I am just going to get straight to the point and say that regardless of whether you are a tennis fan or not, you need to get to the Australian Open and find out exactly why Melbourne is known as the sporting capital… cue the MCG lover comments. Whether it be Rod Lava Arena, Margaret Court Arena or simply a day pass to watch it on the lawn, the Australian Open is always a fantastic fortnight to soak in the summer weather.
With an astonishing $62.5 million dollars are up for grabs, the world’s best will touchdown in Melbourne to stake their claim of Australian Open glory. The Norman Brooks and Daphne Akhurst Cups have been lifted by many of the world’s best, including the likes of Rod Laver, Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Evonne Goolagong, Ken Rosewall and Martina Hingis.
During the tournament’s history spanning over 100 years, Margaret Court has managed to win an astonishing 11 times, while Serena Williams has lifted ‘Daphne’ on 7 occasions. For the men, Roy Emerson, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have all been successful on 6 occasions, with both the latter looking to duel it out once again.
In 2018, Caroline Wozniacki was able to claim her first Australian Open, beating Simona Halep after an intense match that went the distance. More amazingly, the Dane was able to stave of 2 match points in her 2nd round match to claim an almost impossible victory. Federer notched up his 6th Australian Open title last year in an absolute thriller that saw Marin Cilic and himself trade set for set before eventually prevailing the victor.
This year, Novak Djokovic ($2.20) will open as the short favourite ahead of the likes of Federer ($6), Rafael Nadal ($9) and Alexander Zverev ($10). Brisbane International winner, Kei Nishikori ($23) is next in the market ahead of a host of challengers at $26. Despite Djokovic not being successful here since 2016 due to injury, his finish to 2018 where he was able to win 26 of 28 matches only losing in both the Paris Masters and Tour Finals was vintage Novak.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams ($5) opens as the favourite here ahead of Angelique Kerber ($9), Naomi Osaka ($11) and Simona Halep ($12). Brisbane International winner, Karolina Pliskova ($13) shares the next line of betting with the then tournament favourite Elina Svitolina ($13). Serena returns here are missing last year due to the impending birth of her first child. The last match she played before the break… A straight sets victory in the 2017 final here against her sister Venus.
When looking at all the potential Australian Open winners, it is important to give a strong emphasis towards player endurance. On a weekly basis there are many of great players either returning to form or coming through the ranks, but how good are they when the pressure is applied? It is almost certain that the Australian Open men’s winner will play a 5-set match during the tournament, so how well do they perform as the clock continues to tick over?
For many of the women they play 3-set matches week-in week-out, but how do they go playing game after game in arguably the hottest grand slam of the year? It is easy to look at an individual match and asses a player on that performance but expecting someone to repeat that when their endurance is put to the test, can have a big impact on their overall performance.
When looking at all the candidates in the men’s draw, it is hard not to be interested in Novak Djokovic. His last 6 months has been nothing short of impressive, with his form of 2016 where he was close enough to unstoppable, starting to rear its head once again. As a result, I have looked elsewhere with Neds great range of alternate markets including, Specials, To Reach the Final and Quarter winners.
Karen Kachanov ($7) Quarter 3 Winner
Despite this guy having one of the weirdest names in tennis, Karen Kachanov is one player that has caught my eye from day dot. Quickly rising through the ranks, Karen comes into this as one of the main chances outside of the big 3. He is likely to run into none other than Roger Federer in his quarter, but Roger is coming towards the end of his career and this kid will be ready to step straight in his shadow. Outside of that, Kachanov will have a rather comfortable run and at the decent odds looks a great chance to make the semi-finals.
Serena Williams ($5)
I was against her for much of her return since giving birth last year, but it is hard to ignore the dominance that Serena Williams has on this sport. Although there is the underlying possibility that as she begins to wind-down in her career that the threat of retirement and injury will always be a possibility, Serena looks a full a bill of health having an extended break before going un-defeated at the Hopman Cup.
Prior to last year, Williams played in each of the last 3 Australian Open finals, winning in 2015 and 2017 against Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams, only going down to Angelique Kerber in a tough all-the-way encounter in 2016. When many were against her form returning last year, myself included, Serena withdrew after making the 4th round at Roland Garros, before losing to both Kerber and Osaka at Wimbledon and the US Open finals respectively.
Looking at the remainder of the field, it is hard to get a lot of confidence in someone toppling Serena, however notable mentions must go to Angelique Kerber ($9) who is the deserved 2nd favourite but does come into this off the quick back-up from Sydney. Madison Keys ($23) is one at decent odds who yet to experience grand slam success but has always flirted in the concluding stages and on her day is quite tough to beat.