Before I move on to preview this year’s Australian Open I just wanted to mention the good news that Medvedev (advised 28/1) is through to the final at Sydney, where he faces fellow Next Generation star and Aussie sensation De Minaur. We are guaranteed a 14/1 winner if Medvedev loses, and if he wins a whopping 42/1 winner, which would be a great start to the season as it’s nearly an advised whole betting bank in one week!
The eagerly anticipated first Grand Slam of the season the Australian Open gets underway in Melbourne at midnight this Sunday. Last season’s tournament threw up plenty of shocks and surprises; firstly, with top-seed Murray and second seed and defending champion Djokovic crashing out early but, in hindsight, their defeats were not such a big surprise given both players respective long-term injury problems. While it was a surprise that Federer seeded seventeen and Nadal seeded ten bounced back to form here last year and contested the final after lengthy injury lay-offs, it was not a shock in terms of their history and career records.
Federer proved at 35 that age is no barrier when beating his nemesis Nadal in the 2017 final and this was his fifth Australian Open title and it extended his overall Slam record to eighteen in total. Second seed Federer lines up for the defence of his title this week and he has prepared well by helping Switzerland win the Hopman Cup last week, where he won all three of his singles matches. Five-time winner Federer is the favourite for this year’s tournament and, judging by his 2017 form and 2018 season preparations, he is definitely a worthy favourite. However, there is the doubt that he won last season’s tournament after a long lay-off and that he may not be as physically fresh this time round. This is just a personal lingering doubt, however, and by just looking at the facts he has no injury concerns and looked as fit and as strong as ever last season, so I can’t argue against anyone backing him to win, even though he does not interest me at the price.
Top-seed Nadal’s is second favourite but his preparations have not gone smoothly after he announced last week that his injured knee was still causing him issues and he had to withdraw from Doha as a result. However, he completed some exhibition matches at the weekend and he’s been practicing at Melbourne Park, which means he must be confident enough to risk playing but we won’t know the true extent of his health until he gets one or two competitive best of five set matches under his belt. Looking back over the last decade of the Australian Open, the tournament has been dominated by four active ATP players. Djokovic, who is seeded fourteen for this year’s event, has won six titles, Federer two (five overall) and Nadal and Wawrinka (seeded nine this year) won one title each during this period.
From an historical statistical perspective, the top seed has won seven of the last ten titles at Melbourne Park (last Djokovic 2016) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (Nadal 2014), which bodes well for Nada’s chances this year if he is close to full fitness. The second seed has not performed as well over the last decade; they’ve never won the title during this period and they were a losing finalist four times (last Murray 2016), which does not bode well for Federer’s chances this time round. However, seeded players in general have a strong record at Melbourne Park and a player seeded no higher than seventeen won the last ten titles (last Federer 2017) and a player seeded no higher than nine was a losing finalist nine times during this period (last Nadal 2017).
An unseeded player has never won the title over the last decade and the last time an unseeded player reached the final was way back in 2008. So, in term of trying to predict this year’s winner and finalist using the above statistics it’s safe to say that two seeded players are most likely to contest the final. And, with two players seeded no higher than ten contesting eight of the last ten finals, the best strategy could be focussing on the current top-10-15 seeds as only one player seeded higher than ten reached the final during this period (Federer 2017).
From a tournament betting perspective, I advised Dimitrov (28/1 now 11/1) and seventh seed Goffin (66/1 now 22/1) ante-post back in November 2017. Dimitrov resides in the top-half of the draw and Goffin in the bottom half. In addition to potentially having to face top-seed Nadal again, Dimitrov has been unfortunate to land in a really competitive second quarter of the draw. He is joined by eighth seed Sock and 2017 US Open finalist and eleventh seed Anderson, who started the season well reaching the final at Pune recently. Also, Kyrgios, who is seeded 17, and his preparations have gone well as he defeated Dimitrov for the first time on route to winning the Brisbane title last week. Also, eighteenth seed Pouille is a potential danger, as is Next Generation star and Doha finalist Rublev, who is ranked 30.
I’ll stick with Dimitrov (advised 28/1 now 11/1) as my one outright selection for the top-half of the draw. I’ll also include veteran and Pune winner Simon (40/1) to continue his good form and win the First Quarter of the draw and also Kyrgios (3/1) to continue his winning streak and win the Second Quarter of the draw. I’ll also stick with Goffin (advised 66/1 now 22/1) as my one outright selection from the bottom half of the draw. Fifth seed Thiem has not shown enough top-level form on hard courts to side with him on this occasion even though he fits the profile of a potential finalist based on his seeding. At the price, and due to his long lay-off and disrupted preparations, I cannot side with fourteenth seed Djokovic, even though he’s won the title six times. However, if he is fit and back to anywhere near his best, I would class him as the one to beat this week, as Federer and Nadal proved here last year that extended injury lay-offs are not necessarily a bad thing if managed correctly.
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev has the ability and potential to challenge for the title this year and he fits the profile of a potential finalist judging by the record of seeded players over the last decade. However, he is yet to transfer his world class talent over to the Grand Slams, and while he could easily do that this fortnight and challenge for the title, I cannot bring myself to back him until he begins to show better and more consistent form at Slam level. It’s great to see Del Potro back and playing well and regularly on the ATP Tour again after all the cruel injury set-back’s he has faced so far during his career. He comes in to this year’s tournament on the back of a good 2017 season and at the time of writing had continued that form at Auckland this week where he had reached the final at time of writing.
It’s a concern that he will have a quick turnaround before having to travel from Auckland to Melbourne on Saturday or Sunday to get ready for this week, and its difficult to assess how much of an impact these exertions will have on his chances at the Australian Open this year. As it’s against my policy in general to not back a player after they’ve won a title I will wait and see how Del Potro gets on in the Auckland final first, before I consider advising any outright or Quarter winning bets on him. Finally, one player I do like the chances of from the bottom half of the draw is ninth seed Wawrinka (50/1) as, if he’s fully recovered from knee surgery and is fit and healthy, he could prove to be a major challenger this year. He has a great record at Melbourne Park; he won the title in 2014 and reached the semi-finals in 2017 and 2015, and while there are obvious doubts concerning is injury lay-off and how he recovers from it, I don’t imagine he would be taking part if he was not physically and psychologically ready.