Australian Open 2019: What to look out for at the first grand slam of the tennis season
While Andy Murray stole the headlines in the run-up to the first tennis grand slam of 2019 with this tearful press conference, there's so much more to come at the Australian Open from Monday 14th January.
Can Djokovic beat Federer to a record 7th title? Can Nadal stay fit enough to challenge either of them? Or will one of the young guns finally win a men's slam?
Will Simona Halep justify her World No.1 tag, will Wozniacki defend her crown at the "Happy Slam", or is Serena set to make another thrilling return?
Imagine a Williams - Osaka rematch after that US Open final.
So much to talk about in the men's and women's singles!
Here's a quick rundown of some of the things you can look forward to over the next fortnight in Melbourne.
Big four no more?
We have to start with Andy Murray.
But wait, he's not gone yet, is he?
Murray's surgeon has said it will be "difficult" for the British champ to make it to Wimbledon, where he was planning to retire.
Whatever happens this looks like being the five-time finalist's last appearance in Australia, so the early stages are sure to be dominated by the emotional goodbye for Murray in Melbourne.
With Murray (aged 31) close to the end of his career, is this the beginning of the end of Roger Federer (37), Rafa Nadal (32), and Novak Djokovic (31) too?
Most predictors point towards another final duel between the Swiss and the Serb.
Djokovic won the last two Grand Slams of 2018 but Federer is aiming to make it three Aus Opens in row.
The World no.1 and the World no.3 would both make history by winning, becoming the first player ever to win this title 7 times.
Federer seems to have the simplest route to a final that is well within his reach on current form.
With Nadal suffering from injury woes, Djokovic is the favourite for many in Melbourne, but doesn't seem unbeatable the way he was in the 2015-16 season. The inconsistency was highlighted by a shock semi-final loss in Qatar to Roberto Bautista Agut just a week before the Australian Open.
There is another factor to consider too.
Novak likes to be liked.
Don't we all? In Melbourne, however, Federer is the fan favourite and Serbia's finest may struggle with that.
The big four may have become the big three with injuries forcing Murray towards retirement, but waiting in the wings are many surprise springers and next gen stars out to make a name for themselves.
The 19-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur will be boosted by home support, Gregor Dimitrov by having Andre Agassi in his corner, Alexander Zverev by beating Djokovic to claim the ATP Finals in November, and Dominic Thiem by reaching the French Open final in 2018.
Another outside shout could be Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss ace comes in unseeded but knows what it feels like to pull off a shock win at this tournament. He did exactly that back in 2014.
Could we be in for an upset in Melbourne?
Most insiders are not looking beyond the big three of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer for the men's title at the one they call the "Happy Slam"
Serena - Osaka Part 2?
The Japanese star was the calm in the eye of the storm in that controversial final, and comes into Melbourne as 4th seed looking to double down on her first taste of Grand Slam glory.
Osaka's power game overwhelmed Serena on that fated day Stateside, and she fully deserved her win, but it was a mental as much as a physical loss for Williams.
The amount of noise that followed the US Open final will make the American tennis great even more determined, especially if the two of them meet in the semi-final.
Forget the No. 16 seed tag, Williams is a strong contender, she's reached two Grand Slam finals since giving birth and will be out to silence her critics once more.
Maternal matters will put to one side in Melbourne. Serena means business.
Possible Women's winners
Simona Halep is No.1 seed for the Australian Open.
The Romanian made the most of Serena's maternity leave by playing the most consistent tennis, and winning her first Grand Slam at the French Open 2018.
Halep reached the Australian Open final last year but lost out to a stunning Caroline Wozniacki comeback.
With Serena back in the game, both Halep and the defending champion will have to bring their A-game.
Outside chances include; stat machine pick Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys who could make this her breakout tournament and maiden Grand Slam, rising U.S. stars Sofia Kenin and Amanda Anisimova, Australia’s Ash Barty who upset World No.1 Halep in Sydney, and Aryna Sabalenka, a big-swinging Belorussian tipped for the top.
The Australian Open begins on Monday January 14 at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, with the women's final taking place on January 26 and the men's on January 27.