The Australian Open is always a special event. It's the first Grand Slam tournament of the season, which means players are filled with hope that a new year will bring improved results. How they perform over the next two weeks can impact their entire 2013.
Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka arrive in Melbourne as the defending champions. The victory marked Djokovic's fourth triumph in five major events, but he didn't capture another one in 2012. It's Azarenka's only Grand Slam title.
Both players are strong contenders again, but will have to outlast deep fields in order to repeat as champions. Andy Murray and Roger Federer are the other top challengers on the men's side while Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are the biggest threats to Azarenka.
Here's a look at all the key information for the two-week event, followed by a complete schedule and predictions for which players will win the Aussie Open title.
Where: Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia
When: Sunday, Jan. 13-Saturday, Jan. 26
Watch: ESPN2 or Tennis Channel
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
2013 Australian Open Schedule
|1||Jan. 13||6:30 p.m. - 7 a.m.||First Round||ESPN2|
|2||Jan. 14||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||First Round||Tennis Channel|
|9 p.m. - 7 a.m.||First Round||ESPN2|
|3||Jan. 15||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Second Round||Tennis Channel|
|9 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Second Round||ESPN2|
|4||Jan. 16||7 p.m. - 11 p.m.||Second Round||Tennis Channel|
|11 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Second Round||ESPN2|
|5||Jan. 17||7 p.m. - 11 p.m.||Third Round||Tennis Channel|
|11 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Third Round||ESPN2|
|6||Jan. 18||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Third Round||Tennis Channel|
|9 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Third Round||ESPN2|
|7||Jan. 19||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Round of 16||Tennis Channel|
|9 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|8||Jan. 20||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Round of 16||Tennis Channel|
|9 p.m. - 6 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|9||Jan. 21||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Quarterfinals||Tennis Channel|
|9 p.m. - 6 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|10||Jan. 22||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Quarterfinals||Tennis Channel|
|9 p.m. - 6 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|11||Jan. 23||7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.||Quarterfinals||Tennis Channel|
|9:30 p.m. - 6 a.m.||Semifinals||ESPN2|
|12||Jan. 24||3:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.||Semifinals||ESPN2|
|13||Jan. 25||3 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.||Women's Final||ESPN2|
|14||Jan. 26||3 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.||Men's Final||ESPN2|
Note: The tournament is taking place in Melbourne, Australia, which is 16 hours ahead of the United States' East Coast. In order to keep the schedule uniform, the times are listed by the tournament's match day. For example, the men's final is listed as Jan. 26 at 3 a.m. ET, which is actually the early morning of Jan. 27 on the East Coast and Match Day 14 in Australia.
Men's Pick: Andy Murray
One year ago, Murray still didn't have a major title under his belt and was working out the kinks with new coach Ivan Lendl. He still couldn't advance beyond the semifinals, however, losing a tremendous five-set match to Djokovic, eventual champion.
A lot has changed since that match. The Scottish star finally got the Grand Slam monkey off his back by winning the US Open, which came shortly after capturing Olympic gold in London. It will allow him to enter 2013's first big event with plenty of confidence.
And he'll need it. The luck of the draw didn't favor Murray, who will likely need to survive a difficult journey to raise the trophy. If the seeds hold, the 25-year-old star will be forced to go through Juan Martin del Potro, Federer and Djokovic to win the title.
While it's not an ideal path, it's the type of run Murray must make if he wants to make a serious charge toward the No. 1 ranking. After finishing last season's major schedule on a high note, look for him to do the same to start the new season.
Women's Pick: Serena Williams
The only person who can stop Williams when she's in her current form is herself. It may sounds cliché, but it's the truth. The American has won 35 of her last 36 matches and won the final two majors of last season after a shocking loss in the French Open first round.
That loss to Virginie Razzano seemed to refuel Williams' competitive fire. She got back to basics, which for her means a monster serve and unmatched groundstrokes, leaving opponents with virtually no path to victory.
It's been an amazing run.
She enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed, but that's simply due to her light playing schedule compared to other players. Williams is still viewed as the heavy favorite, and it would qualify as a surprise if she doesn't win the title.
Her projected path is far from easy, with potential matches against Maria Kirilenko, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Yet, Williams is a step (probably two or three) above the rest right now.
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