The Australian Open kicks off at Melbourne Park on 14 January, ending a long break in the tennis season. The competition always holds its own excitement for pundits and fans as it's the first Grand Slam of the year.

Despite the absence of world number four Rafael Nadal, this year's Open is still expected to provide enough enthusiasm and surprises all around the globe. IBTimes UK takes a look at the top five seeds in the men's and women's singles competition and their first round of matches.

Andy Murray

Where to Watch Live

The tournament starts at midnight GMT, with British Eurosport and British Eurosport 2 providing live coverage in the UK. Regular updates and live scores are also available on the Australian Open Web site.

Men's Singles

Seed Rank First Round Opponent

1 1 Novak Djokovic [SRB] Paul-Henri Mathieu [FRA]

2 2 Roger Federer [SUI] Benoit Paire [FRA]

3 3 Andy Murray [GBR] Robin Haase [NED]

4 5 David Ferrer [SPA] Olivier Rochus [GER]

5 6 Tomas Berdych [CZE] Michael Russell [USA]

Great Britain's hopes will be pinned on Murray, who enjoyed a breakthrough year last season, winning the Olympics gold medal and the US Open. The Scot, who defeated Djokovic at Flushing Meadows in September to become the first British male Grand Slam champion of the Open Era, has targeted another final against the Serb.

"I think our respect for one another has probably grown over the last 18 months or so. When I do play against him, it's a match I enjoy. They're incredibly tough, physical matches. We played quite a few good ones last year in some of the biggest events. If I get to play Novak here, that would mean it would be in the final. So obviously that's what I would like to do," the 25-year-old said.

Novak Djokovic - Serena Williams

Meanwhile, world number one Djokovic has admitted winning the Australian Open for the third year in a row will not be easy for him, especially with Murray clinching his maiden Grand Slam.

"It's a huge challenge. I have high ambitions for myself but I'm absolutely aware that it's going to be very difficult because today's (game) is very competitive and Andy Murray winning his first Grand Slam title last year also got him to this group of players who are serious candidates to win the Australian Open title," Djokovic stressed.

Women's Singles

Seed Rank First Round Opponent

1 1 Victoria Azarenka [BLR] Monica Niculescu [ROM]

2 2 Maria Sharapova [RUS] Olga Puchkova [RUS]

3 3 Serena Williams [USA] Edina Gallovits-Hall [ROM]

4 4 Agnieszka Radwanska [POL] Bojana Bobusic [AUS] [WC]

5 5 Angelique Kerber [GER] Elina Svitolina [UKR]

World number three Serena heads into the tournament as the odds-on favourite in the women's singles, though the veteran American refused to embrace that tag.

"I feel like I have to win seven matches. Everyone in this draw has to win seven matches. They have the same opportunity to do it as I do," the 32-year-old pointed out.

Victoria Azarenka

However, defending champion and world number one Azarenka has identified Williams as her main threat, as she starts her quest to win the Australian Open title again.

"Yeah, I think so. Everybody tries to beat the top players. When I wasn't No1, I was feeling the same way. You get more excited," the Belarusian said.