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Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams lead the favourites list at Australian Open

Saturday, 11 January 2014 - 9:57pm IST Updated: Saturday, 11 January 2014 - 10:07pm IST | Agency: dna webdesk

The duo are the strongest players on the men's and women's circuit currently. However, they are set to face a huge challenge from numerous other Grand Slam champions and strong contenders.
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The first Grand Slam of this year is set to start on Monday and the fans as well as the players are very excited about the start of the 2014 tennis season.

Looking at form, defending champion Novak Djokovic seems to be the strongest bet to win another record fifth title.

When it comes to the draws, the World No2 has got the best as compared to his rivals and a new coach in the form of Boris Becker seems to add to his strengths atleast on paper.

In the women's game, Serena Williams has been in red-hot form since the US Open last year and is looking good to win her 18th career singles Grand Slam title.

Here's a look at the competition these two favourites for the title have:

Rafael Nadal is the World No1 and in the run up to the US hard court season was in the pink of form. People who doubted the Spanish tennis star were forced to eat their words as his form was spot on.

Though Nadal has spoken quiet vocally about the fast courts here not being a personal favourite, but the US Open was also not liked by him but he still managed to excel and win the title.

A difficult draw and having to face local hero Bernard Tomic in the first round could stop him from reaching Grand Slam 14 here. Nadal had missed the 2013 Australian Open as he was out with injury.

Victoria Azarenka is the defending champion and will look to continue her reign in Melbourne. The World No2 has been ear-marked by tennis observers as the only person who can beat Serena Williams to this title.

Stanislas Wawrinka looked good on the hard courts and can spring a surprise at the Grand Slam that almost always thrown a semi-finalist who is not so fancied. The hard courts in Australia may just be the thing for Stan the man to break his Grand Slam duck.

Maria Sharapova is returning from an injury and is a former champion here so she will be raring to go and announce that she is back with an awesome performance at the first Grand Slam of 2014.

Andy Murray is also returning from an injury and his form has not been that impressive. However, cometh the hour and cometh the man. At a Grand Slam, a big stage player like the Scot can never be counted out.

For many years, Murray has been marked as a future Australian Open, perhaps the year that he is at his weakest could be the magic one that he happens to win the slam.

Li Na is Asia and China's hope at the Grand Slam of Asia Pacific. Having won the French Open as well as finished as runner up here, the Chinese tennis player may just arrive and manage to win her 'home' Grand Slam in 2014.

Roger Federer can never be ruled out and he himself has given a warning to his rivals that he can't be counted out. The 17 time Grand Slam champion is still seeking his 18th title and feels the 2014 Australian Open may just be it.

A new coach and bigger racquets are the recipe are what the Swiss ace is hoping will work for him.

David Ferrer is also a strong contender as is Juan Martin del Potro who also won a title on the hard courts, the US Open a few years ago.

The players, courts and fans are ready for the red hot action under the Australian sun in Melbourne at the Rod Laver arena as the 2014 Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific will start on Monday, January 13, 2014 with all the top players in action as they seek to make the first Grand Slam of the year theirs.

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