The first Grand Slam of the calendar is upon us. The great and good of the tennis world will descend on Melbourne Park over the next two weeks and here is our preview of the Australian Open.

Djokovic can reign supreme in Melbourne again

Given he has won the title in Melbourne a record seven times, it’s hardly surprising to see Novak Djokovic chalked up as the 6/5 favourite again this time around. He showed in the inaugural ATP Cup last week that he comes into the year in better shape than anyone else and that’s why he has won so many times in Australia. His victory 12 months ago capped off another imperious year for the Serbian, who won another four titles including a fifth Wimbledon crown.

He defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in Sydney, a sign he is very much still the man to beat on Australian hard courts, and he is the most likely winner again. His case is furthered by the fact Nadal withdrew from the ATP Cup doubles final, implying he isn’t still at 100% fitness and he looks short enough at 9/2 as a result.

Djokovic has played 76 matches at the Australian Open and he has incredibly lost just eight so it would take a brave man to bet against him here. He looks the outstanding bet at 6/5.

Williams could equal Court’s Grand Slam record

Incredibly, it’s been three years since Serena Williams won her last Grand Slam. Since that 2017 Australian Open win, she has become a mother, contested seven Slams and reached four finals, but that record-equalling 24th win to lift her alongside Margaret Court has eluded her.

She was beaten in straight sets in all four of those finals, but you feel if there is ever a chance to break her duck, it’s now. She arrives in Melbourne full of confidence, having won the Auckland Open, and this will be the first time since she gave birth to her daughter that she’ll head into a major tournament on the back of a victory.

Critics have pointed to the fact she doesn’t play enough competitive tennis now, meaning she isn’t prepared for the rigours of two weeks of Grand Slam tennis and perhaps that’s the reason she’s struggled to get over the line. She looks better prepared than ever to win that elusive 24th title and maybe that will come in Melbourne.

She’s pretty short at 4/1, but you can guarantee you’ll get a good run for your money and she’s proved her doubters wrong before…

Of the remaining contenders, Karolina Pliskova deserves a mention. The extremely gifted Czech player, often dubbed the underachiever of the women’s game, has all the attributes required to be a Slam champion, but it is now more than three years since she reached her only major final – a loss to Angelique Kerber in the US Open in New York. She beat Williams at the quarter-final stage in Melbourne 12 months ago, before losing in three sets to Naomi Osaka.

Particularly strong on hard courts, the 27-year-old has begun 2020 strongly, beating Madison Keys in the final of the Brisbane International and she could go well at 10/1.

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