The first Grand Slam of the tennis season is upon us. The 2014 Australian Open is sure to provide hours of spectacular action and set the table for another thrilling year of professional tennis.
The defending champions on both the men's and women's side of the bracket are back, but they aren't the No. 1 seeds.
Novak Djokovic captured the 2013 crown, but he is the No. 2 seed in the tournament this year behind Rafael Nadal.
Here's a look at the TV schedule for the event, per AusOpen.com.
|Sun, Jan 12||7 p.m. – 7 a.m.||Early Round Action||ESPN2|
|Mon, Jan 13||9 p.m. – 7 a.m.||Early Round Action||ESPN2|
|Tue, Jan 14||9 p.m. – 7 a.m.||Early Round Action||ESPN2|
|Wed, Jan 15||9 p.m. – 7 a.m.||Early Round Action||ESPN2|
|Thurs, Jan 16||11 p.m. – 7 a.m.||Early Round Action||ESPN2|
|Fri, Jan 17||9 p.m. – 7 a.m.||Early Round Action||ESPN2|
|Sat, Jan 18||9 p.m. – 2 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|Sun, Jan 19||3 a.m – 6 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|9 p.m. – 2 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|Mon, Jan 20||3 a.m. – 6:30 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|9 p.m – 2 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Tue, Jan 21||3 a.m. – 5:30 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|9 p.m. – 2 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Wed, Jan 22||3:30 a.m. – 6 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|9:30 p.m – 2 a.m.||Women’s Semifinals||ESPN2|
|Thurs, Jan 23||3:30 a.m. – 6 a.m.||Men’s Semifinal No. 1||ESPN|
|Fri, Jan 24||3:30 a.m. – 6 a.m.||Men’s Semifinal No. 2||ESPN|
|Sat, Jan 25||3 a.m. – 5:30 a.m||Women’s Final||ESPN|
|Sun, Jan 26||3 a.m. – 6:30 a.m.||Men’s Final||ESPN|
|Mon, Jan. 13||7 p.m. – 9 p.m.||First-round play||Tennis Channel|
|Tues, Jan. 14||7 p.m. – 9 p.m.||Second-round play||Tennis Channel|
|Weds, Jan. 15||7 p.m. – 9 p.m.||Second-round play||Tennis Channel|
|Thurs, Jan. 16||7 p.m. – 11 p.m.||Third-round play||Tennis Channel|
|Fri, Jan. 17||7 p.m. – 9 p.m.||Third-round play||Tennis Channel|
|Sat, Jan. 18||7 p.m. – 9 p.m.||Round of 16||Tennis Channel|
|Sun, Jan. 19||7 p.m – 9 p.m.||Round of 16||Tennis Channel|
|Mon, Jan. 20||7 p.m. – 9 p.m.||Round of 16/Quarterfinals||Tennis Channel|
|Tues, Jan. 21||3 a.m. – 5:30 a.m.||Quarterfinals||Tennis Channel|
|Weds, Jan. 22||7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.||Quarterfinals/Men’s doubles semis||Tennis Channel|
|Thurs, Jan. 23||11 p.m. – 3 a.m.||Mixed doubles semis/Women’s doubles final||Tennis Channel|
|Sat, Jan. 25||5:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m||Men’s doubles final||Tennis Channel|
|Sun, Jan. 26||12 a.m. – 2 a.m.||Mixed doubles final||Tennis Channel|
Can the Top Seeds Get It Done?
Novak Djokovic Must Overcome an Old Nemesis
Djokovic has won the last three Aussie Opens, but Nadal finished 2013 on a hot streak. The latter's two Grand Slam titles (French Open and U.S. Open) vaulted him back to the No. 1 ranking in the sport.
The two could be headed for another epic meeting in the final. Their next meeting will be the 40th of their careers. Nadal leads the head-to-head record at 22-17. However, Djokovic has won the last two meetings.
He also won the last match that they had at the Australian Open, when he came out on top in a five-set classic over Nadal in the 2012 final. Fans can only hope this year's tournament creates another finale like the one we saw two years ago.
Will Serena Williams Stop Azarenka's Run?
Over the last two years, Williams has won every Grand Slam except the Australian Open. Azarenka has hoisted the trophy both times in Melbourne.
Williams has reclaimed the title of best in the world in the women's side, but can she knock Azarenka off her perch?
A serious rivalry exists between the two women. Williams has dominated Azarenka for the most part. She holds a 15-3 edge in the head-to-head battle and has also won all three Aussie Open meetings between them.
That said, Azarenka has made it tough for Williams lately. Two of her three wins over Williams came in 2013, and three of the matches had to be settled in three sets. No Challenges Remaining echoes my sentiments:
Williams was asked why she was still playing the game at the age of 32 with 17 Grand Slam titles. She told Greg Garber of ESPN (via ABC News), "I can't stop. I love being out there. I love competing. It gives me something to do. For me, it's just about motivating myself and trying to reach new goals."
There isn't a better way to begin the Grand Slam season than with a Williams-Azarenka final.
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