It’s already mid-summer Down Under and two weeks into the new year. For anyone who follows tennis, that means the Australian Open is about to begin. The Aussie kicks off its two-week run tomorrow at Melbourne Park, where the fans are often raucous and a party atmosphere generally prevails. This year’s men’s tournament features lots of intrigue, with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer battling for the No. 1 ranking and Andy Murray looking to capture his second straight Grand Slam. Anyone outside of these three is unquestionably a longshot to take the title. Rafael Nadal would of course be in the mix, but the Spaniard is still on the shelf after his comeback from injury was delayed by illness. The following is a preview of what to expect. Two-time defending champion and No.1 seed Djokovic, at the top in the First Quarter of the draw, is the favorite. Nole could see a challenge from Sam Querrey in the fourth round, that is if the No. 20-seeded American advances past No. 15 seed Stanislas Wawrinka. Querrey knocked out Djokovic at the Paris Masters in the fall, but I don’t see that happening again. Djokovic should meet No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. The Serb defeats the Czech in that matchup. With Nadal out, the Second Quarter appears to be the most wide open. No. 4 seed David Ferrer is slotted to meet Janko Tipsarevic, the No. 8 seed, in the quarterfinals. Ferrer should make it there, unless he succumbs to big-serving Ivo Karlovic in a likely second-round meeting. Doctor Ivo has been known to surprise upon occasion. Tipsarevic has a tough first-round battle against former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt defeated Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro and Milos Raonic at the Kooyong exhibition this week, and is in fighting form. Also looming in Tipsarevic’s section of the quarter is No. 24 seed Jerzy Janowicz. The 6-foot-8 Pole defeated Murray two months ago at the Paris Masters and is downright dangerous. Ferrer battles past Janowicz to take this quarter. The bottom half of the draw is loaded. No. 3 seed Murray heads the Third Quarter, with Del Potro, the No. 6 seed, projected to meet the Scot in the quarterfinals. Murray should breeze, while Del Potro may be tested by No. 12 seed Marin Cilic in the fourth round. Murray wins the quarterfinal, surviving a tough battle with the towering Argentine. Quarter Four is the toughest quarter in the draw. Federer, the No. 2 seed, faces some speed bumps before a potential meeting with No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Standing in his way could be a revived Nikolay Davydenko in the second round, red-hot Bernard Tomic in the third and big-serving No. 13 seed Raonic in the fourth. A tough path to the quarterfinals indeed. Tsonga doesn’t have it easy either, as he faces a potential matchup with fellow Frenchman No. 9 seed Richard Gasquet in the fourth round. I see Federer defeating Gasquet in a sparkling quarterfinal. So it’s Djokovic versus Ferrer in one semifinal and Federer against Murray in the other. Nole and Andy advance to the final and the Serb wins his third Australian Open in a row.