The Australian Open truly marks the beginning of tennis season as the year's first Grand Slam, and fans across the world can't help but be excited about it. There should undoubtedly be plenty of great competition in both the men's and women's draws, and it's pretty much a guarantee that the season will get off to a great start.
As entertaining as the Aussie Open is, it can be a difficult tournament for fans to watch at times due to the time difference. That is particularly menacing for American tennis fans, but there are ways to make it work. A great deal of television coverage will be provided, and it's possible to catch the vast majority of the action.
Here is a look at the entire Australian Open television schedule as well as a breakdown of the top storylines that you should keep track of while watching.
|Sunday, Jan. 12||7 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Monday, Jan. 13||3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Early Round||ESPN2|
|Monday, Jan. 13||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||First round||Tennis Channel|
|Monday, Jan, 13||9 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Tuesday, Jan. 14||3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Tuesday, Jan. 14||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Second round||Tennis Channel|
|Tuesday, Jan. 14||9 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, Jan. 15||3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, Jan. 15||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Second round||Tennis Channel|
|Wednesday, Jan. 15||9 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Thursday, Jan. 16||3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Thursday, Jan. 16||7 p.m. - 11 p.m.||Third round||Tennis Channel|
|Thursday, Jan. 16||11 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Friday, Jan. 17||3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Friday, Jan. 17||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Third round||Tennis Channel|
|Friday, Jan. 17||9 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Saturday, Jan. 18||9 a.m. - 12 p.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Saturday, Jan. 18||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Round of 16||Tennis Channel|
|Saturday, Jan. 18||9 p.m. - 2 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|Saturday, Jan. 18||3 a.m. - 7 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|Sunday, Jan. 19||11 a.m. - 3 p.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|Sunday, Jan. 19||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Round of 16||Tennis Channel|
|Sunday, Jan. 19||9 p.m. - 2 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|Sunday, Jan. 19||3 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|Monday, Jan. 20||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Quarterfinals||Tennis Channel|
|Monday, Jan. 20||9 p.m. - 2 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Monday, Jan. 20||3 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Tuesday, Jan. 21||3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Tuesday, Jan. 21||7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Quarterfinals||Tennis Channel|
|Tuesday, Jan. 21||9 p.m. - 2 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Tuesday, Jan. 21||3:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, Jan. 22||3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, Jan. 22||7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.||TBA||Tennis Channel|
|Wednesday, Jan. 22||9:30 p.m. - 2 a.m.||Women's semifinals||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, Jan. 22||3:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.||Men's semifinal #1||ESPN|
|Thursday, Jan. 23||2 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Men's semifinal #1||ESPN2|
|Thursday, Jan. 23||11 p.m. - 3 a.m.||Women's doubles final||Tennis Channel|
|Thursday, Jan. 23||3:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.||Men's semifinal #2||ESPN|
|Friday, Jan. 24||2 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Men's semifinal #2||ESPN2|
|Friday, Jan. 24||3 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.||Women's championship||ESPN|
|Saturday, Jan. 25||5:30 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.||Men's doubles final||Tennis Channel|
|Saturday, Jan. 25||9 a.m. - 11 a.m.||Women's championship||ESPN2|
|Saturday, Jan. 25||3 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.||Men's championship||ESPN|
|Sunday, Jan. 26||9 a.m. - 2 p.m.||Men's championship||ESPN2|
|Sunday, Jan. 26||12 a.m. - 2 a.m.||Mixed doubles final||Tennis Channel|
Parity in Men's Tennis
With so many elite-level competitors, it can certainly be argued that this is the golden age of men's tennis. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer steal headlines as the "Big Four," but it's also important to take the likes of David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych into account since they are capable of giving the top guys a run for their money as well.
Even so, Djokovic is the prohibitive favorite as he seeks his fourth consecutive Aussie Open title, according the Australian Open's official Twitter account.
Djokovic will unquestionably face some tough challenges along the way, though. Rafa is riding high after winning the French Open and U.S. Open in 2013, and he would love to win his second Australian Open title this year. Things won't come easily for the Spanish star, though, as he has some concerns about the Aussie Open's faster playing surface, per Leo Schlink of the Herald Sun.
Faster conditions that I ever played here in Australia. I really don't understand very well why they change because the last couple of years, Australian Open had amazing matches, long ones, good ones for the crowd. I don't know why the people who decide to make the conditions that fast. I am not sure for the show is the best thing. But they decide and I'm just a player to try to be competitive from the beginning.
Perhaps Nadal's discomfort will open the door for Murray to break through and win his first Australian Open. He has come extremely close with three finals appearances, but the Brit has yet to close the deal. Even though he has struggled as of late, Federer can't be counted out, either. With so much uncertainty within the men's draw, it should make for a highly entertaining tournament.
Serena Williams' Dominance
Most female tennis players are nearing retirement by the age of 32, but Serena Williams seems to be firmly in her prime. For as much competition as there is in the men's game, it is essentially nonexistent on the women's side. Williams is the clear No. 1, followed by Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and then everyone else.
Serena is so good, in fact, that there is a belief that she can become the first female to win all four Grand Slams in a year since 1988, according BBC Sport.
Serena Williams can become the first woman since 1988 to win four Grand Slams in the same year, her coach believes. http://t.co/A484Y8nbxd— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 9, 2014
In order to do that, though, Serena will have to break a bit of a dry spell in Melbourne. Williams is a five-time Australian Open champion, but she hasn't taken the crown since 2010. Last season was particularly frustrating, as she was eliminated by fellow American Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals. An injury played a big role in Williams' meltdown, so staying healthy this time around will be the main focus.
Serena is unquestionably the best female player in the world when she is feeling good, and all signs point to that being the case. Williams steamrolled the competition at the warm-up tournament in Brisbane, and she is the overwhelming favorite in Melbourne. Serena didn't win the Aussie Open or Wimbledon last year, so anything can happen, but it wouldn't be wise to bet against her.
Roger Federer's Struggles
Who will win the 2014 Australian Open men's title?
Roger Federer is easily one of the greatest tennis players ever, but every run of dominance must come to an end. Federer certainly has since been surpassed by the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Murray, but that doesn't mean that he is a non-factor. Federer still has immense talent, and it isn't crazy to think that he can put it all together over the course of a single tournament.
Fed was only able to win one tournament last year, though, and he was knocked out early in a couple of Grand Slams by unheralded players such as Tommy Robredo and Sergiy Stakhovsky. If Federer is unable to beat them, then he'll have a heck of a time against the top players. It is important to note that the Australian Open will be Federer's 57th straight Grand Slam tournament, which is a new record, according to Christopher Clarey of the New York Times.
Federer's longevity and durability are absolutely incredible, but he'll need more than that to succeed in Melbourne. Unforced errors have really killed Federer over the past year, so he needs to figure out a way to improve his accuracy and decision-making.
Unfortunately for Federer, though, his draw creates the possibility of having to beat Tsonga, Murray, Nadal and Djokovic to win this tournament, and it's hard to imagine that happening.
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