The Australian Open is upon us.
Though there are warm-up tournaments, the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam, offers a broader, more in-depth view of the field of players.
Tennis fans and analysts alike begin to formulate analysis of how the year may potentially unfold.
This slideshow will take a look at top players, who, most are anxious to see.
Please leave feedback as nothing's better than great tennis dialogue to get the season started.
Best Australian Open Performance: Quarterfinals (2011)
Seeded: No. 2
Current Ranking: No. 2
This list just did not seem complete without mentioning Petra Kvitova.
Kvitova is coming off a 2011 season that saw her win six singles titles including the Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon.
Though she had some up-and-down moments (on-court performances and injuries), causing many to question her ability to remain on course to becoming a top contender in the women's field, she eventually proved the naysayers wrong.
Thus far in 2012, she continues to grow into her new role as women's contender and develop her game. She already has a win at the Hopman Cup alongside her fellow countryman, Tomas Berdych.
Along the way, she defeated World No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki. In fact, with a win at the Sydney International Tennis Tournament, Kvitova will become the women's top ranked player (for more information on Wozniacki and Kvitova, please see Caroline Wozniacki slide).
Talk about excitement.
Best Australian Open Performance: Final (2011)
Seeded: No. 5
Li Na had a great start to 2011. Winning the Sydney International. Runner-up at the Australian Open. And her most esteemed honor, winning at the French Open, defeating the defending champion Francesca Schiavone.
She was the first Chinese woman to win a Grand Slam title and the first Grand Slam champion born in an Asian country.
There was much anticipation and many expectations as to her performance for the remainder of the year. Unfortunately, she was unable to live up to those standards.
In preparation for 2012, Li Na spent four weeks in Munich, Germany, going through intensive fitness training, and thus far it seems to be paying off as she is doing quite well in her quest to repeat in Sydney this year leading up to the Australian Open.
So, the world watches to see if Li Na can find that winning momentum of 2011.
Best Australian Open Performance: Quarterfinals (2007)
Seeded: No. 8
Current Ranking: No. 8
Americans will especially be watching as their No.1 player Mardy Fish prepares for 2012.
Like Tsonga, Fish is another player who had somewhat of a rebirth. He set a goal to elevate his fitness and playing level to make him competitive, and it worked.
He was able to see more mid to late-round action and played better against top players in 2011:
- Won Atlanta Tennis Championships for the second straight year
- Third round at the French Open
- Wimbledon quarterfinals
- Rogers Cup Final (pushed No. 1 Novak Djokovic to three sets)
- Defeated No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the Western and Southern Open
- Pushed No. 2 Rafael Nadal to three sets at ATP World Tour Finals
Thus far, 2012 has gotten off to a sluggish start for the American in facing defeat early on at the Hopman Cup, but what would tennis life be without some minor "bumps."
Fish is an experienced player when it comes to "bumps" and successfully overcoming them.
Hopefully, that's exactly what will happen as he begins the Australian Open.
Best Australian Open Performance: Final (2008)
Seeded: No. 6
Current Ranking: No. 6
Tsonga had one of his greatest years on tour in 2011. And before the statement is made, no he does not have a tremendous number of wins, however, what he does have is an elevated and stronger game against the top players.
An excellent example of the new and improved Tsonga was last year at Wimbledon. He came back from a two-set deficit to defeat Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
He may not have come out with the overall victory in as many matches as he or his fans may have desired to, but he was victorious in making his competitors recognize that he's not to be underestimated.
As the Australian Open begins, fans will be watching in hopes of getting a feel for how Tsonga is playing as this season begins and potentially expecting him to be playing toward a Grand Slam final, if not victory.
He already has a 2012 win at the Qatar Open under his belt after his defeat of Gael Monfils.
Best Australian Open Performance: Final (2010 and 2011)
Seeded: No. 4
Current Ranking: No. 4
Very simply stated…
The world watches as Murray begins his 2012 quest to attain a Grand Slam victory.
Murray appears to be quite focused in achieving that elusive victory this year. He made an abrupt decision to hire tennis great, Ivan Lendl as his new coach last month. It has already apparently paid dividends as he won the 2012 Brisbane International.
According to tennis great and Lendl rival John McEnroe, Lendl is that essential component needed to help Murray attain a Grand Slam victory.
Best Australian Open Performance: Won (2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010)
Seeded: No. 3
Current Ranking: No. 3
Will Federer be able to take his end-of-season momentum, winning the BNP Paribas Masters and Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, and use it as a catalyst to make the Australian Open his first big shot in the arm for 2012.
Similar to Rafa, all eyes will be on Federer to see if he can rebound from what turned out to be tough 2011, especially when facing Djokovic. However, he does have that very significant moment in time of ending Djokovic's early 2011 winning streak at the French Open semifinals in four sets. Only time will tell.
Though Federer had to retire at the Qatar Open, as depicted by the photo above, he's practicing for the Australian Open.
Hopefully, Roger will have put the bad memories of losing last year to Djokovic in the semifinals in straight sets and this recent injury behind him to play and play well at the Australian Open.
Best Australian Open Performance: Won (2009)
Seeded: No. 2
Current Ranking: No. 2
As 2012 begins in Australia, questions will be looming as fans watch to see whether or not Nadal has successfully gotten his subpar court performances, loss of No. 1 and defeats at the hands of Novak Djokovic out of his mind. In essence, redeeming himself.
Nadal has not stepped into the winner's circle since 2009.
In 2010, he retired in the third set against Andy Murray, per medical advice concerning his knees. He was down two sets and behind 3-0 in the third.
Last year, he experienced a hamstring injury against David Ferrer, eventually costing him the match, losing in straight sets.
Unfortunately, if his play so far is any indicator, many may already be doubtful. He's coming off a stunning loss to Frenchman Gael Monfils in the Qatar Open semifinals.
However, this is a discussion on Rafael Nadal and any and all things are possible.
Best Australian Open Performance: Won (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010)
Seeded: No. 13
Current Ranking: No. 13
Though she is not the No. 1 seed, she's definitely a highly anticipated player to watch as the Australian Open gets underway next week.
Williams was absent from the field last year as she nursed a severe foot injury incurred following her Wimbledon win in 2010.
Coming into 2012, she was playing well at the Brisbane International, but unfortunately was forced to exit the tournament due to a injury to her left ankle.
It was questionable as to whether or not she would be able to participate in this year's Australian Open.
Great news, however, for Serena fans, according to the official Australian Open website, Serena was practicing on Monday. According to reports, it was obvious to see that as she practiced with her hitting partner Sasha Bijan, there were precautions being taken, but no outward signs that she was having to endure pain.
So, everyone watches to see if Serena will be able to continue her winning ways in Melbourne.
Best Australian Open Performance: Won (2011)
Seeded: No. 12
Current Ranking: No. 12
2011 was a tough year for Clijsters to say the least. Her toughest opponent was injury. She suffered a shoulder injury, an ankle injury and an abdominal injury.
Her only win was the Australian Open.
2012 has gotten off to a rocky start as she had to withdraw from her Brisbane International semifinals match against Daniela Hantuchova (she was leading), due to what an MRI determined to be a muscle spasm in the muscle group on the outside of her thigh.
Though her participation is anticipated, it still seems to be questionable. According to a report on the official Australian Open site, Clijsters was scheduled for intensive treatment and a follow-up check-up on Wednesday, January 11th.
Clijsters has stated that this will be her last Australian Open.
Best Australian Open Performance: Semifinals (2011)
Seeded: No. 1
Current Ranking: No. 1
Just as it is in the case of Andy Murray, eyes are on Caroline Wozniacki to see if this will indeed be her year to add a Grand Slam to her win column.
According to most, it’s part of her right to passage per se in being ranked No. 1 (ended 2010 and 2011 as No. 1 in world).
Thus far in 2012, she lost to Petra Kvitova at the Hopman Cup and was eliminated from the Sydney International by Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals. During this match, she experienced a left-wrist injury. Preliminarily, Wozniacki is saying she's going to get it checked and should be OK to participate in the Australian Open. But only time will tell.
So, though Wozniacki has openly brushed off the competitiveness of Kvitova for the top spot, being realistic, it has to register some in her mind, even more now that she has been eliminated from the Sydney International.
Best Australian Open Performance: Won (2008 and 2011)
Seeded: No. 1
Current Ranking: No. 1
Coming in as the No. 1 seed at the Australian Open as well as No. 1 in the world, Djokovic is no doubt the most anticipated player coming into this tournament.
All eyes are going to be on him to see if he will be the same dominant figure that he was in 2011 and also has he recovered from the back injury at the US Open that plagued to the point that he had to retire from the Davis Cup.
There are many question as to whether or not he will be able to continue his newfound trek to establish a tennis legacy on par to meet or exceed other tennis greats, including but not limited to two of his current competitors—Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.