When it comes to Australian Open betting, it’s imperative for bettors to remember that Grand Slam matches are played over the best of five sets, as opposed to the standard three on the ATP Tour.
Considering that finalists will need to play seven matches in a fortnight, it is obvious that fitness is critical for success. The point that obtaining victories - particularly early in the event - without playing long, five set matches is now as relevant as ever.
With the weather in Australia currently at heatwave levels, this is going to be crucial. The forecasted temperature of the Sydney warm up event this week is up to an incredible 39 degrees Celsius. Bearing this in mind, more player retirements than average would not be a surprise.
The Djokovic – Murray duopoly
Historical trends at the Australian Open are very pronounced. Novak Djokovic has won five of the last six titles, with the new world number one Andy Murray runner-up five times in the last seven years. Only one player outside the top ten seeds - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008 - has made the final in the last ten years, while from outside the top three seeds only Stan Wawrinka (2014) won the title in that period. Below I look at the odds-on favourites for Australian Open glory one by one:
Odds-on favourites to win the Australian Open 2017
The recently deposed world number one is still the slight tournament favourite for the event, at a current price of 2.67*, which is a significantly bigger price than the Serb tends to be for Grand Slams.
This price lengthening is down to the slight drop in Djokovic’s level and the improvement from his main rival, Andy Murray. Indeed, Djokovic was underdog to Murray in the final of the Doha warm-up event on Saturday before beating the Scotsman in three sets.
Interestingly, hold/break data indicated that the price of around 2.30 on Djokovic against Murray in Doha was a mistake, with Djokovic’s 12 month hard court numbers still better than Murray’s. He has held 86.6% on hard court in this time period, breaking opponents 35.5% of the time (combined 122.1%) - truly world class statistics.
Should Murray have beaten Djokovic in Doha, there is little doubt that the Scotsman would have been the favourite for glory in Melbourne, but make no mistake, it is Djokovic that is the deserved favourite, and the player to beat in the next fortnight.
Murray’s previously mentioned improvement has been evident, and culminated in 28 consecutive victories in competitive matches prior to the defeat against Djokovic last weekend. His 12 month hard court hold/break data has shown an improvement, holding serve 84.3% of the time, and breaking 34.8% (combined 119.1%).
This data indicates Murray is a world class player, and deserving of the second favourite tag (current price 2.80*), but considering his venue history there will be significant mental hurdles for Murray to overcome if he is to take the trophy.
Third favourite at a current 12.39*, 2014 champion Wawrinka is a player for the big stage, with an inconsistent game but capable of beating the elite when he is at his best level.
However, since losing to Alexander Zverev in the final of St. Petersburg at the end of September, Wawrinka’s record reads 6-6, with defeats against top level players Murray and Kei Nishikori (twice) as well as losses when a heavy favourite against Mischa Zverev, Gilles Simon and Jan-Lennard Struff.
Wawrinka’s stats are strong, but far from elite level, with the Swiss player holding serve 86.4% on hard court in the last 12 months, and breaking opponents 24.8% (111.2%) and considering this, his status in the betting appears justified.
The Spaniard has enjoyed a solid start to his season after an injury interrupted 2016, winning all three matches in the Abu Dhabi exhibition against strong opponents - Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and David Goffin. Nadal then reached the quarter-final in Brisbane, where Raonic came back from a set down to eliminate him.
These six matches in 2017 have demonstrated that the markets are keen to keep Nadal onside, and the outright tournament odds (13.75*) illustrate that.
Nadal, who has held 80.7% on hard courts and broken opponents 33.0% in the last 12 months (113.7%) still has a lot to prove. He lost nine of 25 matches on hard court in that time period, and there are obvious doubts about his fitness and longevity, as well as him being ranked outside the top eight seeds - and the draw implications that come with that.
Federer missed the second half of 2016 with a knee injury and has dropped out of the top ten in the world rankings. As with Nadal, this has draw implications.
With just three warm-up events at the Hopman Cup exhibition last week, it’s difficult to gauge Federer’s level. Facile victories over Dan Evans and Richard Gasquet were always likely, but next-gen star Alexander Zverev defeated Federer in three tiebreaks, and that should be a worry for potential backers of Federer, with a lower ranked player (albeit one of huge potential) able to beat him.
A further issue for Federer comes in the shape of the format of the event. The longer, best of five sets matches haven’t suited Federer for several years now and are unlikely to ever do so again.
All things considered, current odds of 21.75* appear cautious and potential backers of Federer would be well served waiting to assess his level in the opening couple of rounds.
Currently at 23.81*, the Canadian big-server is sixth favourite for the event. Considering he reached the semi-finals of Brisbane, beating Nadal last week, that seems a little generous, but as mentioned earlier, big-servers have an awful record in Grand Slam events and Raonic’s return numbers indicate that he would need to improve significantly to fit the general dynamic of Slam winners.
On hard court in the last 12 months, Raonic has been tough to break, holding serve 91.0%, but his concern is how often he breaks opponents - just 19.6% (combined 110.6%).
This concern is also exacerbated by this number dropping further against elite opponents and whilst Raonic has addressed this area in the last 12-18 months, it’s still unlikely to be enough in its current guise.
Talented but frail, there are doubts about Nishikori’s mind and body prior to every Grand Slam.
The Japanese player is a real contender with 12 month hard court hold/break stats of 82.4% holds and 28.7% breaks (111.1%) and this is reflected in odds of 26.93*, but something always seems to go wrong with Nishikori, who would make a reasonable case to be the best player in the top ten without a Grand Slam title.
Bookmakers are keen to keep the volatile Australian onside, and odds of 32.10* are indicative of that.
However, Kyrgios needs to address several areas prior to winning a first Grand Slam - his temperament is an obvious area, and he also has a propensity to lose against players he would be expected to beat easily, with a number of defeats priced below 1.20 in the last six months.
Furthermore, having broken opponents 21.1% on hard court in the last 12 months, this percentage is at the level of the worst return percentage for a Grand Slam winner since 2009. In short, history is against him. Kyrgios’ strong serve numbers (88.0% service holds) will ensure he’s tough to beat, but he still has much improving to do before being a major contender for these events.
After a surprise victory in the Brisbane warm-up event last week, Dimitrov (37.28*) is the form horse. It would be reasonable to make a case for this to be an over-reaction. Yes, it would be true to say that Dimitrov beat top level players to win Brisbane, but it would also be fair to state that his return game is similar to Kyrgios, with the Bulgarian breaking opponents 21.6% on hard court in the last 12 months - he is another player with a below average return game.
Other issues with Dimitrov lie with his inconsistency and his mentality, with his deficit recovery statistics far from impressive. Considering these factors, it is clear that Dimitrov still has much to do before he can be a realistic player in the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments.
The final player in the top favourites to win the Australian Open, Cilic, is a current 104.59* in the market after a strong 2016. However, there is no doubt that the Croat is still inconsistent. His defeat to the qualifier, Jozef Kovalik, in his first match in the Chennai warm-up event illustrates this superbly.
His hold/break stats are far from the top level, with Cilic holding serve 85.8% of the time and breaking opponents 23.1% (combined 108.9%). This data would point to Cilic being good, but not great, and it would be a big ask for him to defeat a number of better players to take the title.
There are a variety of players priced around the 100 mark in the market that are considered potential upsets.
Alexander Zverev (90.56*) looks to be the player to watch. He has excellent deficit recovery stats as well as a strong final set record in best of three set events, so looks to have the tools to succeed in the longer format.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (208.15*) and Dominic Thiem (135.66*) appear to represent the strong options, although Tsonga’s return game presents him with an issue in Grand Slams, whilst Thiem is still to convince on hard court.
Gael Monfils (156.38*) has talent and strong hold/break stats but is still to convince that he is not carrying the injury that hampered him at the Tour Finals in November.
Of the players priced over 200, both David Goffin (259.93*) and Jack Sock (259.93*) look to be players who have better chances than some of those rated higher by the market and could be seen as good hedging opportunities.
Who can challenge Djokovic and Murray in Melbourne? Get the best Australian Open odds at Pinnacle.