Australian Open Tennis

Switzerland's Roger Federer kisses his trophy aloft after defeating Croatia's Marin Cilic during the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A glance at the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam tennis tournament:

SURFACE: Hard courts

SITE: Melbourne Park

SCHEDULE: The 14-day tournament begins Monday (Sunday EST). The women's singles final is Saturday, Jan. 26; the men's singles final is Sunday, Jan. 27. Like the U.S. Open, there are separate day and night sessions.

TV: Most early-round action will be on ESPN2. The semifinals and finals will be aired on ESPN.


Here are 10 men and 10 women to watch at the Australian Open

2018 MEN'S SINGLES CHAMPION: Roger Federer of Switzerland

2018 WOMEN'S SINGLES CHAMPION: Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark

LAST YEAR: Federer beat 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 for a second consecutive title in Melbourne and sixth overall. The victory also lifted Federer's men's-record Grand Slam trophy haul to 20. Wozniacki edged Simona Halep 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4 to finally grab her first major championship. Wozniacki had lost in two previous Grand Slam finals, as well as exiting in the semifinals four other times.

SHE'S BACK: Serena Williams returns after missing the Australian Open a year ago; she gave birth to her daughter, Olympia, on Sept. 1, 2017, then dealt with health complications from childbirth and did not return to Grand Slam play until the French Open last May. Also back in Melbourne: Two-time champion and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who last entered the Australian Open three years ago.

WHAT'S NEW: For the first time, the Australian Open will have final-set tiebreakers for men's matches that reach a fifth set and women's matches that go to a third set. The tournament joins Wimbledon in eliminating the possibility of never-ending final sets; previously the U.S. Open was the only major with a last-set tiebreaker. The tiebreaker in Australia will come at 6-all and will be won by whichever player is the first to 10 points, ahead by at least two; at Wimbledon later in the year, the tiebreaker will be the standard first-to-seven, win-by-two format, but it will be used only when the final set reaches 12-all. Also changing in Melbourne in 2019: A "heat stress scale" will take into account temperature, radiant heat, humidity and wind speed and could lead to 10-minute suspensions of men's matches before a fourth set, following the lead of last year's U.S. Open. Women's matches will continue to have the possibility of a 10-minute break before a third set.

KEY STATISTIC: 24 — Margaret Court's all-time mark for most Grand Slam singles titles, one more than Williams' haul, which stands as the record for the professional era.

PRIZE MONEY: A tournament-record total of 62.5 million Australian dollars (about $45 million), with 4.1 million Australian dollars (about $3 million) each to the men's and women's singles champions.

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