For two weeks in January, all eyes will be on Melbourne Park as the 2013 Australian Open—the year's first Grand Slam—gets underway from Down Under.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and counterpart Victoria Azarenka will be looking to defend their tournament titles, while high-profile favorites Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams will look to add to their trophy cases.
Before the action begins on Monday, here are my bold predictions for the year's first major event.
Roger Federer Will Miss Out on Final
At age 31, 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has seen his best days at the Australian Open. The four-time Aussie Open champion hasn't won Down Under or even reached the final since 2010, three years ago.
Therefore, I predict Fed will miss out on the men's final for the third straight time in 2013. After making five men's finals in Australia from 2004 to 2010, Fed has lost in the semifinals in each of the past two years there.
Andre Agassi, in 2003, was the last man over age 30 to reach the final and ultimately win the Australian Open. He was 32 when he won it a decade ago.
Novak Djokovic Will Win Back-to-Back-to-Back Titles
If there is a clear-cut favorite in the men's draw this January, it's got to be two-time defending tournament champion Novak Djokovic, who also enters 2013 as the world's No. 1 male player.
The five-time Grand Slam champion has won three times at the Australian Open since 2008 and is in the midst of a 14-match win streak at Melbourne Park, having won the last two tournaments Down Under. It's going to take an awfully gutsy performance from one of the top contenders in order for Djokovic to miss out on a third straight title.
That's why I predict Nole will once again do what he does best in Australia—conquer the field and head home with the hardware for a third straight year.
Serena Williams Will Claim Sixth Aussie Open Title
You won't find a hotter player than Serena Williams in Melbourne this January. The No. 3 seed on the women's side, Williams has won 35 of her last 36 singles matches and the last two Grand Slams dating back to 2012.
The 2013 Australian Open will be her first major tournament since turning 31 last September, but she has so much momentum on her side that it's impossible to imagine anyone cooling her off. She recently cruised to a win at the WTA Brisbane International last week ahead of the year's first Slam event.
A five-time champion of this event, I predict Williams will win her third consecutive Grand Slam overall and sixth career Slam Down Under to open the new year.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter throughout the 2013 Australian Open for reaction and analysis on the year's first Grand Slam.
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