There will be few players with more to prove in 2014 than Novak Djokovic.
The Serb will begin this year’s tennis season at the Australian Open with a burning desire to become World Number 1.
He currently sits just behind Rafael Nadal in the tennis world rankings, but with several major victories this year, he could finish as officially the best player in the world.
German tennis legend Boris Becker has even been headhunted as Djokovic’s top coach as he vies to claim the title.
But will Djokovic be able to get off to a flying start at the Australian Open?
The competition, which starts on January 13 in Melbourne’s scorching heat, often gives an indication as to who the year’s stand out stars will be.
Here we look at tennis’s ‘big four’ – Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer – to see who could win the Australian Open.
The 26-year-old has won all three previous Australian Opens, in addiction to a victory in 2008, and is the favourite to make this his fifth title.
Boris Becker has been drafted in as head coach, and will provide valuable experience, though it’s worth remembering that this is Boris’s first ever role coaching a top player.
Djokovic is enjoying a run of 22 matches since his last defeat, and looks sharper than ever. He is favourite to win, according to bookies at bwin.com/australian-open-men.
The Spaniard sits comfortably at the top of tennis’s world rankings. At 27-years-old he is also at the pinnacle of his career. Incredibly, he is the second highest all time in career prize money at $64million, behind only Roger Federer with $79millon.
There will be many who feel that Nadal can still be World Number 1 at the end of the year.
But it looks unlikley that the year will begin with a victory at the Australian Open. Statistically it is Nadal’s worst performing Grand Slam having only won it once in 2009. Compare this to the French open which he has won consecutively every year since 2005 (apart from 2009) and it’s clear that playing down under might not be Nadal’s strength.
A Federer fairytale would be a great story for the world of tennis. The Swiss 33-year-old has suffered a dip in form an he’s determined to make a comeback. He’ll even play the Brisband Open in December to prepare for the Frand Slam.
While the 17-time Grand Slam winner is adament he’ll enjoy a better year than 2013, it seems that his decline is a natural conseqquence of getting older and more frequent injuries.
A victory in Australia would be a shock.
Murray finally won Wimbledon in 2013, but he’s yet to stand out as one of the all-time tennis greats. His form throughout 2013 was blighted by a back injury which he had surgery for, and he had to miss the ATP World Tour Finals in November through injury.
He hasn’t played since and a sudden return to the competitive fold could be a strain for the Scot, who’s staying power in such tournaments has never been his great strength.
Murray might take a Grand Slam later in the year when his fitness is close to its best, but for now the Australian Open looks out of his grasp.