The 2014 Australian Open marks the new season of Grand Slam events, with Novak Djokovic hoping to defend his title for the fourth consecutive year and claim another victory over world No.1 Rafael Nadal. They're not the only players in the fold though, and with the draw being announced, we have a lot to look at.
For the men, the seeding has broken down in an interesting way for Djokovic and Nadal. To start: things look considerably tougher for Nadal to notch his first win at the year's first Grand Slam since 2009. Nadal, in the top half of the bracket, sits in a loaded field.
That field includes No. 4 seed Andy Murray, No. 5 seed Juan Martin del Potro, No. 6 seed Roger Federer and No. 10 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. That's going to be incredibly tough at this point, as all have been playing well of late. Murray is the biggest name there.
Murray is under intense pressure this year. He fought off criticism when he won Wimbledon last July, but he's come up short in the final three times in the last four years. He fell to Djokovic in two of those matchups and to Federer in the third. He took Djokovic to four sets last time out, winning the first set before dropping the next three.
Even Nadal's top matchup isn't a gimmie; Bernard Tomic is never a guaranteed win by any means. Nadal will likely draw No. 25 Gael Monfils in the third round and del Potro in the quarterfinals. Then there's the semifinals of course, in which he'll likely play either Murray or Federer, a long-time rival who has quickly given way to Djokovic overall.
One of Murray or Federer will be downed in the quarterfinals, likely to one another. Federer will likely draw Tsonga in the fourth round, so making it to the quarterfinals isn't even guaranteed. Murray will likely play either No. 21 Philipp Kohlschreiber or No. 13 John Isner in the fourth round.
On the other hand, things have shaken up rather well for Djokovic. He's got No. 8 seed Stanislas Wawrinka and No. 3 seed David Ferrer impeding his progress to the final, which is about as good a draw as he could have hoped for.
Djokovic should find No. 15 seed Fabio Fonini in the fourth round, Wawrinka as his quarterfinal opponent and most expect him to meet with Ferrer in the semifinal. Ferrer has Mikhail Youzhny (No. 14) and Tomas Berdych (No. 7) as the guys to watch out for on his way to the semifinals as well.
In other words: Djokovic seems primed for another final appearance, and his opponent could be any of the next four in Murray, Nadal, Federer or del Potro. Of course, when play begins, anything can happen and we could see [qualifier one] against [qualifier two], but that's not necessarily likely!
You can find the full draw here.