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The writers and editors of predict this year's Australian Open champions and give their darkhorse selections for the season's first Slam, which begins Monday in Melbourne.

Peter Bodo, Senior Writer

Men's Champion: Novak Djokovic
Even the most ardent Rafael Nadal fan will find it hard to argue with innate logic of Djokovic’s record in Melbourne Park. He’s 39-5 with four titles—and a 21-match winning streak on the line. Nadal performed like Superman in 2013, but it will take more to unseat the Serb on the surface that most suits his punishing, aggressive baseline game.

Australian Open Women's Champion: Serena Williams
If Serena is in it, she’ll win it. She was 78-4 last year, but one of those rare losses was to fellow American Sloane Stephens—in Australia. The theme this year will be payback on a court generally suited to her strengths, the big serve and stinging return.

Australian Open Men's Darkhorse: Jerzy Janowicz
I like the chances of two big men, John Isner and Janowicz, who made the third round in his debut Down Under last year. I like Janowicz’s chances a little better because he seems more rugged and durable.

Australian Open Women's Darkhorse: Sloane Stephens
Stephens could hardly be called a “surprise” dark horse, given that she’s ranked No. 13 and made the semifinals last year—with a win over Serena en route. She also put a real scare into eventual champ Victoria Azarenka in the semis, and may have lost it mainly due to inexperience. Revenge is always a good motif.

Ed McGrogan, Online Editor

Men's Champion: Novak Djokovic
Playing nearly non-stop, the second-ranked Serb ended 2013 on a 24-0 run. It’s hard to imagine anyone, even Rafael Nadal, stopping an obviously motivated Djokovic from winning his fourth consecutive championship on substantial rest.

Women's Champion: Serena Williams
Dominant doesn’t do Serena’s 2013 season justice, but she still walked a tightrope plenty of times. Expect more stumbles this year, but not at the Aussie Open, which she hasn’t won since 2010. Motivation, as always, shouldn’t be an issue.

Men's Darkhorse: Marin Cilic
Seeded or not, the Croat will be a dangerous opponent Down Under. He’s reached the fourth round in four of his six appearances, and at 25 is young enough to deal with the rigorous conditions and competition.

Women's Darkhorse: Sabine Lisicki
Say this about her Wimbledon final to forget: She’ll never face greater pressure in her career. The German needs to remember that—and what got her through the first six rounds. If she does, she can go far in Melbourne.

Richard Pagliaro, Senior Editor

Men's Champion: Novak Djokovic
The four-time Australian Open champion will extend his reign because he thrives on this surface, is the game’s best returner, will be confident riding a 24-match winning streak into 2014, and is hungry for a major title after losing successive finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Women's Champion: Serena Williams
The 17-time Grand Slam champion is the most complete—and dangerous—player in the field. Serena has won four of the last six Grand Slam titles, she lost to only three women in 2013, and the five-time Australian Open champion will be fired up to regain her crown.

Men's Darkhorse: Gael Monfils
Creaky knees and wacky shot selection make Monfils a risky pick, but the former world No. 7 typically brings his best tennis and effort in majors. If the gifted Frenchman is healthy and applies his athleticism toward sound point construction rather than flashy showmanship, he can surprise.

Women's Darkhorse: Simona Halep
Halep, who is skilled hitting the ball on the rise and packs potent power from compact swings, won six titles in 2013, second only to Serena. The former world junior No. 1 has failed to survive the first round in her last two Australian Open appearances—a trend that won't continue when she returns as a seed.

Steve Tignor, Senior Writer

Men's Champion: Novak Djokovic
He’s the three-time defending champion, he loves the slow hard courts of Melbourne, and he finished 2013 on a 24-match win streak and a mission to get back to No. 1. The mission continues.

Women's Champion: Serena Williams
She says she loves winning Down Under as much as anywhere else, so much so that she’s done it five times. But it hasn’t happened since 2010. Serena, after her 78-4 season, will be motivated to get back one of the few titles she let slip through her fingers in 2013.

Men's Darkhorse: Marin Cilic
The unpleasantness of last season has past, but his ranking is still mired at No. 37. Cilic likely won’t be seeded in Melbourne, but he says he’ll be fresh and ready to prove himself again. He has a history of starting quickly, and he reached the semis in Oz in 2010.

Women's Darkhorse: Madison Keys
The young American cracked the Top 40 last year, and it began with a strong showing Down Under. She has a lot to improve, but at 18 she can already hit with anyone.

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