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Murray and Djokovic on collision course in Melbourne

Jo Carter January 11, 2013
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As the new season kicks into gear ahead of the first grand slam of 2013, there is a real sense of deja vu, but in others ways, things have changed a great deal.

Novak Djokovic is once again world No. 1 and defending Australian Open champion, but there will be no repeat of last year's epic final owing to the absence of Rafael Nadal. Like last year, Andy Murray arrives in Melbourne off the back of victory in Brisbane, but for the first time he enters a major as a grand slam champion.

Where once the grand slams were dominated by Roger Federer and Nadal, a new rivalry has emerged between Murray and Djokovic. Is it a straight shootout between Andy and Novak? We assess the chances of a few Australian Open contenders.

Men

On for a hat-trick
Novak Djokovic seems to like playing in Melbourne - three of his five grand slam titles have come Down Under. He ended last year on a high, winning the ATP World Tour Finals in London to justify his return to the top of the world rankings. So well is his game suited to Melbourne Park plexicushion, that bet365 are offering nothing better than evens for a Djokovic hat-trick.

Cash in with Carter

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Major changes
Andy Murray arrived at Melbourne Park on the back of a successful defence of his Brisbane International title, but more importantly, as the US Open champion. Murray, who was quoted this week as saying that tennis was was only 30 per cent physical, will know only too well the psychological benefits of having that elusive major under his belt. It will be key for Murray to stay focused and avoid an embarrassing early exit, but a likely quarter-final against Juan Martin Del Potro will certainly put him in the right frame of mind for possibly having to beat both Federer and Djokovic if he is to add to his major trophy haul. Back him with odds of 5/2 with bet365.

Roger's rough ride
If Roger Federer had drafted his idea of a nightmare draw, it would probably look something like the 2013 version. While a first-round match-up against Benoit Paire probably won't have the 17-time grand slam champion losing sleep, he is likely to face former world No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko in the second round, who reached the final in Doha last week. Next up could be former Wimbledon quarter-finalist Bernard Tomic, who reached his ATP Tour final in Sydney this week. Providing he navigates his way past those potential banana skins, Federer's route to the title is likely to include Milos Raonic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Murray and Djokovic. A tough test for Federer, and if he prevails he will be worth every penny of his 9/2 odds with bet365.

Women

Hanging onto top spot
Like Djokovic, Victoria Azarenka is both the top seed and defending champion in Melbourne. However, unlike Djokovic, the Belarusian is not the bookmakers' favourite, at odds of 4/1 with bet365. With Serena Williams the woman to beat, Azarenka faces a tough ask to defend both her Australian Open title and her No. 1 ranking. She has a relatively favourable route to the semi-final, but has been drawn on the same side as Williams, who beat her in the US Open final last September.

The red-hot favourite
Having ended the season in devastating form, winning 31 of 32 matches after her unceremonious first-round exit at the French Open, Serena Williams is the red-hot favourite in Melbourne. After triumphing at Wimbledon and the US Open, Williams is on course for a second Serena Slam, and having already won five Australian Open titles, we're not betting against her, even at odds of 5/6 with bet365.

Hitting form
With the Australian Open just two weeks into the new season, it's always tough to predict which players will arrive in Melbourne in good shape and who didn't spend enough time in the gym during the off-season. Based on early-season results, Agnieszka Radwanska looks like one to keep your eye on. The Pole, who reached her first grand slam final at Wimbledon last year, is in a rich vein of form after winning back-to-back titles in Auckland and Sydney without dropping a set. She has a favourable draw and should make it to the semi-finals quite comfortably. With both Williams and Azarenka in the top half of the draw, Radwanska will fancy her chances of reaching the final. At 12/1, Radwanska could be worth an each-way bet.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk