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Federer awaits the winner of Henman against Rusedski

Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski have been drawn together in the first round of the US Open - with the victor facing the prospect of meeting the world No 1 Roger Federer in round two.

It will be the 10th time the unseeded British pair have played each other, with Henman winning their last six encounters.

The draw favoured the British No 1 and No 17 seed Andy Murray, who will play a qualifier in the opening round. His first major test is likely to come in a third-round tie with the 10th seed Fernando Gonzalez.

The prospect of facing Federer, who begins against Yeu-Tzuoo Wang of Taiwan, will be a big blow for Henman and Rusedski, who are both desperate to get their season back on track.

It will be particularly galling for Henman, now down to 62nd in the world rankings, as he was thrashed by Federer in the second round of Wimbledon this summer. Rusedski, who last beat his long-time British rival in Germany in 1998, has slumped even lower to a ranking of 138.

Henman said: "It is never easy playing against somebody from the same country. Greg and I have played some very important matches against each other over the years, and this one is just as important.

"Both of us would like our rankings to be higher and we have to do well in big events. They don't come any bigger than Grand Slams."

Five British players ­ Josh Goodall, Richard Bloomfield, Katie O'Brien, Sarah Borwell and Melanie South ­ are hoping to secure a place through qualifying.

The second seed Rafael Nadal has been handed a difficult test against the Australian wild card Mark Philippoussis, who reached the final in 1998, when he lost to Pat Rafter.

Andre Agassi will have to work hard to make his retirement tournament a successful one as he starts against the Romanian Andrei Pavel before a possible second-round meeting with the Wimbledon semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

The former women's champion Serena Williams, who is unseeded after six months out with a knee injury, meets Lourdes Dominguez Lino but could play the world No 18 Daniela Hantuchova in round two.

The top seed Amélie Mauresmo will start against a qualifier while the second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne has what looks an easy opener against the Italian Elena Camerin.

The world No 2 Kim Clijsters may return earlier than expected as a scan on her wrist suggested the injury could heal more quickly, a source close to the player said yesterday.

The Belgian had initially feared she would be out of action for more than two months. The injury has left her unable to defend her US Open crown next week.