6 Key Storylines To Watch Monday
As the Australian Open gets under way, reigning champion Roger Federer stands in the way of Rafael Nadal's bid to win his fourth successive Grand Slam event.
"Roger and Rafa are the two guys that have played the best tennis in the Slams the last few years," said Britain's Andy Murray, the fifth seed. "They'd be the favourites but I think there are a lot of guys that can win against them if they play."
World number one Caroline Wozniacki is top seed in the women's tournament. But the majority of the pre-event publicity has focused on the men, with Federer, who is targeting a 17th Grand Slam, saying Nadal's success in the last three majors could see him become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time.
Organisers have decided to start the tournament by playing the bottom half of the draw on the Men's side and the top half of the draw on the Women's side.
Here are some of the highlights to follow on day one at the Australian Open :
No. 2 Roger Federer (SUI) V Lukas Lacko (SVK)
Defending champion Roger Federer is bidding to become just the 2nd man in history to win 5 Australian Open titles. He starts with a 1st round match-up against Slovak Republic’s Lukas Lacko on Rod Laver Arena.
The man from Switzerland has never lost in the 1st round here in his 11 previous appearances; the last time he fell at this stage of a Grand Slam was 2003 Roland Garros. The Australian Open defending champion has only lost in the 1st round twice in Open Era history, and not since 1996.
The number 2 seed won 4 other titles in 2010, including his fifth year-end title at the ATP World Tour Finals in London (d. Rafael Nadal 63 36 61). He finished the year in the Top 2 for a record eighth straight year.
Last but not least, this is Federer's 45th straight Grand Slam tournament which puts him in 4th place for the longest streak of Grand Slam Open Era appearances.
Meanwhile it will be Lacko’s 4th Australian Open. He is bidding to reach the 2nd round, and equal his best Grand Slam result, for the 2nd consecutive year.
Lacko lost to Rafael Nadal in the second round of the Qatar Open two weeks ago. However he dared to take the second set from the top seed with a 6-0 mark.
It will be the first time Federer and Lacko meet.
No. 3 Novak Djokovic (SRB) V Marcel Granollers (ESP)
Djokovic will be playing at the first night session of this year's Australian Open.
This is 2008 champion's 7th consecutive Australian Open.
The man from Serbia is one of six Grand Slam champion in the men’s draw and one of three men playing here who are bidding for a 2nd Grand Slam title.
Meanwhile, the Marcel Granollers is bidding to reach the 2nd round here, which would equal his best result in a major. Last year here, he lost in the 2nd round to Alejandro Falla after defeating No. 8 seed Robin Soderling in the 1st round.
The players have never met before.
No. 8 Andy Roddick (USA) V Jan Hajek (CZE)
Former World number one Andy Roddick is said to be back at the peak of his form.
The American brings a 34-9 career record into his 10th trip to Melbourne and comes in after opening the season with a runner-up showing in Brisbane.
He was defeated in Brisbane final by Robin Söderling. The top American takes on Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic in the first round in a first-time meeting.
Meanwhile, Hajek has never won a Grand Slam match (0-4).
No. 12 Gaël Monfils (FRA) V Thiemo De Bakker (NED)
Rising star Gaël Monfils is attempting to win his first major and along with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga the best French hope in Men's tennis.
Monfils has tremendous athletics skills. The 12th seed is contesting his 6th Australian Open and his 21st major. His best result at Melbourne Park is a round of 16 finish in 2009, where he lost to his compatriot Gilles Simon.
On the other side of the net, De Bakker will be trying to win his first match at Melbourne Park.
De Bakker had a breakthrough year in 2010. He had third round finishes at three of the four Grand Slams, he also finished the year ranked in the Top 50 for the first time.
Monfils leads De Bakker 2-1 in their head-to-head meetings.They last played at the Masters 1000 in Toronto last year on a hard court with a victory from the Frenchman.
No. 16 Mardy Fish (USA) V Victor Hanescu (ROU)
Mardy Fish will be playing a very dangerous opponent in the name of Vctor Hanescu. Hanescu is very difficult to beat if he can find a good motion with his serve.
The American goes into this year’s Australian Open with his highest ever seeding at Melbourne Park. This is the Minnesota native's 9th Australian Open, where he reached the quarter-finals in 2007, his best result here – and at a Grand Slam.
On the other side of the net Hanescu will be bidding to equal his best performance at the Australian Open by reaching the 2nd round. He has recorded 2nd round finishes in 3 of his 7 previous appearances at Melbourne Park.
Hanescu is contesting his 27th Grand Slam so has some experience.
No. 18 Sam Querrey (USA) V Lukasz Kubot (POL)
It's time for Querrey to make a breakthrough.
The Las Vegas resident is bidding to reach the 2nd round here for the first time since 2008. He has lost in the first round for the past two years which is not very promising.
However Querrey won a career-high four titles in 2010, which means there are reasons to believe he could reach the second week here in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Kubot will be playing his second straight Australian Open. Another promising sign for Querrey?
The Polish is contesting his 7th major and has lost in the 1st round three times.
It will be the first meeting between Querrey and Kubot.