The end to Novak Djokovic's 2011 season was by no means an ideal one, but the world number one and winner of three majors last year would still very much be considered as the player to beat at this year's Australian Open which gets underway on Monday at Melbourne Park.
The 24-year old Serb had an imperious 70-6 record at the end of last year which included wins at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open and a total of ten titles to round off a truly spectacular season, which was also marked by his domination of the two stalwarts of the game, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
While Djokovic will go all out to continue his golden run in the first grand slam event of the year, the title which he also lifted in 2008, Nadal and Federer who are slated to meet in the semi-final stage of the competition will be looking to settle some unfinished business of their own.
Though Nadal had no answer to Djokovic's authoritative ways last year, coming up second best against him on six occasions, which also included a couple of losses on the red dirt, Federer had his moments against the sizzling Serb.
After having gone down to Djokovic three times in a row, the 16-time grand slam winner got his own back by thwarting him at the French Open semi-finals in four hard-fought sets, and bringing to an end his winning run of 42 matches in the year to an end.
Fedex very nearly pulled off a repeat performance in the last four stage of the US Open later in the year, when he held a couple of match points against Djokovic but unfortunately for the Swiss ace that was as close as he was going to get.
Apart from the top three, the lurking presence of Andy Murray is bound to play its part in the top half of the draw. The British number four seed who was beaten by Djokovic in last year's final is expected to run into the defending champion in the last four stage this time around.
It would be interesting to witness whether the hiring of the legendary Ivan Lendl will take Murray to his elusive grand slam title.
The two dark horses to watch out for would be 2010 Wimbledon finalist, Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych and 2009 US Open champion, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
Both players will be hoping to rediscover the kind of form that put them on par with the very best in the men's game.
In the women's section, as has been the case in recent times, there will be no dearth of contenders in the absence of a stand-out favourite.
While top-seed and world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark will be once again aiming for her maiden grand slam title, defending champion Kim Clijsters, along with former champions Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will also be looking to go all the way.
However, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova will definitely be the one to keep an eye on. The 21-year old Czech player missed out an opportunity to grab the number one ranking at the recently concluded Sydney International tournament where she was edged out by Li Na in the semi-finals.
The talented left-hander will nevertheless have another crack at the numero uno position during the next fortnight at the Australian Open, come Monday, 16th January.