Thursday, January 15, 2009 Updated: January 16, 6:36 PM ET
Murray the favorite Down Under
With a brief respite now officially over, the players are set to embark on the year's first Grand Slam. The Australian Open is an arduous obstacle that has witnessed its share of under-the-radar players wending their way deep into the draw.
Andy Murray has unquestionably been the tour's most dominating player, and recent victories over each of the big three validate his ambition to win a major. But does the Scot have the mettle to win his first Slam Down Under?
Our experts put their prescience to the test with their 2009 Australian Open picks.
Australian Open men's predictions
Bonnie D. Ford ESPN.com tennis writer
Greg Garber ESPN.com tennis writer
Sandra Harwitt Florida-based tennis writer
Hard to be sure this early, but it looks as though the workload of the past few seasons might be catching up to Rafael Nadal. Then again, that's what we said last year.
He's still a top-10 newcomer, but Gilles Simon has never ventured past the third round in a Grand Slam. And we don't expect him to here, either.
Unfortunately, popular James Blakestruggles at the majors, and Australia's potentially sweltering conditions won't aid his quest.
Marin Cilic won out of the gate in Chennai, and has shown some mettle in his two previous appearances at the Aussie.
Twenty-year-old Marin Cilic might be the next big thing. He won a title in Chennai and is rising with a bullet.
It's time for highly talented Richard Gasquetto get his act together -- as in his head straight -- and stop the yo-yo-rankings act.
The bandwagon is getting crowded for good reason: Andy Murray is undefeated in his past six matches against Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Going in, Andy Murray has shown the best form of the top-ranked players. Multiple decisive wins over Roger Federer have the Scot primed for Australia.
It might not be Wimbledon, but the time is ripe for Andy Murray to deliver a Grand Slam champion to Britain at last. Let's hope he's ready to handle the hoopla.
Kamakshi Tandon Toronto-based tennis writer
Ravi Ubha London-based tennis writer
Matt Wilansky ESPN.com tennis editor
Nikolay Davydenko spared himself his regular appearance in this category by pulling out before the tournament. So let's go out on a limb with defending champ Novak Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic was admittedly lax in the offseason, and it showed in Brisbane. His foes won't be overawed.
James Blake seems to have lost the jugular instinct since that infamous Beijing moment. Contentment won't suffice in these scalding conditions.