The first matches of the 2014 Australian Open are just hours away. Americans will sit down to watch on Sunday evening, and the players are set to get play underway in the early morning on Monday due to the time difference. Play begins at 11 a.m. at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, which comes out to 7 p.m. ET for those that are stateside.
There's plenty of exciting matches in round one, not taking into account the absolute top seeds. Obviously, the big names will be expected to advance and not meet a "significant" challenge until later in the tournament. Men's No. 2 Novak Djokovic will be in action on the first day, taking on Lukas Lacko. Women's No. 1 seed Serena Williams will be taking on Ashleigh Barty.
Both Djokovic and Williams are viewed as having favorable draws to help them into the finals. Play will begin at Rod Laver Arena with women's No. 9 Angelique Kerber taking on Jarmila Gajdosova in the morning. Other big names in action for the women include Samantha Stosur (No. 17), Na Li (No. 4) and Sara Errani (No. 7).
Other big names in action for the men include Tomas Berdych (No. 7), David Ferrer (No. 3), Stanislas Wawrinka (No. 8) and Tommy Haas (No. 12).
That said, there are some exciting matchups outside of the biggest names and highest seeds. That's where the first round really gets interesting. Venus Williams is unseeded for the tournament and will be playing Ekaterina Makarova, the No. 22 seed. This might actually be Williams' toughest matchup en route to the fourth round, and should be exciting.
American Sam Querrey will take on Santiago Giraldo, and has a solid path to the fourth round himself, but Giraldo is a tricky play and Querrey will need to be on his game early. The aforementioned Li Na will be taking on untested 16-year-old Ana Konjuh, who won the juniors title at the Australian Open a year ago. Marcos Baghdatis vs. Denis Istomin and Stosur against Klara Zakopalova are two other highlights.
As far as TV coverage goes, ESPN and the Tennis Channel have you covered throughout the whole tournament. ESPN's early round coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on their ESPN2 network, and will run through 7 a.m. The Tennis Channel will carry coverage from 7 p.m. through 9 p.m. There's also live streaming from the Australian Open website if you qualify here.
A full list of Monday's matches and schedule can be found here.