The defending champions are struggling, while a familiar team makes its return. (AP)

In 2018, Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic capped their perfect January with their first Grand Slam title together as a team, winning the Australian Open over Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

This year, Marach and Pavic are 0-for-2 in title defenses. Will they be able to end the month with that mark behind them and repeat in Melbourne? The field, as always, is deep: From up-and-coming teams to established pairs to all-time greats, there’s no shortage of contenders for the title. In fact, two teams that have had success at the Australian Open in the past few years will be coming in particularly hot.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2018 ! #grandslam #daviscup #worldnumber1 #vrhunskaprica

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Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares just took the title in Sydney over Cabal and Farah, a strong showing for both teams. The last time Murray and Soares won Sydney, they were able to keep rolling through Melbourne, claiming their first men’s doubles Grand Slam.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

???????? #Sydney

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The No. 3 seeds this year, they’re in a loaded top half of the draw and could face the other weekend champs, eighth-seeded Ben McLachlan and Jan-Lennard Struff, who just triumphed in Auckland. Last year, the Japanese-German duo shocked the field at the year’s first major and reached the semifinals as an unseeded team.

Aside from those pairings, the top half also features 2016 French Open winners Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez; Dominic Inglot and Franko Skugor, who won three titles together last year; and ‘17 Aussie Open champs Henri Kontinen and John Peers.

Cabal and Farah are the top team on the bottom half of the draw and have a rather intriguing match right off the bat against Americans Jack Sock and Jackson Winthrow. Together, the Americans won Delray Beach last year, an impressive accomplishment, but one that pales in comparison to what Sock pulled off in the second half of the season.

Filling in for an injured Bob Bryan, Sock teamed up with Mike Bryan and proceeded to win Wimbledon, the US Open and the ATP Finals.

Bob and Mike, six-time champions in Melbourne and semifinalists last year, are back together again and seeded fourth.

They’re in the same quarter as Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the fifth seeds who are only missing the Australian from their collection.

Those teams aren’t the only Grand Slam champions in the bottom half of the draw, with Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, the ninth seeds, lurking. And some of the other lower-seeded teams down there, like Pune champions Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan (15) and Qatar finalists Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop (16), are playing well.

Will the teams that have started ‘19 off strong be able to parlay that into Grand Slam success? Sustaining early-season momentum is always a test. Regaining it, which Marach and Pavic will be looking to do, is a tough task, as well.

Follow Van on Twitter: @Van_Sias


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