Nadal, Federer get top seeds at Australian Open

The waiting is almost over for tennis fans.

The Australian Open, the first grand slam of the 2018 season, starts Monday with everyone wondering if Roger Federer can repeat his remarkable victory 12 months ago.

The Swiss will be gunning for a 20th grand slam title, but following Thursday’s draw, the heat will be on for the 36-year-old in Melbourne.

Federer was seeded No. 2 behind world No. 1 Rafael Nadal has a seemingly simple opener against 51st-ranked Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, but he might be made to sweat after that.

Lying in wait on his half of the draw are potential match ups against fellow Swiss, and 2014 winner Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils, Juan Martin del Potro, and six-time champ Novak Djokovic.

With no Andy Murray — the Scot recently underwent hip surgery — things look much easier, on paper at least, for Nadal, who lost to Federer in last year’s final.

The biggest threat to the Spaniard looks likely to come from the towering presence of the big-serving Croat Marin Cilic.

Can Maria triumph in Serena’s absence?

Serena Williams may not be around to defend her title this year but sister Venus will be looking to go one better to claim a fifth singles title Down Under. 2017’s beaten finalist is up against Belinda Bencic in the opening round.

Simona Halep, who was upset in the first round last year by American Shelby Rogers, and Caroline Wozniacki, who lost in the third round in 2017, were seeded one and two.

Elsewhere, all eyes will be on Maria Sharapova as she returns for only her second grand slam tournament since serving a drugs ban.

The 2008 champion and current world No. 47 kicks off her campaign against a player ranked one place higher, Germany’s Tatjana Maria.