Reigning Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic says local hero Lleyton Hewitt is a major threat for this year's title.
Hewitt is in excellent touch, having disposed of Roger Federer to win the Brisbane International last Sunday before seeing off Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in straight sets on Friday.
Now ranked 43rd in the world, the South Australian launches his 18th consecutive Australian Open campaign tomorrow against 24th-seeded Italian Andreas Seppi.
Hewitt, 32, has found it tough in recent years, losing in straight sets to Janko Tipsarevic in the first round last year, and hasn't made the quarterfinals of the grand slam he craves the most since finishing runner-up to Marat Safin in 2005.
But Djokovic said Hewitt would be a major challenge for any opponent this year and claimed Seppi needed to bring his A-game in order to advance.
"He loves playing on Rod Laver Arena," Djokovic said. "He's extra motivated when he plays one of the top players. He loves that and the night sessions here.
"Obviously in the last couple years he was struggling a little bit with his injuries, but whenever he's fit and ready, he still can beat anyone.
"He has proved that by winning against Roger in Brisbane. He's in great form. We can expect him to make some damage here in Melbourne Park."
Though he is unseeded, Hewitt is again carrying the weight of the nation after a nightmare draw for the Australians last week.
Bernard Tomic locks horns with world No.1 Rafael Nadal, wild-card James Duckworth drew Federer and Marinko Matosevic's grand slam drought is expected to continue when he squares off against Japan's 16th seed Kei Nishikori.
Hewitt said he would enter the tournament full of confidence.
"Obviously the form this year ... I haven't lost a match, I'm hitting the ball well and I've done all the right things," he said.
"I've had quality wins as well, especially the semi and final in Brisbane. That gives me a lot of confidence."
Not surprisingly, Tomic was less optimistic about his chances. He has played Nadal just once, losing in straight sets at the 2011 Australian Open.
He said there was only one way to confront the best player in the world.
"You try to have fun and use the moment because he is a champion," Tomic said.
"What he does is so difficult to play against. I have to be on my game, embrace the moment, have fun, go for my shots."
Australian Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter urged Tomic to keep his star opponent under pressure after Nadal admitted he would rather not be playing a local in the opening round.
Tomic surrendered his Sydney International crown 6-3 6-1 to Juan Martin del Potro on Saturday night and Rafter said he couldn't afford to lose concentration and let Nadal dominate.