The road to Melbourne - men
Our Andy Schooler takes a look at which men's players will head where in the build-up to next month's Australian Open.
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With the Australian Open coming just three weeks into the new season, preparation for Melbourne is probably more important than for any of the other Grand Slam tournaments. Here, our Andy Schooler takes a look at how the big guns will warm up for the first big tournament of the campaign.
Most notably, Roger Federer does not have a single warm-up match planned before the 2013 Australian Open gets under way at Melbourne Park on January 14.
Now 31, the Swiss star, who admittedly has ended 2012 by playing a six-match exhibition tour in South America, has cut back on his schedule and will not play in the Middle East at the start of the year, as he did last season. It looks a risky strategy.
It is worth pointing out that one place in the eight-man AAMI Classic exhibition event at Kooyong, where Federer has played many times in the past, remains available. Who it goes to remains to be seen.
In contrast to Federer, Rafael Nadal has plenty of court-time planned. After six months out it would appear he will be out is to hit the ground running, making up for lost time and getting much-needed match practice under his belt.
The Spaniard, who has already dismissed his chances of winning in Melbourne, is due to return to action at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship - an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi - on December 28. His first opponent will be either Andy Murray or Janko Tipsarevic.
From there, Nadal will move to nearby Doha for the ATP Qatar ExxonMobil Open, an event for which he will be seeded first ahead of compatriot David Ferrer.
As for British hope Murray, twice an Australian Open finalist but never yet the champion, after playing in Abu Dhabi - something he did not do 12 months ago - he will fly to Australia to compete in the opening ATP event of the season, the Brisbane International.
Murray is the defending champion in Queensland and will be expected to win again with no other top-10 player in the field. Barring any late additions, Murray will be seeded to meet Milos Raonic in the final.
The other member of the big four is, of course, the biggest, namely Novak Djokovic.
He opts to play in Abu Dhabi - his first match of the year being against either Ferrer or Tomas Berdych on December 28 - before, like Murray, heading to Oz where he will team up with fellow Serb Ana Ivanovic for the mixed-team Hopman Cup event.
The world number one and defending Australian Open champion is assured of at least three singles and three doubles matches at the new Perth Arena, for the tournament is played on a round-robin basis. The Serbs are seeded to meet the USA team of Venus Williams and John Isner in the final.
The big names have all factored in a week of rest before Melbourne. The only member of the top five scheduled to play the week prior to the Australian Open is Ferrer, who will compete at the Heineken Open in Auckland, an event he has won three times in the past.
Below is a list of which big names will be on show where ahead of the Australian Open.
Mubadala World Tennis Championship (Dec 27-29) - Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic
ITF Hyundai Hopman Cup (Dec 29-Jan 5) - Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Bernard Tomic, John Isner
ATP Brisbane International (Dec 30-Jan 6) - Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, Gilles Simon, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Kei Nishikori, Lleyton Hewitt
ATP Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha (Dec 31-Jan 5) - Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet
ATP Aircel Chennai Open (Dec 31-Jan 6) - Tomas Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic, Marin Cilic, Stanislas Wawrinka
ATP Apia International Sydney (Jan 7-13) - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Bernard Tomic, Fernando Verdasco, John Isner, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon
ATP Heineken Open, Auckland (Jan 7-12) - David Ferrer, Jerzy Janowicz, Martin Klizan, Tommy Haas, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Sam Querrey, Jurgen Melzer
World Tennis Challenge (Jan 8-10) - Nicolas Almagro, Stanislas Wawrinka, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Marinko Matosevic
AAMI Classic, Kooyong (Jan 9-12) - Juan Martin Del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic, Juan Monaco, Milos Raonic, Lleyton Hewitt, Kei Nishikori, Marcos Baghdatis