The first tennis Grand Slam of the year is about to get underway at the Australian Open. Our tennis expert Dan Weston is here to assess the conditions and contenders in the Men’s Singles Tournament as well as where bettors can find value in the odds. Read on to find out what the stats suggest and inform your Australian Open Men’s Singles Tournament predictions.
Will the weather and court speed affect matches?
As usual, Melbourne Park is playing host for the first Grand Slam event of the tennis season, albeit on the backdrop of the ongoing bushfires which have already caused players to suffer breathing difficulties during the qualifying events.
With the qualifiers being contested over three sets but the men’s singles tournament being the best of five, players could struggle even more in the longer format. A best of five sets match is already an arduous test of fitness, let alone with players having to deal with any further prohibitive issues.
However, the weather forecast for early next week predicts temperatures that are much cooler than average for the Australian Open – around 25°C looks likely with the possibility of some rain. This means there could potentially be another rare weather dynamic in play this year.
The extent to which this will affect court speed is rather difficult to predict. Across the last three years, men’s matches at the venue as a whole have been played slightly above medium pace for a hard court. Approximately 64.2% of service points have been won (up from the 63.9% ATP hard court mean) and 0.63 aces per game were served, an increase from the 0.57 hard court average.
This deviation isn’t particularly notable, but it is worth highlighting that some observers consider certain courts to be quicker than others at the venue. While it’s difficult to assess how the courts will play amidst the presence of some rather unusual environmental effects, numbers from this year’s qualifying matches at the time of writing are in line with the courts being slightly above medium pace.
Analysing the favourites
If the courts do play a little quicker than average, it would suit Novak Djokovic (currently priced at 2.20*) and Roger Federer (8.30*) much more than Rafael Nadal (5.67*), who would prefer conditions to be much slower.
Djokovic and Federer have split nine of the last ten tournaments here, with Djokovic winning six, Federer three and Stan Wawrinka victorious in the other.
The market is relatively accurate in pricing Djokovic and Nadal shorter than Federer and Medvedev.
Nadal has not been engraved on the winner’s trophy since 2009, although the Spaniard has been runner-up four times in the last ten years. These have included a couple of epic five-set losses, most notably in 2012 against Djokovic, and the ‘King of Clay’ has a statistical disadvantage to the Serbian on hard court.
Nadal has won 112.9% of combined service and return points on the surface across the last 12 months, compared to Djokovic’s 113.1%. While this difference is extremely marginal, it should be considered that Djokovic has almost a 3% all-surface edge in matches taking place in the last six months and he also leads the tour across both metrics.
However, Nadal sits alongside Djokovic in leading their competitors when assessing players via these metrics, and edges the next favourites, Federer and Daniil Medvedev. The pair come in at around the 109% mark for both the last year on hard court and six months for all surfaces.
Given this, it would appear that the market is relatively accurate in pricing Djokovic and Nadal shorter than Federer and Medvedev, the latter of which is currently available at 7.53*.
The best of the rest
Beyond those four, there is a rather large statistical gap for the rest of the field and realistically, it will be extremely difficult for any other player to win the title.
Seedings dictate that they will very likely need to defeat three top ten competitors in order to lift the trophy, and the fact that the vast majority of the top 20 have negative records against top ten opposition illustrates how tough such a task will be.
All players except the four already discussed are available at double or triple-digit prices. Several stand out from a data perspective, including Alex De Minaur (40.63*) and Denis Shapovalov (42.30*), who have produced numbers around the 105-106% combined mark for both metrics, plus a reasonably creditable recent record against top ten opposition.
De Minaur performed well at the ATP Cup last week, defeating Shapovalov as well as Alexander Zverev, and pushed Nadal to three sets (taking the first himself) in the final.
Milos Raonic (82.23*) also boasts decent stats, but concerns remain about trusting the Canadian’s fitness. He has lost five of seven matches since he retired in Montreal in August, and enters the competition with just four competitive sets of action (including two in an exhibition) under his belt as warm-up this year.
The market rates numerous players higher than De Minaur and Shapovalov - namely Stefanos Tsitsipas (12.70*), Nick Kyrgios (15.82*), Dominic Thiem (16.91*) and Alexander Zverev (21.77*), although the quartet do not particularly impress statistically.
John Isner's huge serve ensures that he can push higher ranked opposition on a regular basis.
Tsitsipas’ numbers are still yet to match his recently improved and lofty ranking, while Kyrgios’ hard court data for the last twelve months isn’t strong at all. He has relied on edging numerous key points to win tight matches, but remains somebody capable of performing on the big stage.
Meanwhile, Thiem’s hard court record throughout his career is underwhelming for a player regularly ranked inside the top ten, while Zverev’s numbers took a hit last year and he also struggled against top ten opposition last season.
There are a few notable contenders priced at triple digits. Gael Monfils (137.04*) has decent hard court numbers and has proven he can trouble the best on tour at his peak, although fitness and consistency have been recurring issues for the enigmatic Frenchman.
John Isner’s (124.59*) huge serve ensures that he can push higher ranked opposition on a regular basis. Several young prospects will also be in action, most notably 18-year-old Jannik Sinner (128.32*). However, while the Italian has immense potential, it would be a big ask for him to make a deep run in a Grand Slam at this stage of his career.
Don’t forget to also read Dan’s preview of this year’s Australian Open Women’s Singles Tournament.