The Australian Open starts this weekend, so our Bets of the Week is going to focus on the outright winner options (because I don’t know a lot about the players in the qualifying tournament).
Roger Federer: 7/4
Defending champion Roger Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, and certainly has enjoyed a string of success on hard, fast courts. Last year, Federer tore through his bracket to meet traditional rival Rafael Nadal in the final, and instead of capitulating to the Spaniard’s heavy spin and remarkable footspeed, Federer was able to play his occasionally unreliable backhand to maximum effect. It was a crazy-fun tournament, and an unforgettable final, one that sets Federer up to be the favorite in 2018.
Except Federer is still 36 years old, and still struggled with back problems at the end of last year. Will he recapture the magic and dominate again? Maybe. He certainly played fantastic tennis at the Hopman Cup, beating Alexander Zverev in commanding fashion, and he’s certainly the healthiest of the big four.
Betting tip: This is an emotional price, and not great value. Federer should be the favorite, but not this strongly.
Novak Djokovic: 11/2
These odds have shortened since the enigmatic, bendy Serbian great waxed Dominic Thiem at the Kooyong Classic this week. The Australian Open might be Djokovic’s favorite slam, but he’s coming back from an elbow injury that he won’t say has completely healed. Peak Australian Open Novak Djokovic was probably the most difficult opponent in tennis history, and these odds are befitting a legend on de facto home turf. Before this line shortened, Nole was a fantastic pick, and even at close to 5/1 there might be value here. If Djokovic is healthy enough to compete throughout this whole fortnight, he’ll absolutely be the man to beat.
Betting tip: If you feel good about Djokovic’s ability to return from injury, this is a good bet.
Rafael Nadal: 11/2
Last year’s runner up, Rafael Nadal, is struggling with a knee injury and was, until recently, pretty openly considering skipping the tournament. That’s why he withdrew from the Brisbane tournament that Nick Kyrgios won. Now that he’s arrived in Australia, though, he is insisting that his knee is fine.
Nadal has great skills, but it’s easy to worry about a knee injury for a player whose game is so focussed on mobility and footspeed. While he put on a show in the Tie Break Tens, there’s a huge difference between that accelerated format and playing a grand slam tournament. As with all the big names in this contest, I worry about injury, and I worry about how short these lines are.
Betting tip: Take a pass. There’s a lot to worry about with Nadal, and just over 5/1 isn’t enough to justify the risk.
Grigor Dimitrov: 10/1
Likely to be the next player to win his first grand slam, Grigor Dimitrov impressed the world by winning the ATP Finals and also his first Masters 1000 tournament (Cincinnati) in 2017. He’s playing inspired, brilliant tennis, and only lost to the streaky Nick Kyrgios in the Brisbane International. If he can continue his current run of form, and if the top players are as hollowed out by injuries as they seem to be, the Australian Open could be the young Bulgarian’s first grand slam victory.
It’s likely that the real value in these bets comes with the longer shots. At some point soon, we’re going to start to see names outside the Big 4 win grand slams regularly, and Grigor Dimitrov is probably the most ready to take that next step. He’s won big tournaments; he has a great deal of tour experience; and he’s been getting further and further into the slam draws recently. This year could finally be The Year of Dimitrov.
Betting tip: These odds make a lot of sense. There’s some value to be had betting the best young guys and waiting for the old champions to start dropping off, which they might have already started doing.
Nick Kyrgios: 15/1
With the shortest odds for an Australian player, Kyrgios carries the hopes of Aussie fans on his sloped shoulders. There are questions about his temperament, certainly, and questions about his health, as well. Kyrgios complained of knee pain at the Brisbane International tournament, and had to be extensively taped. For a player who’s historically had a hard time keeping everything together for the duration of a tournament, every little thing could be a problem. Yet his game doesn’t exactly rely on elite mobility, and he did manage to trump the field in Brisbane.
Does Kyrgios have the skills to win the Australian Open? Absolutely. He win in Brisbane without visibly expending any effort, beating Dimitrov with his serve and breezing past Ryan Harrison in the final. The question is if his body, and his head, can cooperate for a full fortnight.
Betting tip: If you believe he’s made a turn for the better, 15/1 are great odds relative to his talent level.