Ahead of Friday's main draw, all 32 seeds have been announced for the men's and women's sides at the 2016 Australian Open.
To the surprise of no one, defending Australian Open champions Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will be the top seeds. That duo has a lot to live up to after they both won three major titles last year, but they've been playing at a level far beyond anyone else that they will handle the pressure just fine.
Here's the full list of seedings for this year's Australian Open that begins on Jan. 18:
|2016 Australian Open Seeds|
|Novak Djokovic||1||Serena Williams|
|Andy Murray||2||Simona Halep|
|Roger Federer||3||Garbine Muguruza|
|Stan Wawrinka||4||Agnieszka Radwanska|
|Rafael Nadal||5||Maria Sharapova|
|Tomas Berdych||6||Petra Kvitova|
|Kei Nishikori||7||Angelique Kerber|
|David Ferrer||8||Venus Williams|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||9||Karolina Pliskova|
|John Isner||10||Carla Suarez Navarro|
|Kevin Anderson||11||Timea Bacsinszky|
|Marin Cilic||12||Belinda Bencic|
|Milos Raonic||13||Roberta Vinci|
|Gilles Simon||14||Victoria Azarenka|
|David Goffin||15||Madison Keys|
|Bernard Tomic||16||Caroline Wozniacki|
|Benoit Paire||17||Sara Errani|
|Feliciano Lopez||18||Elina Svitolina|
|Dominic Thiem||19||Jelena Jankovic|
|Fabio Fognini||20||Ana Ivanovic|
|Viktor Troicki||21||Ekaterina Makarova|
|Ivo Karlovic||22||Andrea Petkovic|
|Gael Monfils||23||Svetlana Kuznetsova|
|Roberto Bautista Agut||24||Sloane Stephens|
|Jack Sock||25||Samantha Stosur|
|Guillermo Garcia-Lopez||26||Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova|
|Grigor Dimitrov||27||Anna Karolina Schmiedlova|
|Andreas Seppi||28||Kristina Mladenovic|
|Nick Kyrgios||29||Irina-Camelia Begu|
|Jeremy Chardy||30||Sabine Lisicki|
|Steve Johnson||31||Lesia Tsurenko|
|Joao Sousa||32||Caroline Garcia|
Women's Draw, per WTA Fan
🔥WTA FAN🔥 @fanofwta
2016 Australian Open women's draw https://t.co/wgJBcrPbVY1/15/2016, 12:00:44 AM
Men's Draw, per Andrew Jerell Jones of the Guardian
Andrew Jerell Jones @sluggahjells
And the @ATPWorldTour / men's draw for the 2016 @AustralianOpen #AusOpenDraw https://t.co/GA9vj5aJy81/15/2016, 12:15:53 AM
The 2016 Australian Open has not even started, yet there are a litany of health problems on the women's side that could greatly open up the field.
According to Agence France-Presse (via Yahoo Sports), the list of key women's players who have been hindered leading up to tennis' first major is a murderers' row group of players who would normally be among the list of favorites.
World number one Serena Williams is chief among the injury concerns after she pulled out of the Hopman Cup exhibition tournament with a sore knee. But the 21-time Grand Slam-winner is not alone, with only her sister Venus and Flavia Pennetta -- who has retired -- unscathed among the women's top 10. Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova have all pulled out of build-up tournaments because of injury concerns.
The report also mentioned that Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber have been fighting gastroenteritis. Lucie Safarova has withdrawn from the Australian Open with a bacterial infection.
It's unclear how much injuries to these players were the result of actual problems and how much they felt a twinge and wanted to make sure everything would be fine by the time the biggest major arrived.
If things do work out according to seeds, the quarterfinals will look like this, per the Australian Open:
PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS Serena v Sharapova Radwanska v Kvitova Muguruza v Kerber Halep v Venus1/14/2016, 11:56:21 PM
Sharapova vs. Williams is the headliner in that group, though that's been one of the most lopsided "rivalries" in sports, with Williams holding an 18-2 edge that includes 17 straight victories.
Williams did end last year on the shelf with injuries, withdrawing from her final two tournaments, so she will be under the microscope. The world's top-ranked player did say leading up to the event she was feeling good, per the Herald Sun (via Adam Smith of the Daily Mail).
"My body is feeling great now, obviously I had a hiccup but right now it is doing much better. I've had a few days of training so it's looking good," Williams said.
Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times did include Williams in his list of winners coming out of the draw:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
Draw winners: Serena, Azarenka, Venus. Because they're nowhere near each other. #AusOpen1/15/2016, 12:06:02 AM
As long as Williams is standing, she will be the favorite to win. But there's a lot more depth on the women's side than there has been in a long time, so this could be the year for Simona Halep to get her first major victory or for Garbine Muguruza to advance to her first Australian Open final.
The never-ending question in men's tennis is, when does Roger Federer's decline start? He's going to play most of this year at age 34, which is young by normal standards but ancient in the tennis world.
Federer has been usurped by Djokovic in the rankings, but he's also gone three full seasons without winning a major. He's come close many times, losing three finals since 2014, but the fastball has lost a couple of miles per hour.
While no one is specifically writing Federer's tennis eulogy heading into the Australian Open, there is more of talk around him that the end is coming.
Here's what former player Younes El Aynaoui told ATP's YouTube channel (via Gatto Luigi of Tennis World USA) about Federer's career and future.
"For the way he plays he is near to do it, he is not far away," El Aynaoui said. " I hope we will see him playing for a few more years, it's amazing the way he hits the ball."
It's certainly a compliment to have players, both past and present, praise the job you've done, but it does sound like the expectation is Federer's end will come sooner than later.
Last year's Australian Open was Federer's worst run in a Grand Slam tournament since 2013. He was knocked out in the third round by Andreas Seppi in four sets. He responded with a quarterfinal run in the French Open and a runner-up finish at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Federer is set up to make a deep run, as ESPN Tennis points out he would have the second-easiest quarterfinal matchup if seeds hold:
#AusOpen men’s potential quarters if seeds hold: Djokovic-Nishikori Federer-Berdych Nadal-Wawrinka Ferrer-Murray1/15/2016, 12:09:25 AM
Unfortunately, Djokovic would be waiting for Federer in the semifinals if things work out in the quarterfinals for the higher seeds.
Things don't look easier for Rafael Nadal in his quest for a strong comeback season, with freelance sports writer Simon Cambers noting Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray are on the bottom half of the bracket with him.
Depth isn't a strength for men's tennis right now. Djokovic is the best in the world by far. Murray had a terrific bounce-back season in 2015, reaching the semifinals in three majors. Wawrinka, who is seeded behind Federer in this tournament, is arguably the second-best men's player in the world and was the only person to defeat Djokovic in a major last year.
Federer has proved he can withstand almost any challenge thrown in front of him. Time is the one thing no athlete can outrun. He's going to slow down at some point, but this year's Australian Open will provide the best evidence yet of how much is left in the tank.
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