Time is running out for Serena to claim a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, with the American last tasting major success at Melbourne Park in 2017.

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Meanwhile, defending champion Djokovic (16 Slams) is aiming to close the gap to men's leader Roger Federer (20) when he begins his quest against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

The tournament gets underway on Monday, with live coverage of every second from every match on Eurosport Player.

So how will the tournament draw unfold as the fortnight progresses? We've taken a look at the path of the three most likely winners of the men's and women's titles to see what obstacles stand in their way.

Oh, and advance warning – there are many, many 'ifs' and 'buts' so please try and stay calm...

MEN'S DRAW

Rafael Nadal [1]

  • First round: Hugo Dellien
  • Second round: Joao Sousa
  • Third round: Carreno-Busta [27]
  • Fourth round: Nick Kyrgios [23]
  • QF: Dominic Thiem [5] / Gael Monfils [10] / Auger-Aliassime [20]
  • SF: Daniil Medvedev [4]
  • F: Novak Djokovic [2] / Roger Federer [3] / Stefanos Tsitsipas [6]

Although Nadal's draw looks fiendishly tough on paper, at least he begins his quest knowing Djokovic and Federer are in the opposite half of the draw. Then again, if Djokovic is cruising through his early matches, Nadal might fancy an early exit - he's lost NINETEEN consecutive sets on hard courts to the Serb.

A meeting with Kyrgios in the fourth round could be the headline clash of the first week, although only IF (in capitals because it's a big if) the Aussie can keep it together and make it that far. Then there's a projected quarter-final with Thiem and semi showdown with Medvedev, although the Russian could be swapped out for Alexander Zverev if the German finally learns how to put a run together at a Slam.

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Novak Djokovic [2]

  • First round: Jan-Lennard Struff
  • Second round: Tatsuma Ito
  • Third round: Dan Evans [30]
  • Fourth round: Diego Schwartzman [14]
  • QF: Stefanos Tsitsipas [6]
  • SF: Roger Federer [3]
  • F: Rafael Nadal [1]

Let's be honest, Djokovic's first four outings don't look particularly troubling. But that could all change in the second week with a huge, albeit projected, quarter-final meeting with Tsitsipas, conqueror of Federer last year.

If anyone is going to crack the Big Three before their belated retirement, the Greek 21-year-old looks the best bet. He's met Djokovic four times, winning both of their matches on outdoor hard courts. It's why the newly-crowned ATP Finals champion, and not Federer or Nadal, may be the biggest threat to Djokovic's defence.

Roger Federer [3]

  • First round: Steve Johnson
  • Second round: Filip Krajinovic
  • Third round: Hubert Hurkacz [31]
  • Fourth round: Denis Shapovalov [13] / Grigor Dimitrov [18]
  • QF: Matteo Berrettini [8]
  • SF: Novak Djokovic [2]
  • F: Rafael Nadal [1]

A favourable draw… perhaps too favourable.

Assuming Federer reaches the last four in Melbourne, not guaranteed given the defeat to Tsitsipas last time around, he will suddenly face a huge jump in quality if, as expected, he meets Djokovic in the last four.

Then again, he will likely arrive at the semi-finals in good condition. He has never dropped a set against Italy's Berrettini, the eighth seed and potential quarter-final opponent, and swatted him aside in just 74 minutes at Wimbledon last summer.

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WOMEN'S DRAW

Disclaimer: the women’s draw is wildly unpredictable. In truth, you could list 15+ players who have realistic ambitions of reaching the final but here goes anyway...

Ash Barty [1]

  • First round: Lesia Tsurenko
  • Second round: Polona Hercog
  • Third round: Elena Rybakina [29]
  • Fourth round: Petra Martic [13]
  • QF: Petra Kvitova [7] / Madison Keys [10]
  • SF: Naomi Osaka [3] / Serena Williams [8]
  • F: Karolina Pliskova [2] / Simona Halep [4] / Elina Svitolina [5] / Aryna Sabalenka [11]

Barty, bidding to end Australia’s 42-year wait for a home champion, will probably face her first major test in the fourth round against Croatian Martic. After that, either Kvitova or Keys seem primed to fill the corresponding quarter-final place – the pair played out a close semi-final at the Brisbane International, won by the latter.

Osaka and Serena seem the obvious candidates to deny Barty in the semi-finals, more on those two below, but the other half of the draw is far trickier to pick a finalist from. Perennial underachiever Pliskova? Former finalist Halep? Renowned also-ran Svitolina? Exciting prospect Sabalenka? We could go on and on...

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Naomi Osaka [3]

  • First round: Marie Bouzkova
  • Second round: Saisai Zheng
  • Third round: Venus Williams / Coco Gauff
  • Fourth round: Sofia Kenin [14]
  • QF: Serena Williams [8]
  • SF: Ash Barty [1]
  • F: Karolina Pliskova [2] / Simona Halep [4] / Elina Svitolina [5] / Aryna Sabalenka [11]

The defending champion could face the winner of the headline first-round clash between Venus and Gauff, a repeat of the 2019 Wimbledon match that saw the 15-year-old rise to international attention.

Osaka has already dispatched Kenin this season, so the quarters look a strong possibility before it gets really tough. A reunion with Serena, who she beat in that stormy US Open final in 2018, is probable in the quarter-finals, before facing Barty (and the Australian crowd) in the semis. After that? It could be anyone.

Serena Williams [8]

  • First round: Anastasia Potapova
  • Second round: Tamara Zidansek
  • Third round: Qiang Wang [27]
  • Fourth round: Jo Konta [12]
  • QF: Naomi Osaka [3]
  • SF: Ash Barty [1]
  • F: Karolina Pliskova [2] / Simona Halep [4] / Elina Svitolina [5] / Aryna Sabalenka [11]

If Serena is going to win her 24th and 25th major singles titles, and usurp Margaret Court (24) at the top of the all-time rankings, she needs to get motoring.

Why? No woman has ever won a Slam aged over 35. Serena is 38. But if anyone is going to rewrite history, it's likely to be the American.

The eighth seed should find life easy until a projected fourth round match with Konta, the 2016 semi-finalist. Then it’s a repeat of that match with Osaka in the quarters before potential meetings with the top two seeds.

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