Australian Open 2013: Breaking Down Favorites at Melbourne
The 2013 Australian Open, also dubbed the Happy Slam, gets underway on Monday, and the tennis world could not be any more excited.
The men's and women's draws present breathtaking matches and possibilities, but the man and woman who will win the singles titles cannot yet be determined.
The oddsmakers have made smart judgements based on the players' history in Melbourne in the past few years and current matches.
Though there are a few questions to ask about the athletes on each side, the fans in Australia can be sure that the tournament will essentially revolve around the favorites.
Let's take a closer look at these players and how they might perform against their opponents.
Graham Denholm/Getty Images
While Nole is the favorite to win outright, let it be clear that he didn't win very much of anything last year even though his year was among the best in the game.
Djokovic reached a multitude of finals and won a few important events, but he was unable to replicate his 2011 season.
The Serb must be happy to be back at his best tournament next to the U.S. Open, and he'll be anticipating to defend his points from last year while backing up his prestigious title.
One cannot be entirely convinced that he will be in top form, even though he won the World Tour Finals, but it is safe to say he is the favorite and should certainly reach the semifinals without any tests.
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Though he is the slight (second) favorite over Roger Federer, his section of the draw should pave him a much clearer path to the semifinals.
Before the draw was released, Federer could have perhaps been labeled the second-best player "down under," but it seems that his quarterfinals run is more in danger now than ever before.
The Scot won the tune-up event in Brisbane last week and is coming off a splendid second half of the 2012 season. He is very much in form and could rival Novak Djokovic once more in a major final should they both make it to the finish line.
Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images
The Australian Open, Federer's least successful major besides Roland Garros, always allows for the Swiss to play some of his best tennis. Unfortunately, he has lost many encounters, even when playing at such a high level (examples would be against Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal—the two men who have combined to stop him a total of four times in the last five years).
Since Rafa is out and Murray has never beaten the Maestro in a major before, the only definitive threat would be the Serb, who lies on the other half of the draw (the two rivals have never faced off in a Melbourne final before).
The problem with Feds being the third choice as a favorite is that his early matches are all painfully tough, more so than usual.
Nikolay Davydenko, Milos Raonic and Thomaz Bellucci are just a few potential candidates who could give the No. 2 player a run for his money.
Still, never count the 17-major-holding legend out too soon.
Robert Prezioso/Getty Images
Serena is undoubtedly the most dominant player in the women's field right now, even if her ranking doesn't prove that fact.
Yes, she also won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and a warm-up tournament just a few days ago as well.
She is red-hot and shows up in almost every tournament she plays (with last year's French Open being an exception). Though Victoria Azarenka may be her biggest rival for the tournament, you would have to be crazy to predict any upset.
Robert Prezioso/Getty Images
Azarenka has been in top form lately as well, though she pulled out of a tournament last week due to a toe injury.
She and Serena stand greater chances to win the title outright than Maria Sharapova simply because of how match-tough and successful they have been in the past few months.
Vika's best major, here in Melbourne, is only days away, and she will be looking to earn a second title to officially make her breakthrough.
Follow B/R Tennis Community Leader and Featured Columnist, Jeff Cohn, on Twitter.