Australian Open: The only way is Novak
As 11/10 favourite, world number one Novak Djokovic is most definitely the man to beat at the Australian Open.
Djokovic dominated the world's elite last season and it was hardly surprising that as the World Tour Finals approached, the Serb's body began to give.
Although Djokovic claimed he was fully fit entering the London based event before Christmas, a change of shirt mid way through his opening clash against Tomas Berdych revealed a heavily strapped shoulder and backers became wary.
Djokovic came through as the victor against Berdych, but it was more the case that Berdych could not serve out the match and gifted Djokovic the win. The Djokor then became - in my eyes at least - pretty much un-backable for the remainder of the tournament, and the year.
If Novak has had enough of a rest over Christmas, I believe, with Nadal not looking on top form, Federer another year older, and Andy Murray being Andy Murray, this year will be even more successful than the last.
Should Andy Murray honour his match favouritism throughout the coming matches in Melbourne, a semi-final clash against Novak looks likely in a rematch of last year's final.
The 8/1 about Rafael Nadal to win the Australian Open looks a tempting bet, in fact probably the best value among the top five in the betting.
The Spaniard faces qualifier Alex Kuznetsov (no relation to Svetlana) and Rafa is priced at 1/100 to progress through that challenge, looking set to face rival Roger Federer in the semi finals.
Federer and Nadal have contested EIGHT grand slam finals in recent years, and this is the first time since the 2005 French Open that they have been found in the same half of the draw.
Federer - a four time Australian Open champion - has been the man to beat for the majority of the last decade, but now the Swiss ace finds himself continually in the mix with Nadal and Djokovic, and his complete dominance looks set to become a part of history.
The last two finals at Melbourne have featured Andy Murray as the losing finalist, and in an attempt to finally capture that illusive Grand Slam title, the Scot has partnered up with Ivan Lendle as his new coach.
Hopefully this will be the push Murray needs, but I have never backed Murray, not even to win a match.
For me, the Scot's ‘mental game' can turn at any point and for that reason, he's too unpredictable.
Yes, on a good day, he can, and has beaten the best, but this opening Slam will not be claimed by the 5/1 Scot. Perhaps a few more months under the tutelage of Lendl will mean the second half of the year could prove fruitful for the Scot.
Since December, David Ferrer has been playing some fantastic shots and has only lost one match since that time to a certain Serb. Djokovic beat Ferrer in the Abu Dhabi final (though that was an exhibition event).
The fifth seed helped Spain to glory in the Davis Cup last month and did beat Novak Djokovic at the World Tour Finals, so the 50/1 (e/w ½ odds 1st and 2nd) doesn't appear to be the worst bet in the world.
He could meet Djokovic in the last eight and would love to produce a repeat performance his World Tour Finals victory in Australia this fortnight.
Winning the Qatar Open last week will have put Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the perfect frame of mind for his journey to Australia and the Frenchman has form in Melbourne having made the final in 2008.
The 16/1 shot is a massively entertaining player to watch, and has all the ability in the world.
Tsonga begins his 2012 ‘Slam campaign with a clash against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, and 1/10 is easy money if you have the stakes to go a little larger. Tsonga could face, and beat Andy Murray in the quarters.
With Andy Murray facing a relatively tough couple of weeks, and Federer and Nadal featuring in the same half of the draw, the money has to be one man in Australia, Novak Djokovic, the forthcoming 2012 Australian Open winner.
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