Watch List: Only one week remains until the Australian Open
Juan Martin del Potro and Jerzy Janowicz are the top two seeds in Sydney and they just so happen to be the two big names (literally and figuratively) we haven't had a look at yet this season. Janowicz was supposed to start his year at last week's Hopman Cup but was forced to withdraw due to a foot injury he sustained while on vacation. Del Potro will open against Nicolas Mahut, while Janowicz will open against either Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who made the Chennai Open final last week, or the always tricky Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Another name to keep an eye on is defending champion Bernard Tomic, who needed a wildcard to get into the main draw. Tomic always finds a way to play his best in Australia but he split his two matches at Hopman Cup, beating No. 285 Greg Panfil and losing to No. 11 Milos Raonic. He opens against Marcel Granollers.
Upsets and withdrawals have already hit the women's draw in Sydney, where Sloane Stephens withdrew due to a left injury and top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska was upended by Bethanie Mattek-Sands (who also upset Eugenie Bouchard) in the second round. Madison Keys also scored a good win over No. 11 Simona Halep, and Ekaterina Makarova knocked out No. 8 Jelena Jankovic. After all the dust settled in the first round the top seed remaining was Petra Kvitova, f0llowed by Sara Errani, Angelique Kerber, and Caroline Wozniacki.
Wozniacki is one to watch after she withdrew from the Brisbane International with a shoulder problem. The newly-engaged Dane said she feels the pain when she's serving, so that's the stroke to watch. She's never been able to overpower anyone with that shot but if she can't place it well then she's not going to be a threat in Melbourne unless that shoulder heals.
David Ferrer, Tommy Haas, John Isner, and Kevin Anderson are the top four seeds in Auckland. Third-ranked Ferrer has started his season with a win over Rafael Nadal at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi but then lost in the second round of last week's Qatar Open to Daniel Brands. He's the defending champion in Auckland as well as a semifinalist in Melbourne last year. A deep run here is much needed for his confidence after at tired finish to 2013.
As for Isner, he pulled out of Hopman Cup last week with a right ankle injury he sustained during practice. He'll play his first match against Lukas Lacko and has a possible quarterfinal clash with his old nemesis Philipp Kohlschreiber. The German has knocked him out of the last two U.S. Opens.
Is this the year top-seeded Sam Stosur gets some luck on her home soil? She was winless at last week's Hopman Cup through two matches and needed three sets to get past Madison Brengle, a talented young American ranked No. 147 in the first round. A string of wins might ease some of the tension going into Melbourne, where she hasn't made it past the third round since 2010.
Australian Open Draw Ceremony
The Australian Open draw will take place on Friday, January 10th.