Former world No 1s Andy Murray and Serena Williams have already pulled out of the Australian Open. Kei Nishikori and Victoria Azarenka are also absent, while there are major doubts over the fitness of three previous winners Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.
In their absence though there are young players who could really establish themselves with a run in Melbourne.
Ashleigh Barty, 21
Barty's renaissance has been one of the great tennis stories of the last few years. After suffering from depression and quitting the sport in 2014, Barty went on a two-year-long sabbatical which included a spell playing Big Bash cricket in her native Australia.
Re-energised by her time away from the court, Barty returned to tennis two years ago and then enjoyed a wonderful 2017 that included a first WTA title and a year-end ranking of No 17. Even more impressively, Barty did it the hard way, playing without a protected ranking and having to painstakingly clamber her way up the ladder without the aid of wildcards. Barty's Malaysia Open win in March for instance came after she had battled through qualifying.
Barty attributes her excellent results to taking a break from the relentless grind of the WTA tour. "It's been well documented why I needed to take a break, wanted to take a break. But I said when I came back I was refreshed and ready to go and that hard work has paid off because I feel great," she said in November.
Australian Open 2018 | Key information for first grand slam of year
As well as her excellent results last year, Barty also reminded the tennis world of how exciting a player she is to watch. Standing at just 5ft 5in, Barty's game is based on a beguiling mix of slice and spins, augmented with outstanding net coverage (unsurprisingly given she reached three women's grand slam doubles finals in the Barty 1.0 era). She is also refreshingly humble, and phlegmatic about tennis's importance in the wider scheme of things.
With the home support behind her in Melbourne, there is genuine hope that Barty can become the first Australian women to lift the Daphne Akhurst Cup since Chris O'Neil 40 years ago.
The Aussie crowd would be delirious of course, but so too would most neutrals.
Denis Shapovalov, 18
The most exciting youngster on the ATP Tour, Shapovalov delights crowds wherever he plays. Fresh from a stellar 2017 that saw the Canadian beat Rafael Nadal en route to the Rogers Cup semi-final and reach the US Open fourth round -charming the New York supporters as he did it - Shapovalov has already been at it again.
Playing in Auckland this week, the New Zealand fans took Shapovalov straight to their hearts and cheered him on as if he was a home favourite when he beat Rogerio Dutra Silva on Monday. One local report said: "Denis Shapovalov didn't just deliver on the hype around him this evening at the ASB Classic, he rocked the place."
Shapovalov for his part reflected: "I played really well today, served really big and that gave me the confidence to free up on my shots.
"I think I played the perfect match."
The best stats from the 2017 ATP Tour
Shapovalov was ultimately beaten by former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro - a player he has already beaten in his short career.
The youngster's popularity is down to a mixture of his personality and playing style, both of which are hugely engaging. Shapovalov is an open, thoughtful teenager with a long blonde mane that makes him look like he belongs in a mid-2000s indie band, and he plays with adventure and invention. His lefty single-handed backhand is the jewel in the crown, but he also serves well and can even get to the net and volley.
Having been voted by his peers as the ATP's Most Improved Player of 2017, the expectation is that Shapovalov, ranked No 50 in the world, will continue to make major strides this year.
With so many big names absent, the Australian Open would be the perfect place to start.
Belinda Bencic, 20
Less an emerging, and more a re-emerging talent, Bencic is finding her best form again after two years ravaged by injury.
Back in 2015, the 18-year-old Bencic looked a grand slam champion in the making. Mentored by her fellow Swiss player Martina Hingis and coached by Hingis's mother Melanie Molitor, Bencic enjoyed a remarkable year that saw her reach the Wimbledon fourth round and win the Rogers Cup. Bencic then made a strong start to the following year - including a run to the Australian Open fourth round - and climbed to a career high ranking of No 7.
For the next 18 months though Bencic was plagued by back and wrist injuries (the latter requiring surgery) and she was forced to make her comeback on the Challenger circuit at the end of 2017. But rather than wincing at the less salubrious surroundings, Bencic gritted her teeth and won consecutive events to end the year back in the world's top 100.
Smiling again and enjoying herself on tour, Bencic has made an excellent start to 2018 - winning the exhibition Hopman Cup for Switzerland after claiming the decisive mixed doubles victory with Roger Federer.
Like Barty, Bencic is also a very entertaining player to watch. Her game style is comparable to Hingis, with more of an emphasis on angles and placement than raw power. In an era of homogeneity, it is encouraging to see young players coming through with their own identities and different game-plans.
Hard courts are where Bencic is most comfortable, and with a last-16 showing in Melbourne already under her belt, she is well placed to continue her recovery at the Australian Open.
Andrey Rublev, 20
Less heralded perhaps than Shapovalov, Rublev has actually achieved slightly better results in his career so far. The young Russian beat two top-10 seeds in Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin to reach last year's US Open quarter-final, and has made a superb start to 2018.
Rublev came through four matches to reach the Qatar Open final last week, and in so doing climbed to a career-high ranking of No 32 on Monday.
The son of an amateur boxer, Rublev is more lightweight counter-puncher than heavyweight. His wiry frame ensures his game is more about movement than ferocious hitting, though the Rublev forehand can be a serious weapon when it's on song.
Rublev underscored his progress in 2017 by reaching the final of the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals where he was beaten by Hyeon Chung - himself one to watch next week.
A quarter-finalist at the most recent grand slam, Rublev will be confident of more success in Melbourne.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, 19
Tsitsipas's progress over the last year has resembled one of those stock market graphs that illustrates a boom period. The Greek teenager started 2017 outside the world's top 200, and is now up to a career-high of 80 after reaching the Qatar Open quarter-finals last week as a qualifier.
With his 6ft 4in frame, Tsitsipas picks up a lot of free points on his serve, and has pledged this year to play more aggressively, especially on the forehand side. He is also trying to take the backhand earlier and get to the net more, as demonstrated in his impressive straight-sets win over Richard Gasquet last week.
Overall Tsitsipas is aiming for to move forward this year as much as he did in 2017, citing his targets as "making the fourth round of a grand slam, reaching the Top 50 and qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals".
Tsitsipas's improved ranking means he will have the luxury of an automatic place for next week's Australian Open, having had to qualify - successfully at the French Open and Wimbledon - for the majors last year.
Brad Gilbert, the former world No 4 and a one-time coach to Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray is among those impressed by Tsitsipas's ever-growing skill-set.
Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 23
The equivalent of a late "bolter" into a national squad for a major tournament, Sasnovich has put herself into the Australian Open equation with a startling run to the Brisbane final last week.
Sasnovich was ultimately beaten by Elina Svitolina, but she won seven matches in total (three in qualifying), and posted victories over two top-20 players in Kristina Mladenovic and Anastasija Sevastova.
Up to a career best of No 53, Sasnovich is on an upward curve having been the key player in Belarus's run to last year's Fed Cup final where she then defeated US Open champion Sloane Stephens but ultimately ended up on the losing side.
Employing a predominantly baseline game - built around a fizzing backhand - Sasnovich will look to maintain her recent momentum at the Australian Open.
And after Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open when ranked No 47 in the world, suddenly tennis's outsiders are believing in miracles.