1. Novak Djokovic Over the course of the last year Djokovic has firmly established himself as the world number and favourite for any tournament that he enters. The reigning champion is chasing his third Norman Brookes Cup and with a comfortable draw it would be foolish to bet against the top seed.
2. Rafael Nadal The Spaniard’s aura of invincibility has been eroded by a series of injuries in the last year and with Rafa not fully fit for season opening Slam the challenge of defeating Djokovic is exceptionally difficult. Even so Nadal still comes to Melbourne as a former champion and a three time Grand Slam finalist last year. Even at less than 100% opponents will need to respect him but with Djokovic having beaten him in the Wimbledon and US Open finals last year it will be interesting to see the mentality of Nadal throughout the fortnight.
3. Roger Federer The Swiss superstar will need the stars to align for a 17th Grand Slam title but Federer’s strong finish to last season showed that he still has the ability to conjure the magic that has made him the greatest player in men’s history. The draw sees Federer avoid Djokovic until the final and with Federer having always spoiled for a battle with the likes of Nadal he would surely be fired up by the prospect of playing the world number one.
4. Andy Murray Always a bridesmaid but never a bride. Murray has been runner up in Melbourne for the last two years and even though he is a consistent Grand Slam semi finalist the Scot has been unable to make the leap to winner. The hiring of Ivan Lendl as his coach was an interesting development and showed that Murray is willing to try new things to win a Slam but he needs to buy into Lendl’s coaching if he is to achieve what he is capable of. As usual Murray is the most likely man to upset the applecart of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.
5. David Ferrer The Spaniard is the marathon man of tennis with gruelling five set matches a regular feature of Ferrer’s progress through Grand Slams. His dogged determination and will to win are second to none but he lacks the top-tier weapons of those ranked above him and a repeat of his semi final appearance from last year would be a very successful start to the year for the 29 year old.
6. Jo-Wilfreid Tsonga The Frenchman has had a busy start to 2012 but with one title already in the bag, in Doha, he looks very sharp before the opening Slam of the year. Tsonga was runner-up to Djokovic in 2008 but if he can show that he has added a stronger mental approach to his game he could be a very dangerous player in the latter stages of this tournament.
7. Tomas Berdych The big serving Czech packs a punch from the baseline but his inconsistency can be maddening. Berdych has not progressed from his breakthrough performance at Wimbledon two years ago, when he was beaten in the final by Nadal, but if he can find form over the course of the next fortnight he could be a very dangerous quarter-final opponent for Nadal.
8. Mardy Fish The highest ranked American has found good form in recent years but he is punching above his weight to be ranked eighth in the world. The Grand Slams are what distinguish a player and with only three career quarter-final berths if Fish is to make the breakthrough he has to do it very soon. A tough draw doesn’t help him.
9. Janko Tipsarevic The Serbian’s good form of last year was overshadowed his compatriot, Djokovic, dominating the men’s game. Even so Tipsarevic, a quarter-finalist at the US Open, has shown that he has the power and speed around the court to offer a serious test to anyone. With the leading four seeds so clearly ahead of their chasers another quarter-final berth is probably all that Tipsarevic can hope for.
10. Nicolas Almagro The Spaniard is a hard working player but lacks the weaponry to offer a serious challenge at this level. The draw is favourable for the opening matches but a possible third rounder against Stanislas Wawrinka would be very difficult.
11. Juan Martin del Potro Injuries have limited del Potro in recent years but he has the ability to be an elite player. The former US Open champion has struggled in the season opening major in the past but with such a strong back court game and a big serve no one will look forward to a matchup with the Argentine. His health will determine how far he progresses over the next fortnight.
12. Gilles Simon The Frenchman is exceptionally economical to watch on court but lacks the ability for a strong run through a tournament.
13. Alexandr Dolgopolov The inexperienced Ukrainian was a quarter-finalist last year but his season never got off the ground after that. His determination to chase down ever ball makes his matches fun to watch and it will be interesting to see if his struggles of last year have been put behind him.
14. Gael Monfils The talented Frenchman plays from an exceptionally deep position behind the baseline and this makes to incredibly difficult to have a successful run through a Grand Slam tournament. The likes of Djokovic will pick you apart if you play so deep so until the talented Monfils can play further up the court he is not likely to be the contender in major tournaments that his talent deserves.
15. Andy Roddick The 29 year old has struggled in recent years and his career is clearly on the decline but even so he has the ability to be a dark horse at this level due to his serve.
16. John Isner One of the biggest serves in tennis means that Isner is never a man to be discounted and even though he travel to Australia after a disappointing start to the year he has the game to progress to the second week.