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Beyond the Baseline

Photos: The party begins in Melbourne as top players prep for Australian Open

Roger-Federer-3 Roger Federer has made the semifinals or better in Melbourne every year since 2004. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

The Australian Open is just days away and with at least one tournament or exhibition event under their belts, most of the top men and women are already on site adjusting to the weather and court conditions at Melbourne Park. Temperatures are moderate this week, but the forecast calls for hotter weather when the tournament starts on Monday.

The biggest question surrounding the conditions is the court speed. The warm-up event in Brisbane featured some of the fastest outdoor courts in recent memory thanks to new, livelier balls designed to pick up more spin. We can't wait to hear what defending champions Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka and the main contenders, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, have to say in their pre-tournament news conferences later this week.

Here are some photos of the top players getting their game on in Melbourne.

Serena-Williams-3

Serena Williams: Focused and still taking direction from Patrick Mouratoglou. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Maria-Sharapova-1

Maria Sharapova: A semifinalist in Melbourne the last two years, Sharapova got some match play with a semifinal run at the Brisbane International. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Novak-Djokovic-1

Novak Djokovic: The three-time defending champion played an exhibition in Abu Dhabi instead of any lead-up tournaments. (Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

Roger-Federer-4

Roger Federer: Armed with his new 98-square-inch racket head, Federer made the final in Brisbane. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Victoria-Azarenka-2

Victoria Azarenka: The two-time defending champion lost to Williams in the Brisbane final, but she looks fit and ready to challenge once again in Melbourne. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Andy-Murray-1

Andy Murray: A three-time finalist, Murray's chances in Melbourne look slim given his recent back surgery and little match play. But it's great to see him back. (Mal Fairclough/AFP/Getty Images)

Milos-Raonic-1

Milos Raonic: Raonic still hasn't broken through to make the second week of a Grand Slam. A good draw and this could be the one. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Dustin-Brown-1

Dustin Brown: How's this for fun: Brown, who is in qualies, is scheduled to play doubles with another great entertainer, Gael Monfils. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Andy-Murray-2

Andy Murray: Nice smile, Ivan. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Serena-Williams-4

Serena Williams: If the serve is clicking Down Under, it's game over for the rest of the field. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Grigor-Dimitrov-2

Grigor Dimitrov: Like Raonic, Dimitrov is still gunning for his Grand Slam breakthrough. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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