Last year's Australian Open saw Novak Djokovic capture the crown over Rafael Nadal in what was one of many iconic showdown's between two of tennis' heavyweights. This year's Open will look much different, with Rafa out with plaguing knee injuries and an aging Roger Federer who is looking to show everyone he still is as good as ever. Djokovic will have the "easier" route to the finals if he were to make it that far. Andy Murray landed in the other half of the draw with Roger Federer and a healthy Juan Martin del Potro.
Djokovic has made it past the 3rd round in a major every year since 2008, and it will look like he will continue that streak in the next two weeks. Djokovic will be up against Paul-Henri Mathieu, who is a tour veteran but is back from injury and healthy, so it could provide a little bit of a struggle for the defending champion. If Djokovic makes it past Mathieu he could end up facing American Ryan Harrison, who has been known to never back down from tennis' elite and also has a strong serve and forehand to compliment his on-court tenacity. The only true threat for Djoker before the quarterfinals could prove to be either top-seeded American Sam Querrey, who beat Novak in Paris back in October, or Tomas Berdych who is no stranger to making it into the final weekend of a major.
One first round match-up to keep a close eye on is Lleyton Hewitt vs. Janko Tipsarevic, who are both top 50 veteran tour players that continue to fight to make majors like the Aussie Open interesting. Former finalist Marcos Baghdatis will prove to be a roadblock for Top-10 player David Ferrer, who is looking to crack the Top 5 this year on tour and his fellow spaniard, Nicolas Almagro. Alexandr Dolgopolov, a former Aussie Open quarterfinalist, will face off in the first round against Frenchman Gael Monfils in what should be one of many intriguing first round match-ups.
Andy Murray is riding an all-time high of emotions as we enter 2013, and is looking like he is at the peak of his career after finally breaking through and winning his first major in New York last summer. He'll have some tough competition to make it two in a row, with a possible match-up against Alexandr Dolgopolov and Robin Haase. Murray, who won the Olympic singles gold medal in front of his home country of England before winning again in New York will most likely make it to the quarters or semis before bowing to a healthy del Potro or Federer. Either way, once the last weekend of tennis kicks off it should be a lot of long, competitive and exciting matches.
Roger Federer feels quite at home at the Aussie Open, seeing that he has made it to the semis every year since 2004. His trip this year could prove to be much tougher than every before with potential match-ups against Bernard Tomic, Nikolay Davydenko and Milos Raonic. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will also most likely be awaiting Federer if he were to make it to the quarterfinals. The two players are no strangers to one another with quite a few thrilling matches over the past five years, and Tsonga is still seeking the elusive first slam of his career after missing out on close opportunities at the French Open and in Melbourne.
Overall, the expected heavyweights will most likely find their way through the first four rounds to make up for an exciting second week of tennis. Federer, del Potro, Djokovic, Murray and Ferrer are all candidates to win this year's Aussie Open with Nadal still halted with knee problems. Djokovic will benefit the most from playing in the weaker half of the draw, but make no mistake that many of tennis' unknowns will look to dethrone the current king of the tennis world in 2013's first Grand Slam of the year.