No more warm-up tournaments. The time is now. The 2013 Australian Open kicks off today.
Amidst all the lead up excitement for the first major of the year, there were two tournaments this week in the ATP World Tour, one in Sydney and one in Auckland.
One tournament had its fair share of surprises and upsets, while the other seemingly stuck to the script. Both of the tournaments were 250 level tournaments, but what they lacked in points they made up for in important preparation for Melbourne.
Some big results came for Aussie Open hopefuls. Let's take a quick glance and review the two latest tournaments on the men's side.
Where: Sydney, Australia
Tournament level: 250
Notable entries (w/rankings): John Isner (14), Gilles Simon (16) [Note: Simon withdrew with neck pain prior to tournament start], Andreas Seppi (23), Fernando Verdasco (24), Bernard Tomic (43), Grigor Dimitrov (48), Ryan Harrison (62), Roberto Bautista-Agut (80)
Results: In the battle of the unseeded, Bernard Tomic took out the big serving South African Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3, for his first career ATP title.
Good showings: Obviously, the big winner this week was Australia's own Bernard Tomic. The 20-year-old won his first ever title on tour, jumped 21 spots in the ranking from 64 to 43, and did it just before the commencement of the Australian Open.
It was really the perfect thing that Tomic and the Australian fans needed to pump them up for the first major (as if they ever need any help). It certainly wasn't an easy road for Tomic either. En route to the title he had to battle past seeded German Florian Mayer, the Fin and former-top 15 Jarkko Nieminen, Italy's top man Andreas Seppi, and a huge serving Kevin Anderson.
How about the 6-foot-8 runner-up Kevin Anderson? Solid tournament for the big guy from South Africa. Anderson, a difficult player to face due to his massive serving game, can build on the result moving forward. With a world ranking of 36, Anderson just missed being a seed in the Australian Open. He is now sitting at No. 31 in the world, and could be a dangerous floater in the main draw.
Denis Istomin had another solid tournament, and picked up a big win over fourth-seed Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-3, before falling to runner-up Kevin Anderson. Istomin, 26, made the quarters last week in Brisbane losing to Andy Murray, but not before taking out a seeded Martin Klizan.
Good, solid performance from Italy's No. 1 Andreas Seppi. Seppi made the semis with a solid win over Spaniard Marcel Granollers, and played a very tight and entertaining 6-7(10), 4-6, match against would-be-champion Tomic.
Seppi served an impressive 76 percent on the match and was winning 86 percent of his first-serve points. He faced just a single break point all match. Ironically, it was the only one Tomic needed. His return let him down however as he converted none of his six break point opportunities.
Disappointing: Top-seed John Isner went crashing out of the tournament in his first match, and it was at the hands of American compatriot Ryan Harrison. In typical John Isner fashion, the big man served closed to 70 percent on the match, and was winning 75 percent of his first serve points. But surprisingly, he could not hold off the scrappy return game of Harrison, who went 3-for-3 on break points. Isner won just 25 percent of his return points as opposed to Harrison who won 34 percent.
For the second tournament in a row, the seeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy was sent crashing out in the first round. Last week in Doha, it was at the hands of German Daniel Brands, and this week it was Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
World No. 24 Fernando Verdasco was handily dismissed in his first match by Uzbek Denis Istomin 3-6, 3-6. Verdasco was winning just 57 percent of his service points, and never had a break point on Istomin's serve. Istomin has now won the last two meetings against the upper-seeded Verdasco (2012 Olympics, Sydney 2013).
Where: Auckland, New Zealand
Tournament level: 250
Results: In a battle of the top seeds, No. 1 seed David Ferrer took out No. 2 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(5), 6-1, to win his third-straight, and record-tying fourth title in Auckland.
Good showings: It was a good showing for the top four seeds in the tournament, as David Ferrer, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Sam Querrey all made the semi-finals of the tournament. Tommy Haas was ousted in the quarters at the hands of comeback player Gael Monfils.
Still, when the three of your top four seeds make the semis and all make at least the quarters, the top players were winning the matches they were supposed to win, which is tough to do sometimes at the beginning of the season.
David Ferrer gets a big congratulations as he dropped just a single set in the tournament en route to his third-straight Auckland title, as well as tying the great Australian Roy Emerson with four career Auckland titles.
Gael Monfils, who until last week had only played three tournaments since May of 2012, had a solid semifinals run defeating Jurgen Melzer and Tommy Haas along the way. Monfils has had trouble recovering from a knee injury, but this week he had a bit more of the form and flare that fans have come to expect from the exuberant Frenchman.
Disappointing: Seeds five through eight had absolutely dismal tournaments. Jerzy Janowicz, Jurgen Melzer, and Martin Klizan were all ousted in the first round by Brian Baker (59), Greg Jones (322), and Xavier Malisse (52) respectively. Only Bellucci made it out of the first round before he was handily defeated in straight sets by Lukas Lacko (44) of Slovakia in the second.
After a semifinals run by Benoit Paire in Chennai last week, the Frenchman was ousted in Auckland in his first match by crafty veteran Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Tapei in three sets 3-6, 6-2, 2-6. Paire is matched up against Roger Federer in the first round of the Australian Open, and while the extra rest might be good, a first round exit after his good results in Chennai were probably not what he wanted or expected.
All the draw information for the tournament as well as T.V. Schedules, live scoring, news articles and more can be found here at the Australian Open official website.
Be sure to follow Bleacher Report for the next two weeks for live tournament updates and plenty of articles and analysis!
The ATP World Tour Review will pick back up after the Australian Open to break down the tournament and results. Enjoy a great two weeks of tennis folks.
Be sure to follow Jason on twitter @SirJDL during the 2013 Australian Open for tournament updates, opinions and more.