Djokovic, Halep emerge top seeds

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SIMONA Halep of Romania hits a backhand to Ash Barty of Australia during their women’s singles match at the Sydney International tennis tournament in Sydney. AP

MELBOURNE, Australia — World number ones Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep were named top seeds on Thursday for next week’s Australian Open with 23-time major winner Serena Williams lurking at 16 on the women’s side.

Djokovic heads long-time rival Rafael Nadal and defending champion Roger Federer, with young-gun Alexander Zverev seeded four as he targets a maiden Grand Slam title.

The Serbian world number one is aiming to make history by claiming a record seventh Australian Open crown when the tournament starts at Melbourne Park on Monday as is Swiss legend Federer.

The pair faces a stern challenge from Zverev, the torchbearer for the next generation who has so far failed to get beyond the quarterfinals at any major.

With world number five Juan Martin del Potro missing through injury, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson is elevated to fifth seed with last year’s beaten finalist Marin Cilic at six.

Halep takes the top seeding among the women courtesy of her world number one ranking, but she enters the tournament with only one match in four months under her belt after an injury lay off.

The Romanian, the beaten finalist last year, is returning from a herniated disc and was bundled out of the Sydney International on Wednesday at the first hurdle.

Denmark’s defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, who is battling health problems and poor form, is seeded three, one behind Germany’s Angelique Kerber.

US Open champion Naomi Osaka is at four while Sloane Stephens, who also slumped out of Sydney early, is at five.

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