Given its position so early in the 2014 season, the Australian Open is often the most difficult of the four Grand Slams to handicap and predict.
The dearth of recent performances to judge and the tricky nature of translating 2013 success or failure to any one player’s pending fortunes Down Under makes it in many cases a shot in the dark.
That said, it’s still one of the four biggest tournaments of the season, so we’re going to fire away on what we expect from the top women and men tennis players in the world at the 2014 Australian Open, which begins Monday (Sunday night in the United States).
The men’s side, of course, is dominated by the Big Three—Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray—yet there are a handful of elite stars looking to end their recent stranglehold on the sport’s biggest tournaments. Among them is Roger Federer, who is focused on regaining his standing alongside those champions.
Likewise, a talented group of focused and determined women lurk directly behind overwhelming favorite Serena Williams, led by rival and two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka, and are ready to pounce on any opportunity to steal a career-defining Slam title from the world’s top player. It’s no easy task, but it did happen here last year.
So here’s a look at the top seven players on both the men’s and women’s side with the best chance to begin the 2014 campaign with a Grand Slam title.