The future 5 at the Australian Open

Former champion Novak Djokovic made a winning return on Wednesday. AFP

Former champion Novak Djokovic made a winning return on Wednesday. AFP

"This is not normal", Federer told a crowd of hundreds of fans before the draw on Thursday at Margaret Court Arena.

What was more concerning, albeit in an exhibition, was his performance against retired 36-year-old Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-finals of the event - first to 10 points - having survived match points against the Australian. Federer will take on Aljaz Bedene in his opener.

And let's not forget about one of the best first round matches between Denis Shapolvalov meeting Stefanos Tsitsipas. The hard-server from Thornhill, Ont., is a former world No. 3 but has seen his ranking slip after an injury-plagued 2017.

The 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, who on Monday moved back into the world's top 50 for the first time since returning from a 15-month doping ban, is unseeded and takes on 47th-ranked German Tatjana Maria in the first round in the same section of the draw.

Six-times Australian Open champion Djokovic pulled out of a tournament in Abu Dhabi last week because of continuing problems with his right elbow and wore a sleeve over the joint during his round robin match against the Austrian.

He beat Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets in the second round of the 2017 US Open.

Now, under new rules by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), any Grand Slam player who withdraws after 1200 local time yesterday before the tournament draw will still receive 50 percent of first round prize money.

Federer out to win his 20th grand slam in Melbourne this month.

Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Victoria Azarenka are all big-name players who won't be participating in the Australian Open this year.

Her sister Venus, who lost the all-Williams Australian Open final previous year, has a tough opener against Belinda Bencic - who combined with Federer to win the Hopman Cup for Switzerland last week - and is also in the same quarter as U.S. Open victor Sloane Stephens.

In the women's draw, top seed Simona Halep will face Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava in the opening round and could face two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round.

"So (it was) a huge surprise, especially after the six months I had off, and what a comeback it was and it was definitely the highlight of the year".

Now ranked No47, she could face the 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova in the second round, Angelique Kerber - the 2016 champion - in the third round and, potentially, Garbine Muguruza, the Wimbledon champion, in the fourth round.

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