The first grand slam of the year is on the horizon after an unusual build up featuring diplomatic tensions and court room battles over Australia's strict border rules.

Hosted at Melbourne Park, the 'Happy Slam' is contending with rising Covid cases in Melbourne as Tennis Australia hopes for full stands to make up for two years of disruptions caused by the pandemic.

All the important details on the Australian Open, including how to watch and the key dates, are listed below.

When does the Australian Open start?
The main draw of the Australian Open officially begins on Monday January 17 and will run to Sunday January 30. The women's singles final will be held on Saturday January 29, with the men's closing the competition on the 30th. The wheelchair event will run from January 23-27.

Who's missing from the 2022 Australian Open:
Some of tennis' biggest names won't be making an appearance at Melbourne Park this year, with Roger Federer and Serena Williams among some noticeable absentees. 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem will also be missing the Australian summer as he recovers from illness.

Several players, including Andrey Rublev and Belinda Bencic, remain in doubt after positive Covid tests. While some, like Tennys Sandgren, won't be making an appearance due to vaccine mandates.

How to watch the Australian Open:
For those in Australia, Channel Nine will be the home of tennis. The main coverage of the tournament will be shown across the three channels of the Nine Network, Channel Nine, GO and GEM, with every single match also shown live on their free streaming service 9Now.

Which Australians are competing in the Australian Open in 2022?
Luckily for Australian tennis fans there are plenty of locals to cheer for heading into the tournament. Perhaps the most recognisable face, world number one Ash Barty, is in impressive form coming off a singles and doubles title win in Adelaide.

Another Australian world number one in Dylan Alcott will be making his final appearance at the Australian Open in 2022, where he will be aiming to win the championship for the eighth straight year before his retirement.

Alex De Minaur returns to the tournament as Australia's highest-ranked player in the men's singles, looking to progress past his third-round appearance in 2021.

Astra Sharma and Ajla Tomljanovic will also be making an appearance in the women's draw, while on the men's side of things, expect to see Nick Kyrgios, John Millman, Alexei Popyrin, Jordan Thompson and James Duckworth.