Last year the Americans dominated the main tournaments at Melbourne winning the Women's and both the doubles tournaments but this year Serena Williams has withdrawn from the tournament so sadly the chances of a repeat of American success is unlikely.
One thing that will be in British minds is if Andy Murray could win a Grand Slam. I'm sure Murray is capable of winning but unlike many professionals I don't think it is a given he'll win. Andy still isn't consistent enough, he's already at his peak years and he's seeing a resurgence from both Nadal and Federer. His recent demotion to No.5 in the world also solidifies my case, he is inconsistent. Murray has 1200 points to defend this week whilst Soderling has 10, so I don't expect Murray to be making it back to No.4 any time soon. In fact Murray could even drop one lower! Whilst it's unlikely it's possible. Lets say Murray loses in Round 1 (touchwood) - it has happened before, he loses 1190 points pushing him to 4570, if Tomas Berdych makes an inspired run to the SFs then he has enough points to overtake Murray. But saying that Murray isn't at immediate risk of losing a Top 5 status. But will 5 be a lucky number for Andy Murray? He was seeded 5th here last year and managed to make the Finals.
Nadal's biggest threat in section 1 is Marin Cilic, who managed to make the SFs last year. To make matters even more interesting Cilic leads their head to head, even if it's just 1-0. Cilic didn't impress at Chennai losing to Nishikori, he lost to Nishikori in the US Open as well, but I think if Cilic does manage to face Nadal it'll be quite interesting. Other threats include Radek Stepanek and John Isner.
Section 2 will feature Mikhail Youzhny, David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt and David Ferrer. I don't believe this draw will pose a threat to Nadal if he manages to make it this far considering we have a fellow Spanish player and a player who is more suited to the US Open leading the pack here. Hewitt and Nalbandian will also KO each other out in the first round - pretty interesting stuff considering both have been playing well recently.
In Section 3 is Soderling, whilst Soderling is in great form I am unsure as to whether he'll be able to make it far - he has never gone further than the 2nd Round here, though I do think that is about to change. Jo Wilfried Tsonga will be his main competition, Tsonga has a great record here, will he be fit enough to challenge Soderling? If not there is always the back up of Ernests Gulbis.
Leading section 4 is Andy Murray. He should be happy with his draw, Melzer could be tough competition but Murray knows how to deal with him and Melzer isn't great at the Australian Open. Sleeper threats include Marcos Baghdatis and Juan Martin Del Potro. Baghdatis being a sleeper because he featured in the finals here before but way back in 2006 whilst Del Potro is the only one capable of challenging Murray but not at his current state. Unless Del Potro manages to find some sort of resurgence in form I won't be shocked if he loses before meeting Murray.
Berdych leads Section 5 with Verdasco in 2nd position. Both, as I have said, lost in the first round of the Kooyong Classic this week. Besides those two Davydenko and Gasquet will be major threats. I think Davydenko is definitely the one to watch out for in this draw, he is consistent at the Australian Open, having made the QFs 4 out of his last 5 attempts, with his recent form I wouldn't doubt him on adding to that record especially when Berdych and Verdasco haven't been looking in tip top shape. Davydenko could even threaten Djokovic!
Djokovic is at Section 6 with a decent draw. I don't see any threats in close proximity besides countryman Victor Troicki but Djokovic understands his game so it's not too difficult for Djokovic to dismantle him. Other threats may be Almagro and Ljubicic but not big enough to cause a stir.
At section 7 is Andy Roddick with recent champion Stanislas Wawrinka and Gael Monfils in his way. I think Roddick will be motivated enough to battle until he sees his nemesis, Roger Federer, lets hope I'm right and we see Roddick vs Federer in the QFs.
Finally at section 8 is Federer, he seems to have got it good - again! Most of the main threats in this draw have not been in form as of late. Gilles Simon did manage to make the QFs here in 2009 but I'm not convinced Simon will make a big enough impact on Federer.
Match of Round 1 has to be David Nalbandian Vs. Lleyton Hewitt.
I'm starting to feel sorry for Safina, it seems like the gods of tennis draws are against her! lol Wickmayer, Bartoli now Clijsters! It looks like a three match streak coming along. Whilst Caroline Wozniacki's draw looks horrendous. Cibulkova, Wickmayer and Bartoli all have the ability to stop Wozniacki from winning her first Grand Slam whilst she also has Gisela Dulko for the first round.
On the other hand Justine Henin should be safe for the semis. Kuznetsova is still in the very early stages of her return to form and the Australian Open hasn't really been her favourite whilst Francesca Schiavone shouldn't be a problem here. Elena Baltacha has the tough job of facing Justine Henin in Round 2. Besides Schiavone and Kuznetsova I don't see any potential winners of this section.
Venus Williams will be flying the flag for America with a potential Round 16 opponent being Maria Sharapova, quite exciting indeed. In their way are Sara Errani, Jill Craybas, Andrea Petkovic, Kaia Kanepi, Elena Vesnina and Virginie Razzano. I think out of that list only Petkovic and Kanepi could pose a threat.
Na Li, the recent Medibank International champion, is in Section 4 along with Victoria Azarenka. I hope Azarenka steps it up this year like Wozniacki did because she has the potential to be the next big star. Besides Na Li, Azarenka has a relatively simple draw as long as she stays on her game. Other names that spring to mind here include Sofia Arvidsson, Jelena Dokic, Aravane Rezai and Daniela Hantuchova.
Leading section 5 will be Jelena Jankovic. For a former No.1 Jelena's Grand Slam record for the past two years hasn't looked that amazing, only passing the 4th round on one occasion. I think Jelena's heyday has past, it'll be interesting to see what she achieves this year but her draw is filled with potential landmines. Whilst there aren't many big names in her section of the draw there are some players who could cause a stir such as Kateryna Bondarenko, Shuai Peng, Alisa Kleybanova and Alexandra Dulgheru. Of course there is also Agnieszka Radwanska. These names wouldn't look too worrying for players like Kim Clijsters or Justine Henin but for Jankovic I think she'll have her work cut out.
Kim Clijsters leads section 6, a relatively easy draw if I must say. Nadia Petrova and Dinara Safina should have been big big names to worry about but Nadia has looked out of sorts lately and Safina is just coming back from awful form. Ana Ivanovic could potentially cause a stir in the other section of the draw but I doubt she'll be able to contend with Kim. Roberta Vinci and Patty Schnyder may be other names to look out for.
Sam Stosur will headline section 7. Her biggest worries should be Petra Kvitova and Flavia Pennetta. Shahar Peer could be a threat but she has been under the radar as of late. I'm not sure I can see Samantha Stosur in the QFs just yet but her draw isn't the most difficult nor the easiest.
Finally at section 8 is Vera Zvonareva. I don't see any potential problems with her making the QFs, Kirilenko is the only player I think that could pull off a major surprise in Section 8. Pavlyuchenkova, Medina Garrigues, Benesova, Safarova, Zakopalova and Oudin are other candidates but I don't think any of them are capable of knocking off Vera.
I don't think there are any outright favourites for the women's this year but Zvonareva, Clijsters, Venus and Henin will be my bets with Stosur and Wozniacki an outside possibility.