Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka return to defend their titles in the Australian Open, tennis' first major tournament of the season. Neither player is the top seed in their respective bracket, however, with Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams taking those honors.
More of the usual suspects, including Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Li Na, are among the other contenders hoping to capture the Grand Slam. There's always a chance the event will serve as breakout opportunity for players on the rise as well.
Without further ado, let's check out the key live stream information for the tournament. It's important to note that Melbourne is 16 hours ahead of the United States' East Coast, so Monday's action down under will actually start on Sunday night, and so on.
Live Stream Information
Where: Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia
When: Sunday, Jan. 12 – Sunday, Jan. 26
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
One question heading into the season is whether this will be the year parity finally returns to men's tennis at the majors. Since the 2005 French Open the quartet of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray has won all but one Grand Slam (Juan Martín del Potro, 2009 U.S. Open).
That's a remarkable run, and it could very well continue in 2014 because that group of players always seems to elevate its level of play on the biggest stages. That's been especially true for Djokovic, who's won the Australian Open each of the last three years.
He's once again the player to beat, especially after catching some breaks in the draw. The other three members of the "Big Four" are all on the opposite half of the draw. So while he could have to contend with David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka, his path to the final is favorable.
Kurt Streeter of the Los Angeles Times doesn't think he can be stopped:
Nadal figures to serve as his toughest competition. The sensational Spaniard didn't play in the event last year, but he did end last season's Grand Slam season on a high note by winning on the hard courts of the U.S. Open.
Federer and Murray are both slightly less likely to emerge with the trophy. Federer has won just a single major title over the past three years, and Murray has been dealing with a back injury, which limits expectations for him early in the season.
Del Potro also deserves some attention after winning the Sydney warm-up event. He didn't score any huge wins en route to the title, but scoring four straight wins over top-50 foes and his U.S. Open title make him worth keeping any eye on at the very least.
In terms of a dark horse, look no further than big-serving Kevin Anderson. He's on the more navigable bottom half of the draw and has the power game necessary to make some serious noise if he passes a tricky test from Jiri Vesely in the opening round.
Williams has been dominant over the past two years, but her success hasn't carried over to the Australian Open. It's the only major she hasn't captured over that timespan, and she's failed to make it past the quarterfinals either time.
Yet, it's still extremely difficult to pick against her in any tournament right now. When the 17-time singles champion is in peak form nobody on tour can beat her. And even if Williams is having an off-day she's a tough out.
Should the best women's player of the era and potentially of all time falter, the obvious second choice is Azarenka. The two-time defending champion excels in Melbourne and reached the final in Brisbane to kick off before falling to Williams in two close sets.
The next group of contenders, which is a clear step below Williams and Azarenka, would be Sharapova, who has the power to make a deep run, and Li, who sports a strong all-around game and reached the Aussie Open final last year.
Li is desperate to get back in the winner's circle at a Grand Slam, as the tournament's official Twitter account noted:
Other players to watch include Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Sloane Stephens and Ana Ivanovic. All of them would need a couple breaks from the draw along the way to win but shouldn't be counted out completely.
Finally, in terms of a potential long shot make a deep run the best choice is Lucie Safarova. The Czech star's talent hasn't translated into much Grand Slam success, but she could finally be ready to take the next step and has a good draw for the first few rounds.
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