Melbourne: The season's first Grand Slam is here and the man who walked in along with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the chasing pack last year is the player to look out for in the 2012 Australian Open beginning on Monday.

Serbian Novak Djokovic, the World No. 1, goes into the tournament having destroyed the field in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi and is the firm favourite at Melbourne Park.

The Serb is on the path to creating history as the two times winner here will aim to join Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi and Federer as the player to win the tournament thrice or more.

Novak though has a highly competent field hot on his heels. Nadal, who will take a month off to work on his left shoulder after the Australian Open, will be using a heavier racquet to get some power behind hus shots. The Spaniard's last of his 10-slam victories came in the 2011 French Open. 

Federer, the 16-time Grand Slam winner from Switzerland, too is getting back to his best having not lost a match since the US Open last year. World No.4 and Britain's Andy Murray has hired legendary Ivan Lendl as coach to take him to his first slam crown.

Besides these men, dark horses in Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfilis, Argentine Juan del Potro and Spain's David Ferrer will try to knock the front runners off the top perch. In the women's category, Caroline Wozniacki will have her hands full holding onto her number one ranking.

Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova was adjudged the WTA player of the year ahead of the Dane, only because her tally of victories includes the Wimbledon title. Chinese Li Na cannot be ignored either, the French Open winner was also the losing finalist in last year's Australian Open and throw in four-time Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters and the powerful American Serena Williams, the women's draw is sure to be a keenly-contested affair.

(Agencies)