament, having criticised the windy conditions when eliminated in the second round two years ago.

Ranked world No.10, she was promoted to top seed when Canada's Bianca Andreescu - her conqueror in the US Open final last September - withdrew with a knee injury.

Williams hasn't played since, leaving an intriguing question mark over her ability to bag an eighth crown at Kooyong and move level with Margaret Court's all-time grand slam mark.

It's more than a decade since Kuznetsova won the second of her grand slam titles, in Paris.

The 34-year-old has beaten Williams three times in their 13 meetings and she starts the year ranked 53rd after dipping outside the top 100 for a spell in 2019.

Williams is drawn in the same quarter as American 15-year-old phenomenon Coco Gauff, whose ranking has risen to 68th on the back of reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon six months ago.

Gauff's first-round opponent is 56th ranked Slovakian Victoria Kuzmova, who reached the semi-finals in Auckland last year.

Two-time defending champion Julia Goerges of Germany is the fourth seed and will face a qualifier.