The three most-spoken words in the corridors at the Australian Open over the next week will be “Happy New Year” – and more often than not they will be pronounced with a foreign accent.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and professional players from all over the world, after an end-of-season break, are glad to be back at their sport and greeting their peers in a new year. That particularly applies to many of those from the Northern Hemisphere who have departed cold winter to plunge right into hot summer heat. Although, as seen in the picture at the top here of the Sydney harbour on Wednesday, rain, the absence of the sun and temperatures often hovering close the 20-degree mark have so far not made it feel very much like a typical antipodean January.

Australian Open 2023 officially gets underway Monday with the qualifying draws – three rounds finishing on Thursday – to determine 16 entrants in the main events who are a guaranteed first-round loser’s cheques of $106,250 AUS ($72,500 USD). Just being in the qualifying will get players a minimum $26,000 AUS ($18,000 USD) payout.

With temperatures forecast to rise to a more seasonal 30 degrees in Melbourne next week, Canada will have five players in the qualifying – Katherine Sebov, Carol Zhao and Genie Bouchard among the women, along with their male counterparts Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo. Of the five, only Bouchard, 28, has ever played in the main draw – in her case six times with a best result of a semi-final in 2014.

On Monday, Zhao (Chong HKG) fifth match, Bouchard (Krueger USA) third match and Diallo (Vukic AUS) fifth match will make their debuts

Main-draw action starts on Monday, January 16th and six Canadians will be direct entrants – Leylah Annie Fernandez, Bianca Andreescu and Rebeca Marino as well as Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil.

A year ago, there were no wins for the Canadian women at Melbourne Park as Fernandez went out in the first round to little-known Aussie Maddison Inglis, Marino qualified but lost in the first round and Andreescu didn’t play.

On the men’s side, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov had significant success. Currently ranked No. 6, Auger-Aliassime reached the 2022 quarter-finals where he lost in five sets to then world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev after holding a match point. Shapovalov also made the final eight – pushing eventual winner Rafael Nadal to the five-set limit before exiting. As for Pospisil, he was in Europe playing Challenger tournaments.

There are clear favourites in both the women’s and men’s events this year – current world No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam winner Iga Swiatek among the women and nine-time Aussie Open men’s champion Novak Djokovic.

A new generation of men – led by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, the current world No. 1, as well the 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime and emerging Danish No. 11-ranked Holger Rune, 19, – are expected to be players to reckon with. The 35-year-old Djokovic and 36-year-old Nadal remain battle-tested quantities while No. 3-ranked Casper Ruud, 24, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, 24, and No. 7 Medvedev, 26, are at or nearing their competitive primes.

Certainly there will be surprises in the men’s event, but it’s the women’s field that is loaded with what the British tennis journalists used to call “danger men” (or women).

Below Swiatek and the other 31 seeded players, there’s an abundance of dangerous floaters capable of big things. They’re basically players who on their best days can beat anyone, and they’re listed here solely by ranking and surname.

Fernandez, No. 40, and Andreescu, No. 46, are right at the top of the list of opponents that no one would want see on the other side of the net in the first round. Here’s a rundown of players who potentially can be draw-busting nightmares for anyone having to face them in their opening matches – No. 38 Stephens, No. 43 Potapova, No. 55 Muguruza, No. 65 Niemeier, No. 67 Vekic, No. 69 Kostyuk, No. 75 Parks, No. 76 Golubic, No. 78 Raducanu (if fit), No. 77 Fruhvirtova, No. 92 Vondrousova and No. 96 Tauson.

Outside the top-100 are dynamite 18-year-old Czech Linda Noskova, ranked No. 102, and 2020 Aussie Open champion and 2023 wild card, No. 227 Sofia Kenin. The 24-year-old American has struggled with injury, COVID-19 and an appendectomy, as well as going winless through eight consecutive tournaments in 2022. But she was impressive in a 6-4, 6-4 loss to No. 7-ranked Coco Gauff in Auckland this week – a match she could easily have won if her compatriot had not consistently produced super-clutch serving under pressure.

Some of these women mentioned will self-eliminate because they will likely play each other but, as a group, they have the weapons and the drive to be major disruptors.

So Thursday evening’s draw ceremony will be fraught with potentially explosive confrontations that should make for lots of drama from day one.

As for the Canadians, Fernandez is rounding into form despite her 6-4, 6-2 loss to free-swinging Belgian Ysaline Bonaventure in the quarter-finals in Auckland on Friday. Andreescu will be puzzled after coming back from a set and 5-2 down to beat Garbine Muguruza in the first round in Adelaide but then losing 12 games in a row after taking a 4-0 lead on Veronika Kudermetova in the second. Marino scored a solid first-round victory before being ambushed by the aforementioned hyper-aggressive tennis of big lefty Bonaventure in Auckland.

As for the men, Vasek Pospisil won a round in the Adelaide qualifying before going out 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 to red-hot Russian Roman Safiullin.

Auger-Aliassime had to be disappointed after losing 6-4, 7-6(5) to lanky, big-hitting Alexei Popyrin in the first round in Adelaide. But not playing near his best, he was vulnerable against a home-country competitor riding a hot hand. It could be a wake-up call for him and make him more vigilant heading into Melbourne Park, where he is currently tuning up for the first Grand Slam of 2023.

Shapovalov looked in good form in reaching the quarter-finals in Adelaide. His 6-3, 6-4 loss to Novak Djokovic in an hour and 54 minutes was all part of gearing up for Melbourne Park as he attempts to find his best level – and avoid losing his footing as he did a few times on Friday.

Sometimes the anticipation of an event is almost as good as the actual happening. That might just be the case this coming week as things start to rev up in Melbourne.