MELBOURNE, Australia - The first Grand Slam of the year is almost here as the Australian Open kicks off in Melbourne on Monday. The doubles draw is out, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands reunites with Lucie Safarova in hopes of defending her No.1 ranking against a trio of challengers.
 Caroline Garcia / Kristina Mladenovic vs  Martina Hingis / CoCo Vandeweghe
 Ekaterina Makarova / Elena Vesnina vs  Julia Goerges / Karolina Pliskova
 Vania King / Yaroslava Shvedova vs  Sania Mirza / Barbora Strycova
 Chan Yung-Jan / Chan Hao-Ching vs  Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Lucie Safarova
STORYLINES TO WATCH:
Garcia & Mladenovic are making their 2017 debut: The No.1 seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic are set to play together for the first time in 2017 at the Australian Open. The reigning French Open champions have always been adamant that their focus was on the singles competition, and at times seemed almost baffled by their continued doubles success. But the pair are back together for the first major of the year, and even have a shot at becoming co-No.1s.
"As we repeated well enough, we are singles players, our priority is singles," Mladenovic told WTA Insider at the WTA Finals, where they reached the semifinals. "[But] even if we are singles players, just to be able to say that you've been No.1 in the world in doubles, is such a pride."
The No.1 ranking could change hands again: Newly-crowned World No.1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands has barely had time to savor her rise to the top before her ranking is back into play. Garcia, Mladenovic and Elena Vesnina all have a shot at becoming World No.1 by the end of the fortnight.
Of course, should Mattek-Sands and Safarova take home the Australian Open title, the ranking will stay with the American. But that's easier said than done?.
Serena Williams and Venus Williams join forces: Looming in Mattek-Sands and Safarova's side of the draw are Serena Williams and Venus Williams. The veteran doubles team is joining forces for the first time since the Olympic tennis event, where they lost in the first round to Czech duo Safarova & Strycova. Between the two of them they've amassed 14 Grand Slam titles in doubles, making them a veritable threat in any major tournament.
Seeded No.15, they could potentially book a third-round clash with Mattek-Sands/Safarova, throwing a wrench in the works for Mattek-Sands' defense of her newly-gained top ranking.
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