A month from now, the best tennis players in the world will descend on Melbourne for the first major of the year, the Australian Open. Having won the event four times in the last five years, Novak Djokovic is a big favorite on the men’s side. In the women’s draw, six-time winner and defending champ Serena Williams is mild chalk.
Novak Djokovic: 13/10
Djokovic, who won three majors last year and has ten grand slam titles in his career, has reached the final in six of his last seven majors (four victories). Last year in Melbourne, he beat Andy Murray in four sets, including 6-0 in the clincher. He also downed Roger Federer in four sets at the Wimbledon and US Open Finals while falling in four to Stan Wawrinka in last year’s French Open.
Andy Murray: 13/2
At 13/2, Murray is the second choice. The Brit has reached four Aussie Open finals but never won. His last major victory came at Wimbledon in 2013. Djokovic is 21-9 all time against Murray.
Roger Federer: 17/2
Federer is a four-time Australian Open champ but is also 34-years-old and hasn’t won a major title since Wimbledon in 2012. He is 17/2 to capture his first Aussie Open championship since 2010.
Rafael Nadal: 12/1
Nadal had a dismal 2015 season, failing to reach the semi-finals in any major. The clay court cavant has just one Australian Open championship (2009), but has reached the final three times.
Stan Wawrinka: 14/1
Wawrinka won the championship two years ago and reached the semis last season. He won his second major last year, winning the French Open, while also reaching the semis at the US Open and quarters at Wimbledon.
Betting Advice: Djokovic is far and away the most likely winner and is reasonably priced. Murray is a legit second option but will be at least a 2/1 underdog if he faces Djokovic. Federer and Nadal are not priced high enough and sportsbooks are relying on their name power to draw bets. At 14/1, the still-improving Wawrinka is offering good value.
Serena Williams: 2/1
Williams is a 2-1 favorite on the women’s side after winning three grand slam titles last year. Her 21 major titles are the third-most in the sport’s history behind Margaret Court (24) and Steffi Graf (22). While Williams beat Maria Sharapova in straight sets last year at the Aussie Open, she had gone the previous four years without making the semis in the event.
Maria Sharapova: 13/2
Sharapova’s lone win in Melbourne came in 2008 and she has just one major victory since 2012 (the 2014 French Open). She has also lost 18 straight matches to Williams. The fact that she is second in the odds is more a reflection on the state of women’s tennis than her recent play.
Victoria Azarenka: 7/1
Azarenka has two major titles on her resume and they both came in Melbourne (2012 and 2013). She seems to be over the major injury problems which have plagued her the past couple seasons.
Simona Halep: 8/1
Halep reached the quarters in Melbourne each of the last two years. She was poised for a breakout season in 2015, but it never came to fruition. Halep will be hoping to start strong in 2016, but it’s very much a wait-and-see game with the Romanian.
Garbine Muguruza: 12/1
Twenty-two year old Garbine Muguruza had a solid 2015 campaign, reaching the quarters at the French Open and falling to Williams in the Wimbledon Final. She’ll be looking to take a further step forward in 2016.
Petra Kvitova: 14/1
Kvitova is inconsistent, but the two-time Wimbledon champ often plays well on the biggest stages. That said, she’s only reached the semis in Australia once.
Betting Advice: If you think Williams is ready to regress, which is going to happen at some point soon, Azarenka is the clear choice.
The men’s doubles draw looks pretty wide open. American’s Bob and Mike Bryan have captured 16 major doubles titles including six down under. But their last victory in Australia came in 2013 and they also have just one major title since. After the Bryan’s won three grand slams three years ago, nine different teams have won major championships. It is anybody’s guess who will emerge this year, but defending champs Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini should be slight favorites.
There are three women’s doubles teams that comprise virtually all of the betting this year. Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci are two-time Aussie Open champs (2013 and 2014). They have five major titles, in total, and are the slight favorites. Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza won the two most recent majors, last year’s Wimbledon and US Open, while Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova won the first two majors last year (including the Australian).
The Italians, Errani and Vinci, are tested over time and coming off a major-less 2015. Motivated and talented, they are the choice.
(Photo credit: Edwin Martinez1 (US Open 2007 205) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons.)