After a thrilling start to the season at the ATP Cup as well as in Doha, Adelaide and Auckland, the ATP Tour’s stars are ready for the first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open. looks at the storylines to watch in Melbourne:

1. Big Three Lead the Way Again: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have combined for 14 of the past 16 Australian Open titles, 12 straight Grand Slam championships and 55 of 66 majors dating back to Federer’s breakthrough at Wimbledon in 2003. The legends return to Melbourne Park as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings (Nadal, Djokovic, Federer) and No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 on the Grand Slam title leaders list (Federer 20, Nadal 19, Djokovic 16). This is the eighth time the Big 3 come in together as the Top 3 seeds:

Year Rafael Nadal Novak Djokovic Roger Federer
2020 No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
2019 No. 2 No. 1 (Won) No. 3
2015 No. 3 No. 1 (Won) No. 2
2012 No. 2 No. 1 (Won) No. 3
2011 No. 1 No. 3 (Won) No. 2
2010 No. 2 No. 3 No. 1 (Won)
2009 No. 1 (Won) No. 3 No. 2
2008 No. 2 No. 3 No. 1 (Won)

2. Nadal Looks For Second Title: This is the fourth time Nadal comes into the Australian Open as the top seed and he won his lone title here in 2009 as World No. 1. He was also the No. 1 seed in 2011 (QF) and 2018 (QF). If Nadal could capture his second Australian Open title, he would become the third man to win all four Grand Slam tournaments at least twice, joining Australian greats Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.

Last season he became the oldest player (33) to finish year-end No. 1 in the history of the FedEx ATP Rankings (since 1973). It was his fifth year-end No. 1 finish, tying Djokovic, Federer and Jimmy Connors for second, trailing only Pete Sampras (6).

3. Dominance Down Under: Djokovic owns a record seven Australian Open titles. He is followed by Federer and Emerson, who have six titles each at the year’s first major. Djokovic beat Nadal in straight sets in last year’s final.

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The 32-year-old Serbian led his country to the ATP Cup title by going 6-0 in singles (2-0 in doubles) with Top 10 wins over No. 10 Gael Monfils, No. 5 Daniil Medvedev and No. 1 Nadal. Djokovic has 899 career wins and with a first-round victory he will become the sixth player in the Open Era with 900 wins (899-187).

4. Federer Eyes Aussie 100: Last season Federer earned his 100th tour-level singles title by capturing the Dubai crown. He also reached 100 wins at Wimbledon (101). The 38-year-old Swiss superstar is making his 21st consecutive appearance in Melbourne and he owns a 97-14 career record at the tournament.

Last year, Federer had a 17-match winning streak snapped with his fourth-round loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas. The last time the Swiss did not advance to at least the semi-finals in Melbourne in two consecutive years was 2002-03, when he made the Round of 16.

5. Battle for No. 1: Nadal has a 515-point lead over Djokovic going into the Australian Open, and the Serbian could potentially regain No. 1 by the end of the fortnight.

Djokovic has 2,000 points to defend and Nadal is defending 1,200 points. To regain No. 1, Djokovic must win the title AND Nadal must not reach the semi-finals. Nadal and Djokovic are two of the six players to rank No. 1 at least 200 weeks:

6. Who’s Next? No players currently under the age of 30 have won a Grand Slam title. At last year’s US Open, 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev almost broke through, losing to Nadal in five sets in the championship match. The Russian is seeded a career-best No. 4 in a Grand Slam tournament.

Other young stars to watch are No. 5 Dominic Thiem (26), who is a two-time Roland Garros finalist; No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas (21), the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion and last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist; No. 7 Alexander Zverev (22), who won the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals title and is a two-time Roland Garros quarter-finalist; Denis Shapovalov (20), who is ranked a career-high No. 13 and will be a Top 16 seed in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. Shapovalov’s best Slam result came at the 2017 US Open, where he made the fourth round.

7. Russians on the Rise: Andrey Rublev won the Doha title last weekend and moved into the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time at a career-high No. 18. He joins Medvedev at No. 4 and Karen Khachanov at No. 16 inside the Top 20. The last time three Russians were ranked inside the Top 20 was 28 March 2005 with No. 4 Marat Safin, No. 15 Nikolay Davydenko and No. 19 Mikhail Youzhny.

8. Medvedev on the Move: This is the fifth straight Grand Slam tournament for which Medvedev has improved his seeding position (11-4 seeded):

Last season, Medvedev led the ATP Tour in tour-level match wins (59) and finals (9), winning a career-best four titles.

9. Aussie Title Hopes: The last Australian man to win the Australian Open was Mark Edmondson in 1976. This is the longest current drought by a home country Grand Slam tournament. Leading the way is No. 2 Aussie Nick Kyrgios, ranked No. 26 and a 2015 Australian Open quarter-finalist. He came into Melbourne ranked No. 52 last year and lost to former World No. 3 Milos Raonic in the first round. No. 1 Aussie Alex de Minaur withdrew due to an abdominal injury.

10. Bryan Brothers Make Farewell: Six-time Australian Open doubles champions Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan make their final appearance in Melbourne. They have won the most Grand Slam doubles titles as a team (16) and have the most tour-level match wins (1,102) together in the Open Era. They have finished as the No. 1 team a record 10 times.