Will Nadal's knees hold up long enough?
A new season, as always, elicits new surprises and expectations. But there is a general consensus that 2010 could be the beginning of a new paradigm in men's tennis. How much longer will the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry live? Is Andy Murray all he is cracked up to be? And who, if anyone, will catapult into the upper echelon of men's tennis?
Is it possible we might see four different Slam winners? The Australian Open invariably opens a new set of questions. But which player will surmount the daunting Melbourne heat -- and stiff competition -- and etch his name into record books appears to be more of a question mark this year than it has been in a long time.
If you're seeking a little advice, we're here for you.
So, who will flourish in Melbourne? Let the experts decide.
Australian Open men's predictions
|Bonnie D. Ford
ESPN.com tennis writer
ESPN.com tennis writer
Florida-based tennis writer
|Early Exit||Granted, Robin Soderling is a more confident player than he was a year ago, but history tells us this event just doesn't suit him. He hasn't advanced past the second round in four appearances.||There's a lot of heavy artillery in the men's game; Robin Soderling will be lucky to reach the fourth round.||Robin Soderling just doesn't perform well in Melbourne. In four previous trips to the Australian Open, he never has gone past the second round.|
|Sleeper||A fourth-rounder in Melbourne each of the past two years, Marin Cilic is playing tougher in big matches and looks poised to make a breakthrough in a Slam.||Not exactly flying under the radar, but Marin Cilic is a young player primed for a breakthrough that could come soon.||Ranked just outside the top 10, Radek Stepanek plays top-brand tennis and should have little to no trouble finding his way into the second week of the Australian.|
|Winner||Andy Roddick is a four-time semifinalist. He's rested. He loves the heat. He just won a tournament in the Southern Hemisphere. And this is a Slam no one expects him to win -- so just watch him.||The long-awaited breakthrough occurs Down Under for Andy Murray, just as it did for Novak Djokovic two years ago.||Rafael Nadal showed some champion form before losing to Nikolay Davydenko in the Doha final. Defending his title will give him renewed confidence, especially with those cranky knees.|
Toronto-based tennis writer
London-based tennis writer
ESPN.com tennis editor
|Early Exit||His first Grand Slam win at the U.S. Open left Juan Martin del Potro a little disoriented, so it might be tough for the new kid to come firing out of the blocks this soon after.||Radek Stepanek performed well at a tuneup in Brisbane, but the Czech net-rusher often has trouble putting it together at Grand Slams.||Juan Martin del Potro has been fraught with the post-Slam blues since New York. Expect the flatline to continue.|
|Sleeper||Marin Cilic is looking to build on his upset of Andy Murray at the U.S. Open and make a deep run in Melbourne.||Talented Mikhail Youzhny was ranked outside the top 70 this past July. He's back inside the top 25 and was a quarterfinalist in 2008.||Thankfully, with the cocaine-smooching saga in the rearview mirror, Richard Gasquet can finally keep his eyes on the ball.|
|Winner||Just coming off a Hopman Cup final with Laura Robson. A week of being thoroughly put in your place by a 15-year-old has to make Andy Murray lighten up a little bit.||Rafael Nadal is pumped after a good offseason: He won an exhibition in the United Arab Emirates and showed flashes of old form in Qatar.||With seemingly healthy knees, Rafael Nadal is exuding confidence and will progress all the way to the winner's circle.|
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2010 AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Women's singles: Serena Williams, United States
Roger Federer, Switzerland
Men's doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan, United States
Women's doubles: Serena and Venus Williams, United States
Mixed doubles: Cara Black/Leander Paes
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