Rusedski faces Becker

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The Independent Online
Greg Rusedski is braced for a battle of the big hitters in the first round of the Australian Open after he was paired with Boris Becker in yesterday's draw. Another Briton, Tim Henman, also faces a stiff first- round test against Petr Korda, of the Czech Republic.

Rusedski, who claims to have the fastest serve in the world, will know that when he meets the world No 3 at Melbourne's Flinders Park next week he will have to upset the odds, after bookmakers installed Becker as 10- 1 joint third favourite.

However, Rusedski is enjoying a run of good form, having made it into yesterday's semi-finals of the Peters International tournament in Sydney, where he lost to Todd Martin.

Pete Sampras, the world No 1, meets Australia's Richard Fromberg in the first round - and could face an even bigger threat in the third round in the form of Mark Philippoussis.

Andre Agassi, who beat Sampras in the final last year, has a much easier path to help him back to fitness after a three-month lay-off caused by an injured chest muscle. He opens against a qualifier and is then then scheduled to face his fellow American Vince Spadea.

Monica Seles was installed as the pre-draw favourite in the absence of the injured Steffi Graf. She starts against a qualifier and should ease through to the semi-finals, where she is seeded to meet Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

The defending champion, Mary Pierce, is in the same quarter as Kimiko Date, and is seeded to meet the No 2, Conchita Martinez, in the semi-finals.