Australian Open Tips - Men
Novak Djokovic is the firm favourite to win the first tennis major of the year as the Australian Open gets under way in Melbourne in the early hours of Monday morning. As the threat from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray recedes, the Serb is no better than 11/10 with Paddy Power to win this title for the fifth time.
Djokovic was the winner in Melbourne for three successive years from 2011 through to 2013, before his reign was ended in a thrilling quarter-final by Stanislas Wawrinka 12 months ago. Wawrinka went on to beat Nadal in the final to land his first Grand Slam title. Djokovic had won his first title here in 2008 and has won all four finals he has contested on his favoured surface.
Four firms have Djokovic, who won the World Tour finals in London in November for the third successive year, as their odds-on favourite at 10/11, with fellow four-time Australian Open winner Federer next in the betting at best odds of 11/2 with Bet365, Sky Bet, Betfred and William Hill.
In the hardcourt Grand Slam events in Melbourne and New York, Djokovic struggled at first against Federer but has since gone on to gain the upper hand as the Swiss moves towards the end of his career. The current world number one has won the last two meetings at each event, winning both in Melbourne in straight sets.
His dominance against Murray here is also pronounced, with Djokovic winning all three meetings including two finals. Djokovic and Nadal have met just once here, with the Serb again the victor. It could be that a wildcard like Wawrinka takes out the top seed with another outstanding performance, but if he stays fit and firing he should go on to win.
Federer is second favourite thanks mainly to the injury troubles that have held Nadal and Murray back over the last 18 months. The last of his four titles in Melbourne came in 2010 and his most recent Grand Slam success was at Wimbledon in 2012. His record here is magnificent, though, and he has not failed to reach the semi-finals since way back in 2003. At 33 he remains competitive, as he showed by reaching the Wimbledon final last summer.
Nadal, winner of the French Open in nine of the last 10 years, hasn't found it so easy to compete in this event. His only title came back in 2009 and although he has since reached two finals he has lost them both and also suffered two quarter-final exits. His preparation, hampered by surgery to remove his appendix, has hardly been ideal with his only match since October ending in defeat to Michael Berrer, the German ranked 127th at the time.
Bet365 are remaining cautious on the brilliant Spaniard with odds of 6/1, but Ladbrokes are offering a stand-out top price of 9/1. Murray's problems are further behind him, but although he enjoyed a good run of form towards the end of last year he has yet to show that he is back in the sort of form that can get him past the challenge of Djokovic.
Murray only managed three wins against top eight players in 2014, beating David Ferrer twice and Milos Raonic once and with a record of three defeats in three Australian Open finals he has everything to prove. Betfred, Paddy Power, Stan James, Ladbrokes and William Hill all offer 7/1.
Defending champion Wawrinka is a 16/1 chance with Ladbrokes, but a better option may be Japan's Kei Nishikori, who has been growing in stature and is now ranked fifth in the world. Nishikori took out Raonic and Wawrinka before stunning Djokovic in the semi-finals of last year's US Open, before losing to Marin Cilic in the final. Nishikori is priced at 14/1 by Bet365, Sky Bet, Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill.
One man who could spring a surprise is Tomas Berdych, who has been improving year on year at this event. After reaching three successive quarter-finals, the Czech world number seven reached his first semi-final last year before losing in four sets to Wawrinka, with the match settled on two tiebreaks in sets three and four. Berdych is 25/1 with Paddy Power, but 50s with Ladrokes and that looks a good each-way price.
We will also be posting daily tips throughout the Australian Open, so check back for our best bets each day.
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