Ace Tennis Previews: Australian Open Tips

The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam of the year on the Tennis Calendar. Along with previews on both sides of the draw, Ace will be giving two Australian Open Tips each day on the Betfair Hub along with previewing the finals.

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Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal

The more things change, the more they stay the same. There have been over 50 meetings between Djokovic and Nadal, and I still cannot get enough of seeing these two battle it out on the court. Nadal vs Djokovic is the perfect way to cap off a huge fortnight of tennis at Melbourne Park.

Let’s start with a look at the road to the final for both players, as well as a discussion about the recent head to head of Djokovic and Nadal, and where I feel the match will be won.

Novak Djokovic

After being broken very early in his first match of the tournament, Novak looked to barely make his way out of second gear during his first round victory over qualifier Mitchell Krueger, winning the match 6-3 6-2 6-2. 42 winners and 26 unforced errors for the Serbian, as well as an impressive 64% of points won on the second serve of Krueger really set the tone for the fortnight.

Round 2 saw Novak up against a tricky opponent in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Again, there were a couple of shaky moments, however Novak never put himself in a position to potentially drop a set, as all his service breaks came from a break of serve up. Another 33 winners and 24 unforced errors, as well as winning 55% of points on the second serve of Tsonga helped set up the victory, setting up a match with Denis Shapovalov.

The Canadian is one of only two players to have taken a set off Novak this fortnight.  Regardless of the score line it was still very much one way traffic for Djokovic. After the match Novak remarked that he was taken by surprise regarding the decision to turn the lights on in the stadium at the start of the third set for TV viewing purposes. After dropping that third set it didn’t take him too long to recover, delivering a 4th set bagel to the young Canadian. Novak found an extra gear when he needed, and based on his performances for the rest of the fortnight, I get the feeling that Novak has a LOT left in the tank.

Novak looked slightly troubled at one point against Medvedev early in the third set. After dropping a tight second set tiebreak, Novak found himself down triple break point early in the third, before clawing his way out of the service game and into a 6-2 6-3 scoreline to finish off the match. Djokovic used his fitness to wear down the Russian, as Medvedev looked to be running on fumes from early in the third set. It is a testament to the endurance of Djokovic, who barely looked phased for most of the match physically outside of one tumble.

The quarter final result against Kei Nishikori is one I am happy to rule a line through based on the physical ailments of Nishikori, however it is worth noting that Novak certainly knows how to punish someone who isn’t at 100%. In fact, Novak did a fantastic job of punishing a player who was fit in Lucas Pouille in the semi final, in one of the more impressive performances you will ever see at this stage of a tournament. Not only did Novak pick up the pace on his groundstrokes at times, he also managed to keep his unforced error count to 5 for the match, a truly impressive feat considering the match and context in which it was played.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal managed to defeat a trio of Australians on his way to the 4th round. James Duckworth found himself in another unfortunate main draw position, coming up against Nadal in the first round. Nadal got the win 6-4 6-3 7-5, winning 59% of points on Duckworth’s second serve whilst producing 38 winners to 11 unforced errors.

Matt Ebden didn’t have any more luck against Nadal in the second round, with the Spaniard winning 6-3 6-2 6-2, blasting 33 winners and 15 unforced errors. It was the early signs that Nadal may be able to manage this tournament after all, with injury concerns plaguing the early part of the year.

I am not going to read too much into Nadal’s dominant win over Alex De Minaur in round 3, as it was the perfect situation for Nadal on reflection. Nadal was fresh coming off two straight sets victories, and De Minaur was exhausted coming off a big month of tennis, and a 5 set match in the previous round, which set the scene for the one sided result.

Nadal again found himself in a favourable head to head match-up in round 4, making Berdych look incredibly average in another straight sets victory. 32 winners to 17 unforced errors was enough to assist Nadal to a 6-0 6-1 7-6 victory in just over 2 hours.

Nadal was quite fortunate to have his quarter final and semi final against two of the Next Gen team, with both in unfamiliar territory at that stage of a Major. Tiafoe looked completed overawed by what was standing on the other side of the net. He was broken in his first service game of each set, and Nadal was too good to let up at any point. This was a nice precursor to the semi final against Tsitsipas, where I wrote about just how poor the match-up was for the Greek youngster. Like Nadal does for so many one handed backhanders without the surname Federer, he punished the lack of control that can come with on the backhand wing, playing with heavy spin and targeting it with his first serve in particular. Tsitsipas was well and truly dejected by the final set, with Nadal dishing up a final set bagel to cap off a tactically superb performance.

Summary of the Match-Up

This is the 53rd time these two will do battle, and I personally think this may be a touch more one sided than most predict. A lot of people are referring back to the epic between these two in 2012 and their near 6 hour battle on this very court, with Djokovic prevailing in the 5th set 7-5.

Nadal leads the head to head in the best-of-5 format, however 6 of his 9 wins have come at Roland Garros. As Nadal is the best claycourt tennis player we have every seen and likely will see, I am happy to take little from that part of their head to head. When you take clay and grass out of the picture, this does become a touch one sided towards Novak. Whilst I don’t normally backtrack that far into head to heads, it is worth noting that since the start of 2011, Novak Djokovic leads the hardcourt head to head 11-2, with his last loss coming at the US Open in 2013. After that loss, Djokovic has won the last 7 meetings in a row, all in straight sets. There was the phase where Nadal was plagued moreso by his knee issues, however averaging just over 3 games won per set in those 14 sets (did not reach 5 games in any set) is a little bit alarming. Yes some things have changed slightly over the years with both players, but at the end of the day Djokovic has the ability to neutralise some of Nadal’s biggest strengths on hardcourt.

It was illustrated a couple of times perfectly in the semi final, but the flexibility of Djokovic is one of his biggest strengths. With his body, he is able to re-direct shots on the backhand wing that not many players could even attempt. His backswing is so short and simplified that he is able to deal with the added variety that can come with the increased spin from the racquet of Nadal. A lot has been spoken about the improved serve of Nadal, with his ability to get some extra power this year compared to the previous couple of years, however I am not sure it will make a massive difference against a player like Djokovic in a similar way to Tsitisipas, Tiafoe etc.

The Form

Based on the form leading into the final, you couldn’t really give a significant edge to either player. I slightly have Djokovic ahead, as I feel he has had a tougher draw, with Nadal facing only two seeds that both had significant situational or match-up based deficits to overcome. You can only beat those you face, so I don’t read too much into the opponents faced. That being said, you could argue that at his best Berdych is also a seed, however Duckworth/Ebden/De Minaur (tired)/Berdych/Tiafoe/Tsitsipas is a far more straightforward run to the final than Krueger/Tsonga/Shapovalov/Medvedev/Nishikori (tired)/Pouille.

Both players had dominant semi final matches, however I give the edge slightly to Djokovic due to the way he was able to up his game yet keep his unforced errors for the match down to 5 across the three sets.

Fitness

Whilst it is great to see Nadal bulldoze his way through to the final, it does leave a little question mark over his ability to play a full 4 or 5 sets against a player such as Djokovic on hardcourt. Points were relatively short against Duckworth/Ebden, Nadal knew he had De Minaur’s measure on the endurance scale, and again Nadal was largely untested physically against Berdych/Tiafoe/Tsitsipas. Coming up against a different style of player altogether in Djokovic, who will turn this match into a grind, is going to come up with its own unique challenges for Nadal.

I think Nadal *should* be okay physically, as his retirements at the Australian Open and US Open in 2018 were more a result of a longer match on the background of accumulative fatigue (in Aus played a long match vs Schwartzman, and US Open vs Thiem), however with the doubts coming into the tournament surrounding his fitness and the fact he has been largely untested to this point does add a little bit of doubt in my opinion. He has had some strapping on his abdominals over the last couple of matches, however I wouldn’t read too much into that either. He will give everything he has to get over the line tonight.

I personally don’t have any doubts around Djokovic’s ability to manage across the best of 5 format. He looked to have further gears to call on in his 4 set wins over Shapovalov and Medvedev, and although he did have some injuries 12 months ago, they never impacted his overall endurance and ability to get around the court pretty comfortably.

Edge to Djokovic in this department.

Who Wins?

I have given to edge to Djokovic in every area above, and I see no reason to jump off him today. Whilst I think this has the potential to be a great match, there are a couple of reasons why I have ultimately sided with Novak. I don’t think the first set is anywhere near as important for Djokovic as it is for Nadal. Djokovic will back in his fitness and his ability to come over the top of Nadal, whereas I get the feeling a small seed of doubt may creep into the mind of Nadal. He has been largely untested this tournament from a physical standpoint, and the tennis tonight is going to go to another level.

I also think Djokovic’s ability to hit confidently through his backhand down the line, even with the spin coming off the forehand of Nadal, will be the difference. That shortened backswing and Novak’s flexibility forces Nadal to cover the crosscourt backhand, however the moment that Nadal stops covering the line I would expect to see Djokovic attack. If Djokovic comes out with the same assertive mentality that we saw in the semi final against Pouille, then he should be too good here. The only situation I can see Nadal winning personally is if he leads 2 sets to 0, such is my confidence in the conditioning and form of Djokovic.

Look for Djokovic to get the job done AGAIN on Australian soil.

I will record against the middle of the line odds of $1.74, as that should be accessible for all.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 4 units Djokovic to defeat Nadal

Naomi Osaka vs Petra Kvitova

What an exciting match we have in store to finish off the women’s aspect of the Australian Open. It has been a fascinating fortnight, and I am happy to say that the two best players over the course of the fortnight have definitely found themselves in the final tonight.

Let’s start off with a quick recap of the road to the final for both players, and then discuss the match-up tonight.

Naomi Osaka

It has by no means been smooth sailing for Naomi, who is trying to back up her US Open Title with the win in Australia. It all started with a 6-4 6-2 win over Linette in round 1, when she dropped only one point on first serve whilst winning 50% of points on return for the match. The 30 winners to 16 unforced errors was also quite impressive.

Round 2 saw a win over Zidansek in quite straightforward fashion, getting the job done 6-2 6-4, winning 53% of points on return of serve, whilst only dropping 16 points on serve for the match.

Things became a little shaky in round 3, when my upset selection of Su Wei Hsieh lead 7-5 *4-2 40/0, before winning only 1 more game. I think this match had equal parts of Osaka coming back, and Hsieh struggling to close out the match. Nevertheless, it did seem to give Osaka the wakeup call that she so desperately needed for the tournament.

After some shaky moments and again dropping the first set, Osaka was able to claw her way out of trouble against Sevastova as well in the 4th round. I still think Sevastova hasn’t quite got the mental strength to match it with the best players in the biggest moments, such as their third set battle on Monday. Osaka was fantastic on break points in set 3, converting 2/3 and saving 5/6 points on her own, sealing victory and a meeting with Svitolina in the Quarter Final.

Osaka was quite dominant against Svitolina, who had been struggling with some fitness issues leading into the match. Nevertheless, I don’t think the result would have changed had Svitolina been 100%, with Osaka too strong from the back of the court.

Semi Final opponent Karolina Pliskova put up some very stiff resistance, with her confidence sky high coming off an improbable victory over Serena Williams. Osaka was able to come through some very tight moments, claiming a three-set victory in a match that looked like it could go either way for long periods. I got the feeling the result of the match may have been slightly different had Osaka been unable to stave off some break points in her first service game of the final set.

Petra Kvitova

Petra has really made the most of the slightly cooler conditions overall this year, looking dominant in parts of every match she has played in Melbourne. It started with 6-3 6-2 and 6-1 6-3 wins over Rybarikova and Begu, before she was able to defeat Belinda Bencic 6-1 6-4. Bencic was absolutely blown away by the tennis of Kvitova, and was able to sympathise with other opponents of Petra on Instagram as the fortnight progressed.

A lot of hype went into the pre-match build-up between Kvitova and Anisimova, purely based on just how well Anisimova was able to dispatch Sabalenka a couple of days earlier. As impressive as the young American’s win was over Sabalenka, Kvitova was able to trump her by running away with a crushing 6-2 6-1 victory in very quick time on Sunday.

I thought that the variety of pace and night time conditions may be advantageous to Ash Barty in their Quarter Final on Tuesday, however I was left with a bit of egg on my face as Kvitova took complete control in a matter of minutes, sucking the life out of a previously energetic Australian crowd. Barty was completely helpless in a 6-1 first set, before Kvitova came up with quality tennis in all the key moments in set 2, including the decisive break in the 9th game of the second set.

After perhaps a slightly shaky start in what were stifling conditions on Thursday, the Czech absolutely dominated Danielle Collins after taking the first set 7-6. Kvitova looked far more confident in the second set under the roof, running away with the victory 7-6 6-0.

Summary of the Match

I think this is going to be one of the better Grand Slam finals in recent memory. There are some positive stories for both women regardless of the result today. Nevertheless, I find myself drawn a bit more to the overall form of Kvitova leading into the final. You could mark down a handful of pressure points throughout the tournament for Osaka where she was on the brink of leaving the tournament. There were moments against Hsieh, Sevastova and Pliskova where things became really tight. Sometimes that can help release the pressure overall for the player moving forward in the tournament, however I don’t think that is completely the case for Osaka. I think she has been very lucky that some of those tight moments have come against players who have struggled to convert on similar big moments in their career previously (Hsieh, Sevastova).

Sometimes I feel it is good for players to have those pressure moments during Slams, as it helps condition them for any big moments that come up in the final. Whilst you could make a case that Kvitova hasn’t really been tested in a similar way this tournament, her past Grand Slam winning experience I think is enough to cancel out any concerns in that regard. She had some very tight moments in the Sydney final against Barty and handled them brilliantly, so I am not too concerned.

What I love about both players is their assertiveness when down break points or in tricky situations. Many players take a half step back, worried about the potential of making an error at a crucial moment. These two almost take a step forward and try and assert their authority on the situation. They want to control the point, and they remain aggressive.

Just a small play on the women’s final for mine. As I said before, I think it will be a fantastic match, however I think the general form of Kvitova outweighs Osaka given their odds tonight. I feel Kvitova has improved the consistency on her second serve slightly, and I think the second serve of Osaka is potentially the most vulnerable shot for either player going into this match. Considering the tennis that Kvitova has put together this week, including her dismantling of other big strikers of the ball in Bencic and Anisimova, I have to side with Petra to lift the title in this one.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Kvitova to defeat Osaka

Djokovic vs Pouille

I am not sure many would have predicted Lucas Pouille as a semi finallist at the Australian Open prior to the tournament starting. After a couple of rounds perhaps, however the fact that he was 0-5 in his career in Melbourne, and was coming off a handful of losses in the lead-up was certainly enough to look elsewhere.

Novak on the other hand has been largely untested on the way through to the semi final, with only a small lull in concentration against Medvedev, however I think the game total in this match tonight is a touch low when you take everything into consideration.

I think a total of 30.5 games isn’t quite what I had expected for this semi final. Novak has been good, but he hasn’t been great. Whilst I do expect him to win, I do have the feeling Pouille can either take one set, or force one tiebreak of close set that would put things in a good position for the total to clear 30.5.

Pouille’s win against Raonic is one of the more consistent performances I have seen from the Frenchman in some time, and it really impressed me. His ability to give no opportunities to break serve after being broken in the first game was very impressive.

He has the ability to play really impressive periods of tennis, so much so that it is part of the appeal of making a play on the total games going over today.

I wouldn’t read too much into the 6-1 4-1 result of Djokovic over Nishikori, as Kei could barely bend his knees to play his groundstrokes. We also cannot factor the hot weather against Novak here tonight, as the expected temperature when players step on court is around 24 degrees.

I do believe though that Pouille has shown in a couple of his matches this fortnight that he won’t be the easiest match-up for Novak.

Pouille had more success than others in returning the serves of Raonic and Popyrin, so he will enjoy having a bit more time on the return of serve today against Novak. He has been solid off both wings, and I would consider him in his current form to be a better return of serve than all of Djokovic’s opponents to date this week (some who have had success).

I think there is enough in the total to make a small play on the over 30.5 games. I prefer this to the 7.5 game handicap, as I think if Pouille were to take a set, it would be a closer set, and I wouldn’t want to allow Novak to cover that type of total in a 4 set match like he has done many times in the past. Happy with a 2 unit selection on the overs.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Djokovic/Pouille over 30.5 total games

Tsitsipas vs Nadal

I think more often than not, I generally side with Rafael Nadal when he comes up against a younger player with a single-handed backhand, and I see no reason to change my plan of attack today.

Tsitsipas has put together a wonderful fortnight of tennis, however I just get the feeling that had Bautista-Agut had slightly fresher legs, I would be writing about Bautista Agut and Nadal currently.

From 2-4 down in the third set, Tsitsipas was able to reel off 4 consecutive games to break the spirit of the Spaniard. With RBA struggling to finish off in some of the tighter moments, Tsitsipas found himself able to recover from a break deficit, something he faced in each of the first three sets of the match.

The question here is: will Nadal open the door for Tsitsipas in the same way? Or will Nadal slam the door shut, lock the door and throw away the key?

I think everyone, including myself, has been very impressed with the tennis of Nadal this fortnight considering the horror lead-in. Straight sets wins over Duckworth, Ebden, De Minaur, Berdych and Tiafoe is impressive, however it is the way in which he has done it that has impressed me most. Nadal has been locked in from point one.

You look at the pressure Nadal exerted on De Minaur in that crucial first set (won 6-1), and the same with Berdych (won 6-0), as well as breaking Tiafoe in his first service game, meant that all three of these players who gave themselves a decent chance against Nadal were well and truly on the back foot within 10-15 minutes of the warm-up being completed.

There are a few trouble spots here for Tsitsipas which lead me to making a play on Nadal at the -6.5 games. The first is the struggles Tsitsipas has had handling the first serve of Nadal in their two previous meetings, most notably the Nadal serve out wide to the Tsitsipas backhand in the Ad court.

Nadal holds a 13-1 record in the last 12 months against players with a one handed backhand (one loss to a redlining Thiem on clay), and I just wonder if Tsitsipas is going to be able to reguarly get good enough connection on that one handed backhand for it to be threatening. Nadal’s serve is looking more efficient, and overall he seems to be okay physically.

He did have his side iced after the match with Tiafoe, however I didn’t see any issues with his movement. The only thing that may cause an issue is a mid-match exacerbation of an injury, which can be covered by taking a game handicap that would be refunded in the case of a retirement.

Happy to make a 3.5 unit selection on Nadal to cover the -6.5 game handicap.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 3.5 units Nadal -6.5 game handicap vs Tsitsipas


Kvitova vs Collins

The weather really plays into the hands of Collins today, with the expected temperature of 36 degrees when these two players step onto court at 2pm AEDST today. I have mentioned a few times over the last month that a lot of Kvitova’s potential success will come down to her ability to avoid playing some of the hottest days of the month, as she can really struggle in those conditions.

These two met in Brisbane and played a 3 hour epic, with Collins serving for the matchat 30/0 at one point in the match. Collins was actually dominating proceedings to an extent until she was thrown off by a warning by the chair umpire for her celebrations and general behaviour on the court. I think she will have learnt her lesson a little bit from last time, however it is worth noting that Kvitova was running on fumes mid to late in that third set, and that day it was 30 degrees as a maximum, they played later in the day and the court was in full shade for the entirety of the match.

Danielle Collins is obviously playing some incredibly high confidence tennis, as prior to this fortnight she had never won a match at a Grand Slam previously. She has had no issues going toe-to-toe with some of the bigger strikers of the ball (ie Goerges) as well as doing a good job of taking the initiate when she has put herself in a commanding position in points.

Whilst I appreciate that Kvitova is definitely worthy of being a strong favourite, I am finding it pretty hard to justify Collins at $4.50 considering their match a couple of weeks ago, as well as the temperature on court when these two go to battle today.

I think there is enough value in the price of Collins to justify a small play today.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 1.5 units Collins to defeat Kvitova

Williams v Pliskova

In a similar fashion to their match at the US Open, I get the feeling Serena is going to cover the handicap again in this one.

You watch Serena over the last couple of years and there has this feeling at times where she is absolutely cruising in some matches, as she knows she has enough in the tank to just flick a switch and effectively end the match whenever she feels it is appropriate.

She doesn’t seem to cruise against Pliskova, and I think it has something to do with Pliskova’s win over Serena at the 2016 US Open Semi Finals.

I don’t think the speed and weight of shot is going to worry Serena today. After all, Serena and her team have recently adjusted her training plan to hit against some of the bigger hitting players on the men’s tour. Players such as Grigor Dimitrov and Chris Eubanks have shared the practice court with Serena in a bid to keep Williams challenged and always improving at practice. Considering that, I don’t see today being a big issue for Serena from a match-up perspective.

On current form, I don’t think that Pliskova has enough variety in her game to be particularly challenging for Serena in her current form.

Whilst Pliskova has come into the net quite a bit in the first few rounds, it would be another thing entirely to come in with such confidence against Serena. Serena’s ability to re-direct balls at pace is underrated, and will become a key area of interest in this one.

Pliskova will need to go for the lines here, because hitting back to Serena at pace will lead to many shots flying back past her into the open court. Whilst the 3 unforced against Muguruza was impressive, the Spaniard wasn’t moving particularly well (struggled physically even though it wasn’t a hot day), and Pliskova could play well within her limits and still get the job done well.

Happy to make a 2 unit selection on Serena to cover the -3.5 game handicap on her way to the semi finals.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Williams -3.5 Games for 2 Units


Djokovic v Nishikori

We saw Roberto Bautista Agut run out of legs yesterday against Tsitsipas, so it does beg the question: how on earth is Nishikori going to get through tonight’s match?

Something that is really important for a player such as Nishikori is the ability to get on and off court quickly in the early stages of a Grand Slam, in an attempt to conserve energy when he comes up against the tournament favourites.

Instead, Nishikori found himself down 2 sets to 0 in round 1 to Majchzrak, and since then has found himself in two final set tiebreaks (vs Karlovic and Carreno Busta). All in all, Kei has done the opposite of what is recommended, and after over 5 hours on court Monday night against Carreno Busta, you have to wonder what is left in the tank for today.

These two met at the US Open last year, with Novak winning 6-3 6-4 6-2 whilst converting only 4 of 17 break point opportunities. That day, Nishikori was again coming off a 5 set match against Cilic, and again looked to be just a touch off his game. Everything needs to be running smoothly and Nishikori needs to be at 100% to be any chance (see US Open 2014).

Kei is a confidence player, and I don’t think losing the last 15 sets on hardcourt is going to fill him with a lot of confidence. I am happy to make a play on the -7.5 games for today. For perspective, Novak covered this handicap in a 4 set win at Wimbledon last year whilst dropping a set 6-3.

Novak was grabbing at his hip/thigh after a fall on Monday against Medvedev, however it is hard to read anything into this one, as Novak does have a bit of a history of putting on a bit more of a show than necessary. He looked okay after the fall, so I wouldn’t read too much into the whole thing.

Look for Novak to cover the -7.5 game handicap on the way to the semi final.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Djokovic -7.5 games for 2 Units

Pavlyuchenkova vs Collins

This match has all the makings of the total games going over in my opinion, as on form I can see neither dominating this match from start to finish to be honest.

Pavlyuchenkova and Collins have both put together fantastic weeks of tennis on their way to the second week of the Australian Open. Pavlyuchenkova has been able to defeat some very in-form players in Bertens, Sasnovich and Stephens through the last three rounds, whereas after being 2 points from defeat against Goerges in round 1, Collins has been able to blow Garcia and Kerber off the court quite convincingly in the last two rounds.

Against Kerber and Garcia, Collins was the beneficiary of the match being almost solely on her racquet. She was intiating almost everything throughout both matches, and as a result was rewarded for her very clean hitting. I don’t think she will get everything going her way in a similar fashion today, with Pavlyuchenkova able to absorb and generate pace well, as we have seen this week alone against Bertens and Stephens.

Both of these players have the ability to have very strong patches throughout their time on court, but are both susceptible to lulls. With that in mind, I do get the feeling that this match will be as close as the odds suggest, and the over 21.5/22 game total is an incredibly appealing prospect. Both players have no issue with coming from a set down, and that is something that is important when on such a total at WTA level.

Look for this match to be incredibly close.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Pavlyuchenkova/Collins over 21.5 games


Barty vs Pliskova

I think we finally have the first instance for the tournament where putting an Australian on Rod Laver Arena in the night session is actually beneficial for the Australian, and not just for TV ratings. This presents as a massive opportunity for Ash Barty, as the slightly slower court conditions really do play into her hands tonight.

If you look at the list of names Kvitova has defeated this week: Rybarikova (rusty), Begu, Bencic and Anisimova, it becomes clear that outside of Rybarikova to an extent, all Kvitova has faced has been big strikers of the ball. Looking at the last two rounds, and it is clear that the scores became so lopsided in both matches due to her opponents lack of a Plan B. If hitting hard wasn’t working (which it wasn’t), they had no fallback option, which was ultimately their undoing.

Ash Barty has the variety to cause a lot more trouble today.

Whilst I do think Barty is a good chance of causing the upset, I find more value in the game handicap today to be honest. I think Barty with a 2.5 game start is a solid prospect. She covered this comfortably in their meeting in the final in Sydney, where Barty won more games throughout the match before falling in a third set tiebreak. I think Barty’s variety is really going to be of use today in the slower conditions on Rod Laver Arena. I think the most vulnerable shot from any player on the court tonight is the second serve of Kvitova, which Ash did a fantastic job of attacking in Sydney.

If Barty can neutralise the serve of Kvitova, and force the issue on the second ball of Petra, then she is right in this match. As we saw in Sydney, nerves can still get the better of Barty, so I am far more comfortable making a play on the 2.5 game handicap for the Australian than the head to head.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Barty +2.5 games vs Kvitova

Nishikori v Carreno Busta

I must say I was incredibly surprised to see Pablo Carreno-Busta at odds almost the same as Joao Sousa was against Nishikori last round.

I was very keen on Nishikori -6.5 that day, however there was a strong emphasis on the fatigue of Sousa having played so many sets of singles and doubles over the 4 days previous. Pablo Carreno-Busta is a totally different ballgame today.

I was very impressed with the form of Carreno-Busta the other day against a very tricky opponent in Fabio Fognini. To be a solid chance against a player such as Nishikori, you need to be able to attack the second serve, and PCB has done that this week.

He won 54% of 2nd serve points from Vanni (39/73), 60% against Ivashka (30/50) and a staggering 79% against Fognini in round 3 (33/42). Regardless of his form leading into the tournaments, PCB seems to find a way at most recent AO/US Opens, outside of his retirement to Sousa in Flushing Meadows last year, which threw off the rest of his 2018.

Yes Nishikori crushed Sousa in sets 2 and 3, however Sousa was physically struggling after dropping the first set. It was a long way back for Sousa, who just didn’t have the legs under him to attempt a comeback.

I think this result on paper however has presented a nice opportunity to play PCB at the +5.5 game handicap today. I also think PCB to win is value, so I am more than happy to take a 5.5 game head start in this one.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Carreno Busta +5.5 Games for 2.5 Units


Djokovic v Medvedev

I would be a bit surprised if this match was incredibly one sided. Djokovic hasn’t set the world on fire in the early rounds, and he will need to lift his game significantly if he wants to get the job done comfortably today against Daniil Medvedev, who has surprised me this week as well.

Through three matches on court this week, Daniil Medvedev has accumulated 38 unforced errors to his 90 winners. He looks comfortable on court, and I think the night time conditions almost play into his favour a touch here as well, even with the court a touch slower at night.

As I have written about him a few times this year, I am impressed with his mobility for his size, and his ability to get down to ground balls on both wings, utilising flat hitting and an impressive use of angles at times as well.

I don’t think Medvedev has Novak in Best-of-5 format currently, but based on his press conference the other day, he seems himself as a big chance in this one.

I think there is enough value in the form of Medvedev to make a play on the total games going over, or Medvedev to win a set. Shapovalov got Novak’s serve three times, and Tsonga twice, so with Medvedev playing far better tennis, I see this as a decent opportunity for the Russian.

Whist nerves would potentially get the better of him if he finds himself close to a winning position, I also think that finding himself that nervous over an opportunity would imply the match is close, and has likely gone over 34.5 games in total.

I am fascinated by this match, and to be honest before this week, when I was writing my preview, I had Djokovic, then daylight, then Nishikori, then daylight, then the rest in this quarter. With the sun setting before this match, we may see the young Russian step out from the shadows and put up a very decent challenge.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Over 34.5 Games for 2.5 Units

Federer v Tsitsipas

Whilst I don’t normally get involved in Federer matches too often, I am finding it very difficult to pass up this opportunity at a very interesting -5.5 game handicap.

Outside of a couple of close sets against Evans, Federer has looked pretty good overall in his Australian Open campaign to date. His performance has been about what you would expect in the early rounds: a couple of tight spots handled pretty well, and three solid straight sets wins overall.

He has faced 3 break points for the tournament (lost serve once), and they all came against Dan Evans in their closer match in round 2. When Federer steps on court, you know what sort of performance you can generally expect.

I am still not entirely sold on Tsitsipas as Grand Slam level. He has made life very difficult for himself at times over the first three rounds, with 4 set victories over Berretini, Troicki and Basilashvili.

He has struggled at times to convert opportunities to break, which will be a big problem in a match like today, as Federer won’t give him too many opportunities to break his serve in my opinion.

Not too much can be read into their Hopman Cup meeting earlier this month, however even in an exhibition, Tsitsipas struggled to get a read on both the first and second serves of Federer. It was Federer in two tiebreaks that night, with Federer the only player to give himself break point opportunities.

With the courts playing a little slower in the evening session, I think this also plays quite well into the hands of Federer. Look for Federer to make a statement early on the return of serve, be it coming into the net and making his presence felt, or giving Tsitsipas a variety of different looks/angles/speeds to throw off his rhythm.

I think the variety of Federer will be Tsitsipas’ undoing, in what I think will be a real statement game for the defending champion.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Federer -5.5 Games for 4 Units


Stephens v Pavlyuchenkova

For those who don’t know the history between these two, I suggest having a quick look at their Beijing meeting from late last year. In a word: fireworks.

I don’t see this match as being particularly one-sided towards either player, and the small play I will be making is on the total games going over 21.5. These two are quite evenly matched, with Stephens edging ahead in terms of form at Grand Slam level over the last couple of years. To be honest, I think that will play a major role in this one.

I do give Stephens the edge slightly, but this match feels like it will have a similar trajectory to their Beijing meeting. Both players are in form that is too good to allow their opponent to take control of the whole match. I think Pavlyuchenkova has played well above what her recent form would suggest, however she does seem to love the conditions in Australia, having made the Quarter Final in 2017 and played some brilliant tennis here over the years.

After a solid win over Puig in round 1, things really stepped up for Pavlyuchenkova in round 2, where she defeated Kiki Bertens in a tight 3-setter, having trailed 1-5 in the first set. She looked good again in Round 3, defeating Sasnovich comfortably.

Sloane has been solid this week, without setting the world on fire. She was lucky that Petra Martic did tighten up a bit in the last round, however the composure and skill of Stephens really did rise to the top late in that match.

Stephens is having some off patches during her matches however, trailing a break in both sets against Martic, and that is part of the appeal of a selection of the game total going over 21.5 in this one.

Just a 2 unit selection, but I do like these two to play a very long, hotly contested match.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Over 21.5 Games for 2 Units

Goffin vs Medvedev

As one of the better counter-punching players in the game, I really like the odds available today on David Goffin against Daniil Medvedev, in what looks to be a very tricky opponent for the Russian young gun.

Whilst Medvedev’s flat hitting style proved to be quite a nightmare for both Harris and Harrison in rounds one and two, it will not phase Goffin in the slightest. One of the better movers on court, Goffin will love the ball coming onto the racquet hard and flat, and should be able to counterpunch quite consistently throughout this one.

Goffin has had some difficulties in the past with the hot weather on offer in Melbourne, however today’s top of 22 degrees presents as really good opportunity for Goffin to cause an upset on the slightly slower (based on reports) Melbourne Arena.

The bigger the crowd in this match, the better for Goffin in my opinion. He is well proven in these moments, and has been here many times before. This is Medvedev’s third career attempt at getting beyond the third round of a Slam. He was beaten in 5 sets by Mannarino at the French Open, before Borna Coric tore him apart at the US Open. A player who has admitted to nerves, and appeared to struggle with them at times (see Brisbane final vs Nishikori), is a player I cannot have at the price against someone as good as Goffin.

This play falls along a similar chain of thought to the Kerber play yesterday, however not as blatant as Medvedev is a top 30 opponent. Medvedev has effectively had wins handed to him with Harris and Harrison through the first two rounds, which is something that definitely won’t be happening today. Goffin is too experienced to be $2.25+ in this situation, especially when you consider some of the tennis he has been able to put together on court this week.

In favourable, slower conditions, I like Goffin to cause the upset here.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 4 units Goffin to defeat Medvedev


Pouille vs Popyrin

Whilst it is fantastic to see Popyrin as one of the wildcards making his way through, he has had a far more favourable draw situationally than it looks on paper. Mischa Zverev barely played any tennis in the lead-up to the Australian Open due to injury, and it well and truly showed in round 1. Coming off that stroke of luck, Popyrin then found himself against Dom Thiem, who had to retire from in set 3 after looking unwell and lethargic throughout.

Whilst Popyrin has been playing some very solid tennis, I do get the feeling that today’s match-up of Lucas Pouille. The Frenchman has looked very good on serve over the last two matches, dropping it only 3 times in 7 sets against two relatively decent returns of serve in Kukushkin and Marterer. Whilst the obvious question to ask after that comment is “But Popyrin hasn’t dropped serve for the tournament?” which may be the case, however Zverev isn’t a quality return of serve, and Thiem played many many levels below his best tennis. I think things will be a little different today against Pouille.

Watching Popyrin live on Thursday, I was a little worried about his ability to maintain such a high intensity playing style across the best of 5 set format. He was playing some redlining tennis, and I feel that ability to try and bite off more than he can chew is going to be his downfall in this one.

I have seen what I have wanted to see from Pouille in his first two rounds, and I think the confidence in his game is at a better level than we saw late last year. Look for the Frenchman to spoil the party on Margaret Court Arena tonight with a very solid performance, covering the -3.5 game handicap.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Pouille -3.5 games vs Popyrin

Cilic v Verdasco

To be honest, I still am not totally convinced by Cilic’s performances over the first two rounds, and at a very short head to head price, looks like a player I am happy to oppose for the right price today.

A tight 3 set win over Tomic and a up-and-down 4 set win over McDonald is not the type of form to convince me regarding Cilic. It isn’t uncommon for Cilic to start the tournament off with a slightly scratchy performance, however he normally backs that up with a much better showing the next time he is on court.

I understand there is a strong head to head advantage to Cilic overall against Verdasco, but I just cannot help but feel that Cilic isn’t quite at his best level in terms of his tennis, and Verdasco has managed to make his way through to the third round convincingly without dropping a set.

Fernando Verdasco has looked incredibly solid through rounds 1 and 2, with straight sets wins over Kecmanovic and Albot securing his place in the third round. In both matches, he did have a couple of little down patches, however the ability to recover and ensure he didn’t drop a set and spend more time on court than necessary was impressive, albeit a little surprising for Verdasco. He is looking incredibly fit, and presents a very strong challenge today at $3.75+.

I think this match is going to come down to how much Verdasco can get the ball onto the backhand of Cilic. Against McDonald, Cilic had only 10 winners on the backhand side to 23 unforced errors. From what I saw of the match, he looked to be coming off his backhand a little too early at times, leading to errors.

If Verdasco can utillise his leftie forehand and get it deep into the backhand wing of Cilic, then I have Verdasco in a really good position here. Obviously the same can be said for Cilic’s forehand into the backhand of Verdasco, however although Verdasco’s winner rate off the backhand isn’t particularly high, he has also been able to keep the unforced error count quite low on that side through rounds 1 and 2.

I think Verdasco has a massive opportunity today at a big underdog price. Being an underdog allows Fernando to relax the shoulders a bit and play his natural game. I like him the get the job done here at a very nice price.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Verdasco to win for 2.5 Units


Kerber v Birrel

Whilst I have been on the bandwagon of Birrell since the wildcard playoff in December, I think today might be a big step too far in my opinion. There has been a point of difference with her previous opponents compared to Kerber today, and that is Kerber will not give Birrell anything for free.

She won’t throw in cheap double faults. She won’t get into heated arguments with the chair umpire and cause it to interfere with her match. She will maintain the highest quality, point after point after point. Kerber has 25 unforced errors through the first two rounds, and is looking very impressive on serve, having not lost serve for the tournament to date.

I get the feeling that Kerber should be covering the -6.5 game handicap in this one. I think based on the stats that Birrell has produced to date, she will need a significant lift in form in this one.

Her winners won’t come as easily, as Kerber’s court movement is far superior to Badosa Gibert and Vekic. She will be forced the play an extra shot, time and time again. On Rod Laver Arena, late at night, in the biggest match of her career, it could lead to more errors coming from the Australian’s racquet.

This match is on after De Minaur vs Nadal, and such is the nature of these matches sometimes, you don’t get a full crowd. This probably helps Kerber a touch, as the crowd will be slightly more quiet in terms of support of the Australian. The court seems to be playing a touch slower at night too, making this even more difficult for Birrell.

Happy to make a play on Kerber at the -6.5 game handicap here, as I think she will be too strong and too experienced for the young Australian today.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Kerber -6.5 Games for 2.5 Units

Zhang v Pliskova

First of all, this is Kristyna Pliskova, and not Karolina Pliskova. Second of all, I really like the -3.5 game handicap here for Zhang, who had her big Grand Slam breakthrough here at the Australian Open a few years ago, and always looks to stand a little taller and play a little more confidently here since.

I really like taking Zhang up against taller, less mobile players on tour, and we get that opportunity today. I thought Zhang may have found her first round match-up a bit tricky in Cibulkova, however 81% of points won behind her first serve, and winning 48% of points on the return of serve set up a 6-2 4-6 6-2 victory for Zhang.

I think if she can win 81% of points behind her first serve and 54% of points behind her second second against a solid return of serve in Cibulkova, then I think she should be relatively comfortable on serve for the most part against Pliskova today.

Kristyna Pliskova made her way through to the second round with a hard fought 7-6 2-6 6-2 win over Anna Blinkova. She got the job done on the back of 71% of points won on her first serve, and 13 aces and 43 winners in total for the match.

Blinkova did struggle in set 3, with the heat starting to get to her, and a -3 winner to unforced error count compared to Pliskova’s +4. Personally, I don’t quite rate the game of Pliskova overall on outdoor hardcourt, especially in conditions that we will be witnessing today.

Having watched a couple of matches of hers in the heat over the last 12-18 months, her legs really do start to fade late in matches, which can be a real issue when not getting the first serve in consistently.

I think a high first serve percentage is key for Pliskova, however when you consider that in 14 of her last 19 matches her first serve in percentage has sat below 60%, I think the door is going to open right up here for Zhang to have a look at a number of second serves across the match.

Zhang’s movement for her size, her controlled power, and her ability to re-direct pace is going to be the difference in my opinion. Look for Zhang to hit back behind the movement of Pliskova regularly, and hopefully come out of it with a comfortable second round win.

If Pliskova puts 80% of her first serves into play then fair play to her and I will take that probable loss, however I think there is great value in the -3.5 game handicap today.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Zhang -3.5 Games for 4 Units


Bolt v Simon

I don’t think Alex Bolt is going to have a particularly enjoyable day on court today, coming up against an opponent who is virtually the opposite of his first round conquest in Jack Sock.

I don’t think there is any other way to say it – Jack Sock was pretty average on Tuesday. Really average. Fair play and well done to Bolt for capitalising and playing within himself for long periods of the match.

Overall, I don’t think too much can really be read into the result, however it definitely was the biggest result of Simon’s career.

I am more interested in Simon’s ability to get through his first round in straight sets without a hiccup against Bjorn Fratangelo, winning 7-6 6-4 6-2. Gilles is very quietly putting together some very solid form to start 2019.

Simon is going to turn this match into a grind. Every point is going to be that little bit longer, and I think in the best of 5 set format that Bolt is going to feel the pinch in this one. Unless Bolt puts together one of the best performances of his career, I think Simon should be able to cover his -6.5 game handicap.

I see this covering in 3 or 4 sets, unless Bolt absolutely redlines for a set of tennis to blow the handicap out of the water. When you look at the lead-up form of Bolt, and his losses to the likes of Munar and Thompson, then I am more inclined to side with the French journeyman to get the job done today.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Simon -6.5 Games for 2.5 Units

Lesia Tsurenko v Amanda Anisimova

I am predicting a bit of a changing of the guard here, as a lot of people will start to learn the name Amanda Anisimova.

I absolutely take my hat off to any young player who has the patience and game to beat Monica Niculescu in straights sets. She can be one of the most frustrating players to play against, with her forehand slice and variety chopping up anyone without composure.

The 18 year old handled the occasion very well, as I was worried after she struggled with Hsieh last year in Hiroshima that she may have struggled. Instead, she now finds herself in a far more comfortable match-up against Lesia Tsurenko.

Anisimova looks far more at home on court against the bigger strikers of the ball, boasting wins over the likes of Kvitova, Pavlyuchenkova, Blinkova, Fett, Schmiedlova, Babos and Dolehide amongst others in her 27-10 record over the last 12 months. She served very well against Niculescu, winning 73.3% of points on her first serve (60% of first serves hit the mark) and won nearly half of points on return of Niculescu’s first serve.

She struggled a bit more with the second serve, which highlights the fact that she doesn’t mind the ball coming onto the racquet with a lot of pace, and a lot of pace she will get today.

I don’t particularly rate the win of Tsurenko over Alexandrova. Whilst she was able to win 74% of points behind her first serve, she only set herself up to have 10 winners and 16 unforced errors, defaulting to Alexandrova deciding the outcome of the point more often than not.

Between that and turning a 4-0 second set lead into a tiebreak, and winning only 7/26 points behind her second serve, and I am not particularly convinced by her tennis. If she puts up a similar performance today, I think she is in a bit of trouble.

Had the temperature been high again today, I would perhaps have not been as keen on Anisimova here at 18 years of age backing up in searing temperatures, however with a far more friendly top temperature, I am very keen to make a play on Anisimova with the 2.5 game handicap.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Anisimova +2.5 Games for 3 Units


Karen Khachanov v Yoshito Nishioka

As much as I personally rate Yoshihito Nishioka, I think today is a terrible match-up for him. The stats of Nishioka’s win 6-4 7-6 4-6 6-4 look good on the surface, but they don’t highlight that Sandgren was backing up off his maiden title in Auckland under 48 hours earlier, and that Nishioka faced 22 break points across the match.

If Nishioka is unable to win over 70% of first serve points, and only 55% of points on second serve against a slightly tired Sandgren, I fear he may have a bit of a torrid time today against Khachanov.

You cast an eye over Nishioka’s tennis against top 20 players in the last 12 months and it doesn’t make for very good viewing. He has only won one set (against Schwartzman last week, completely different type of opponent), with the following losses:

  • Federer 2-6 2-6 4-6
  •  Cilic 1-6 4-6 4-6 (grass)
  • Carreno Busta 0-6 RET
  • Berdych 1-6 4-6
  • Fognini 2-6 2-6
  • Schwartzman 1-6 6-3 6-7
  • Dimitrov 3-6 4-6

Whilst he is able to grind down players ranked 30-80, Nishioka still has trouble at times with the bigger power hitters on tour, and he is up against one of those today in Karen Khachanov.

I am predicting some really big things for Khachanov this year, and I don’t think he is going to disappoint me today. Outside of an early slip up against Gojowczyk, Khachanov looked incredibly steady throughout.

I think if Khachanov can recreate his first serve percentage above 60%, which he has done in 19 of his last 21 matches, this match has the potential to get out of hand quite quickly.

If Khachanov is able to earn break points in 7 of Gojowczyk’s service games (5/15 conversion overall), then I do worry for Nishioka considering his overall lower serve percentage numbers.

I think the -5.5 game handicap here looks incredibly good value. I cannot see Khachanov losing a set cheaply the way he is playing, and looking at Nishioka’s record against top 20 players, I fear this one may be quite one sided.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Khachanov -5.5 Games for 5 Units

Nick Kyrgios vs Milos Raonic

I am yet to find an occasion this year where I have felt as though Raonic has presented any value (outside of perhaps against Bedene), and that is the case again today. This will be one of only a handful of matches for the year where I will be involving myself in a Kyrgios match, however being the first round of a Grand Slam, I think we can assume that Kyrgios will be engaged here on his preferred court on Melbourne Arena.

Since Raonic has come back from injury (or played through injury late last year), he just hasn’t seemed to have the same level of consistency that I have come to expect from him over the years. He looked very scratchy at times against Medvedev in Brisbane, having lost serve in the third set from *4-4 40/0, something which I cannot recall Raonic doing for years, let alone at such a crucial point in the match. He also found himself in some slightly tricky situations against Kecmanovic in Brisbane, and just doesn’t seem to be back to his 100% fitness yet in my opinion. A good way to find out will be on a hot night in Melbourne Arena with the whole crowd against him.

I think we all know what Nick Kyrgios is capable of on the tennis court. Ironically, the best glimpse we have seen of it this year was in his exhibition match against Rafael Nadal in Sydney. Nevertheless, Kyrgios seems to be moving relatively well, and I actually don’t mind him coming off a lighter schedule, as he shouldn’t have any trouble getting through a best of 5 set match against Raonic, where the majority of the points will be finished in under 5 shots.

Kyrgios holds an advantage over Raonic in their head to head meetings through the 2015-2016 period where Raonic was sitting around the Top 10 mark and Kyrgios was still establishing a name for himself. That included a win in their only hardcourt match in Miami in 2016, which Kyrgios won 6-4 7-6. You could argue that if Kyrgios could beat the 2016 version of Raonic, that the 2019 version shouldn’t be any more difficult.

I think the X-Factor of Kyrgios will be the difference in this one. In a match that will require a 5-10 minute purple patch from time to time, I prefer to be on the Australian’s side. I expect both players to really attack with their second serve, knowing the reward outweighs the risk in this particular match-up.

Matches are about moments. Tonight, it is Kyrgios’ moment.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 4 units Kyrgios to win at $2.10


Benoit Paire vs Domonic Thiem

Thiem, underwhelming and 2019 have become quite a trio in January, and he will need to change things quickly before the first Grand Slam of the year disappears in front of his very eyes. I think the biggest issue for Thiem in the latter part of 2018 and start of 2019 has been his first serve deserting him in some key moments. He has all the talent in the world, however he is just devoid of confidence at the moment and nowhere near his best level.

I get the feeling that the odds on Paire have been inflated somewhat thanks to his 2-6 3-6 performance against Norrie in Auckland last week, a result I am absolutely ignoring on face value. Paire was very critical of tournament organisers and his travel plans, as it took him over 30 hours to travel from Pune to Auckland, arriving the night before his match. He actually looked to fall asleep during one of the change of ends (whether or not it was a stunt is still to be determined), however it leads to a bit more value in the price of Paire today.

Whilst the Grand Slam record of Paire over the last couple of years hasn’t been fantastic, it has taken a good player in form to beat Paire on each occasion. Here are the last couple of Grand Slams as an example:

  • US Open 2018 – lost to Federer
  • Wimbledon 2018 – lost to Del Potro
  • Roland Garros 2018 – lost to Nishikori
  • US Open 2017 – lost to M Zverev (in form at the time)
  • Wimbledon 2017 – lost to Murray
  • French Open 2017 – lost to Nadal
  • Australian Open 2017 – lost to Thiem

That 2017 match was a tight 4 set match, with Paire coming off a shorter recovery having beaten Fognini in 5 sets in the previous round. With Thiem low on form and confidence, and Paire playing some very solid tennis in Pune prior to his Auckland debacle, I like the odds on the Frenchman overall.

I am more inclined to go for the head to head price than the line of +5.5 games for Paire, as if he were to lose 3 sets in this one, there is the high possiblity that one of those is a very cheap set, putting such a handicap in jeopardy. I would rather a smaller staking on the head to head price.

Hopefully Paire is able to take advantage of a vulnerable Thiem at a value price.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Paire to win at $3.90

Ash Barty v Luksika Kumkhum

I love Ash Barty as much as the next person, however the odds on her today do seem to be a touch ridiculous. Barty has, by virtue of playing well, turned her schedule pre-Australian Open into quite a heavy one. After playing in week 1 in Perth, Barty then travelled to Sydney to attempt to go one better than her finals appearance in 2018.

It was a case of so close but yet so far, with the Australian dominating early, before struggling to convert opportunities at key times, opening the door for Petra Kvitova. Whilst she did play well, she has played a lot of tennis, which makes for an interestingly quick turnaround here on Day 1 in Melbourne. I wouldn’t be worried if she found herself against a weaker opponent, however I do think that Kumkhum is being disrespected slightly with the price on offer.

Kumkhum holds a 42-18 record over the last 12 months, which improves to 39-12 on hardcourt. She has wins over Cornet, Zheng, Bencic (here last year), Larsson, Brady and Gasparyan within the last 12 months. She has taken the scalp of Petra Kvitova in R1 of the Australian Open (2014), and I think her game presents quite a tricky match up for Barty, especially if her legs feel a bit heavy.

It is a bit hard to get a full read on this one as Barty has played a LOT of tennis in 2019 already, and Kumkhum is yet to play a competitive match. Nevertheless, I feel that $7+ that is available for Kumkhum is a touch high, and the total of 18.5 games is a touch low. I am happy to make a play with 0.5 units on the win, and 2 units on the total games over 18.5.

Barty has never played her best tennis here, with a career record sitting at 4-5. Until that changes, I cannot have her being so short against a player as talented as Kumkhum.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Barty/Khumkun over 18.5 Games for 2 Units

 BACK – Kumkhum to defeat Barty for 0.5 Units


Marin Cilic v Bernard Tomic

I am very surprised at just how well Bernard Tomic has flown under the radar leading into the Australian Open this year. This time 12 months ago, the Australian was about to make his way into the African Jungle for a reality TV show.

Fast forward and he has put together a 26-12 year, which included a title in Chengdu as a qualifier, a Challenger title at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Mallorca and a claycourt Challenger Final. The moment things started to click for me in terms of his comeback was the Chengdu final against Fognini, where not only did he play some brilliant tennis, he was able to save 4 match points to top the Italian in the final.

It was nice to see him back on court and playing with passion, something that had been lacking the last couple of years. Today is a different test, as he finds himself back in the cauldron of best of 5 set tennis, but he should have the support of the crowd at his back. I still maintain that at his best, Tomic is one of the best players to watch on the ATP tour, he just needed his desire to play tennis to return, which seems to have occurred.

For those who read my outright preview on The Hub at Betfair, it won’t come as much of a surprise that I am tipping Tomic in this one. Before you consider that Cilic has been dealing with a knee injury, it is worth noting that Cilic isn’t generally a very dominant player early in tournaments.

I saw him live in round 1 last year against Vasek Pospisil, and at times he looked to be fighting an internal battle trying to deal with the conditions, and found himself a point or two from a 5th set in the first round. He was able to build on that win, but it did highlight to be that Cilic can sometimes start in scratchy fashion.

The knee injury that caused him to withdraw from any lead-up tournaments is also something to note. He pulled out of the tournament in Pune, instead opting to head to Kooyong for a couple of Exhibition matches. He got the win over a jetlagged Kevin Anderson (who won the Pune title), and Fernando Verdasco in Exhibition Mode, and did mention that he wasn’t yet at 100% and that his knee felt “slightly more stiff than usual”.

Exhibition tennis is a completely different game to Grand Slam tennis, and against a player like Tomic, who keeps the ball very flat and uses slice and angles to his advantage, this will require Cilic to load his knee more and more across the match.

I think there is enough form from Tomic over the last couple of tournaments of 2018, coupled with enough question marks surrounding Cilic, to make a play on Tomic as the h2h price that is currently available.

Look for the Australian, who has beaten Cilic on hardcourt before, to really trouble the 2018 finallist, to the point where I think he has a fantastic chance of progressing to the second round. A great value price to end Day 1 at the Australian Open.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Tomic to defeat Cilic for 2.5 Units

Welcome to the Australian Open preview. Quite an interesting draw has unfolded, leaving some of the bigger chances stacked in sections of the draw. This could potentially open the door for some of the young guard to stake a claim, as currently all Major holders in the men’s draw are aged 30 and over.

I have made some comments on each player that is seeded below, as well as some of the dangerous floaters in the draw. I have also made some comments with potential suggestions that may pop up throughout the tournament, and some statistics of note on each seeded player.

If you have any questions/comments/feedback, feel free to get in touch on Twitter (@Ace_Previews)

Good Luck,

Ace


Quarter 1

Novak Djokovic

Australian Open Record: 61-8

Best Result at AO: Won (2008. 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Denis Istomin, 117 (2017)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 138-20

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 183-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  61-15

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 4-20

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 34-7

Comments:

Novak is clearly the one to beat in my opinion. Whereas the next generation of talent, led by Alexander Zverev, have started bridging the gap towards the top players such as Djokovic at the best-of-3 set format. That being said, the fitness of Djokovic really dominates in the best of 5 set format. The slightly friendlier heat policy in effect from this year also favours Djokovic, who at times has struggled with the hottest conditions Melbourne has to offer.

I would be fascinated to see a Medvedev/Djokovic 4th round encounter, but outside of that I get the feeling that the only player between Novak and another finals appearance is Kei Nishikori or a redlining Tsonga/Klizan. Good luck redlining in best of 5 against Novak in his post-Wimbledon form.

Denis Shapovalov

Australian Open Record: 1-1

Best Result at AO: R2 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: 15 (Jo Wilfried Tsonga, 2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 9-3

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 4-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets: 2-5

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-1

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 25-19

Comments:

Happy to avoid from an outright standpoint. Continues to show flashes in the best of 3 set format, however his energetic style of play isn’t suited to the hot conditions of Melbourne. Could be good value for an upset late in week 1, however cannot see him progressing past the second or third round.

David Goffin

Australian Open Record: 9-5 (main draw record)

Best Result at AO: QF (2017)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Marcos Baghdatis, 78 (2015)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 24-12

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 20-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  19-8

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-14

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 28-17

Comments:

There are enough concerns around Goffin’s recent form, as well as his struggles with the heat in the past, to look elsewhere from my perspective. I think he will be vulnerable in the early rounds in the heat, and that may lead to Medvedev taking advantage in R3 if they meet. Cannot see him escaping this quarter, especially with Novak lurking.

Daniil Medvedev

Australian Open Record: 1-2

Best Result at AO: R2 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Ernesto Escobedo, 131 (2017)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 3-4

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 4-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  2-1

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-6

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018:  46-16

Comments:

Speaking of Medvedev, my opinion of him going into this tournament would be much higher were it best-of-3 format. I have seen him really start to fatigue mentally late in some third sets recently, so when you extrapolate that out to the best of 5 set arena, it spells trouble for mine.

Has the talent to beat the likes of Goffin, but also needs to keep an eye on a very solid first round qualifier in Lloyd Harris. Happy to avoid for outrights and will watch to see how he handles the early going in the tournament.

Fabio Fognini

Australian Open Record: 8-11

Best Result at AO: R4 (2014, 2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Alejandro Gonzalez, 107 (2015)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 19-22

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 24-2

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  15-14

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down:  6-26

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 24-12

Comments:

Just doesn’t have enough runs on the board to be considered a late tournament threat in Australia. Has all the talent and can come back from a 0-2 as good as any other (see win vs Nadal at US Open).

However gets himself into trouble too often with sluggish starts for me to consider him for a pre-tournament outright selection. If he makes it through Round 1 comfortably, should manage his way to approx. round 4 given draw.

Pablo Carreno Busta

Australian Open Record: 5-5

Best Result at AO: R4 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Denis Istomin, 117 (2017)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 16-13

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 14-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  7-10

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-7

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 18-12

Comments:

Pablo can sometimes be considered as one of the more difficult players to get a read on at times. Made the 4th round last year and really challenged the eventual finalist in Marin Cilic, however on his form post-US Open, it is hard to see him challenging the outright market in any significant fashion, largely due to Nishikori and Djokovic in the section.

Philip Kohlschreiber

Australian Open Record: 20-13

Best Result at AO: R4 (2005. 2008, 2012)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Yoshihito Nishioka, 168 (2018 – Nishioka returning from knee injury)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 46-31

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 41-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets: 23-22

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-32

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 14-13

Comments:

Needs to escape the hot weather of the first couple of days. Even then, cannot see him getting by Nishikori. I see 3rd round at an absolute max given age, weather and recent form.

Kei Nishikori

Australian Open Record: 23-8

Best Result at AO: QF (2012, 2015, 2016)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Jurgen Melzer, 32 (2009)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 46-18

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 47-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  28-8

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 2-22

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 36-15

Comments:

Whilst I have considered Nishikori to be a touch vulnerable in the past, it is hard to ignore his recent form, and the fact that it has always taken a seeded player to defeat him at the Australian Open. Biggest threat to Djokovic in my opinion, and it is a long way to third when discussing the quality of this quarter.

Best of the Rest

There are no significant unseeded floaters that I consider a major threat in this section. Tsonga played some decent tennis in Brisbane, however doesn’t have enough recent tennis under his belt to be a threat in best of 5 tennis in my opinion.

The other is Martin Klizan, who plays Tsonga in Round 1, however it is obviously a very tough draw with Djokovic meeting the winner (barring a round 1 disaster).

Summary of Quarter

Djokovic, then a bit of daylight, then Nishikori, then a lot of daylight. I think the play for the first quarter is to back Djokovic, and a smaller stake on Nishikori based on his recent form.


Quarter 2

Alex Zverev

Australian Open Record: 4-3

Best Result at AO: R3 (2017, 2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Hyeon Chung, 58 (2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 10-9

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 12-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  10-10

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-4

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 35-13

Comments:

If his recent best of 5 set record didn’t worry you, then the news of Zverev having a minor issue with his hamstring in Adelaide will. He then seemed to turn his foot slightly whilst playing a practice match against Marc Polmans on Margaret Court Arena on Thursday.

Whilst he is a future Major winner, I just think for him to do it this time around will require all the starts to align, and they just haven’t so far.

Gilles Simon

Australian Open Record: 23-12

Best Result at AO: QF (2009)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Amer Delic, 95 (2007)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 41-24

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 42-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  35-13

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 2-34

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 25-16

Comments:

Even as the Frenchman’s legs start to age, he is a player you need to respect in certain situations. Losing to De Minaur in Sydney has probably helped him a bit here. Should make his way to at least the 3rd round, where I would hope for a very high temperature to face Alex Zverev in my opinion.

Hard to see him going deep, however could be a good value upset selection midway through the tournament if he is still around.

Hyeon Chung

Australian Open Record: 6-3

Best Result at AO: SF (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Grigor Dimitrov, 15 (2017)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 11-6

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 6-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets: 3-2

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-6

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 27-18

Comments:

The only positive I can currently see is the fact that he made a semi final last year. His form since has been riddled with mistakes, injuries and missed opportunities. Twice in two weeks has lost first sets from a double break advantage, and if he isn’t trusting himself on his serve, he is hard to trust overall.

Milos Raonic

Australian Open Record: 23-8

Best Result at AO: SF (2016)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Lleyton Hewitt, 181 (2012)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 40-15

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 57-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  17-16

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-12

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 21-13

Comments:

Horror draw for the Canadian, who just hasn’t had a lot of time on court since the US Open. For a player crying out for some relatively comfortable time on court, he won’t receive that through round 1 and 2 (if he beats Kygios). Prefer others in my opinion.

Borna Coric

Australian Open Record: 0-4

Best Result at AO: R1 (2015-2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: John Millman, 122 (2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 7-10

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 8-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  6-3

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-13

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 25-13

Comments:

Yet to win at Melbourne Park in his career, which is quite shocking. Was abysmal last year against Millman. It is a tricky one because the form of Coric since the US Open has been incredibly impressive.

I am happy to overlook his past form at Melbourne Park given he really came of age in 2018, and with his very favourable draw, I see Coric going deep here – perhaps really deep into the draw.

Marco Cecchinato

Australian Open Record: 0-1

Best Result at AO: R1 (2016)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Nicolas Mahut, 63 (2016)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 0-3

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 2-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  2-4

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-3

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 7-14

Comments:

No thank you.

Lucas Pouille

Australian Open Record:  0-5

Best Result at AO: R1 (2014-2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Alexander Bublik, 207 (2017)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 11-10

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 9-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  11-5

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-13

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 17-13

Comments:

Poor form since the American hardcourt swing of 2018, and prefer others given his overall career at Melbourne Park.

Dominic Thiem

Australian Open Record: 9-5

Best Result at AO: R4 (2017, 2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Tennys Sandgren, 97 (2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 25-10

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 29-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  15-7

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 2-10

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 23-11

Comments:

One of the great unknowns. His best can beat almost everyone, but can he maintain it for the fortnight? I would rather see how he goes early in the tournament and then make a call whether to back. Tends to spend a lot more time on court that he should early in tournaments, and it costs him down the track.

Best of the Rest

I think when you look at the unseeded floaters, again they find themselves playing each other early. Kyrgios, Wawrinka and to a lesser extent Gulbis find themselves in the same pocket of the draw, which makes it a little less appealing to involve myself financially.

If I had to, I would go with Kyrgios, as I think he has a great shot of beating Raonic, and with the crowd behind him could unsettle either of Wawrinka/Gulbis.

Summary of Quarter

In this section I am well and truly on the Coric bandwagon. Main threats are Zverev and Thiem, but I think in this section it may be worth going slightly wider and search for value. My second consideration would be Kyrgios; however I would rather wait until after his round 1 match to invest.

Quarter 3

Marin Cilic

Australian Open Record: 26-10

Best Result at AO: F (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Ilija Bozoljac, 126 (2007)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 63-22

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 73-2

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  28-18

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 5-22

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 24-13

Comments:

This one might be slightly controversial to some, but I am happy to bet around Cilic here. Whilst he did make the final last year, I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t make it out of Round 1. Didn’t play with any consistency post-US Open, and at the price I am happy to avoid.

Better value elsewhere considering his only prep has been two matches at the Kooyong Classic against Anderson and Verdasco. There is a big difference between surviving Exhibition tennis and the Grand Slam cauldron. If he looks brilliant against Tomic then I may consider, otherwise I think he is under the odds.

Fernando Verdasco

Australian Open Record: 22-15

Best Result at AO: SF (2009)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Maximilian Marterer, 94 (2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 52-33

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 59-4

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  37-23

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 5-34

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 19-15

Comments:

Cannot have Fernando in any outright discussions, however my be more interested in him as an underdog late in week one. Very tricky round 1 opponent, however.

Roberto Bautista Agut

Australian Open Record: 11-7

Best Result at AO: R4 (2014, 2016, 2017)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Ricardo Mello, 108 (2012)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 23-14

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 29-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  13-11

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-13

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 24-12

Comments:

Very tricky draw for the Doha champion, however his best can match it with the best players, as shown by his win over Djokovic the other week. I just feel that sometimes he finds himself a little underpowered against some of the bigger players. Unfortunately for RBA, he is surrounded by them in this section. Another one I am happy to watch early before deciding. Tough draw.

 Karen Khachanov

Australian Open Record: 2-2

Best Result at AO: R2 (2017, 2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Jack Sock, 20 (2017)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 5-6

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 11-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  4-4

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-5

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 33-16

Comments:

I was really hoping for a kind draw for Khachanov, however it hasn’t fully eventuated. I still see him started as a favourite on form against every other player up until the Quarter Final in my opinion, so if you do like him like I do, then there are options to manage the situation from a trading standpoint.

I think he has what it takes to challenger Federer in best of 5 tennis, based on what I saw from Federer late in 2018.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Australian Open Record: 0-1

Best Result at AO: R1 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Denis Shapovalov, 50 (2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 1-2

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 4-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  1-1

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-5

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 31-22

Comments:

I think Tsitsipas has been slightly overhyped and slightly overrated, leading to him very rarely being great value. Needs to show more in the best of 5 format in a similar way to Shapovalov before I consider from an outright standpoint. Prefer to involve myself matches with him instead of the outright.

Nikoloz Basilashvili

Australian Open Record: 2-3

Best Result at AO: R3 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Kyle Edmund, 49 (2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 7-6

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 6-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  4-6

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-7

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 18-15

Comments:

Just tracking along nicely is Basilashvili. A dark horse for me in terms of making the 4th round, as has a very favourable draw. One to consider from a trading standpoint.

Gael Monfils

Australian Open Record: 25-13

Best Result at AO: QF (2016)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Mikhail Kukushkin, 92 (2012)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 50-25

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 61-3

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  34-18

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 2-22

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 19-8

Comments:

Considering he pulled out of the tournament in Auckland with a hamstring issue, it is hard to know how he will manage the tennis in Melbourne. A hot day to start against Dzumhur isn’t ideal, but if he looks good there, I think he can really trouble Federer given the right conditions.

Roger Federer

Australian Open Record: 94-13

Best Result at AO:  W (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Arnaud Clement, 54 (2000)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 199-28

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 269-3

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets: 56-24

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 8-27

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 36-8

Comments:

Under the odds for mine, as I feel he started to show some signs of slowing down at Wimbledon and the US Open across the best of 5 set format. Draw is littered with some tricky prospects, and personally, as much as I like him, I just cannot see any value in his current price.

Best of the Rest

This section is littered with players who I don’t think will be right at the end of the tournament, however on their day can match it with the top players. These include, from top to bottom, Tomic, Murray (cannot back based on physical fitness), Millman, Nishioka, Sandgren and even Dan Evans to an extent. I would rather take them in regular head to head betting more than outrights, however.

Summary

I am happy to play around Cilic, and to a lesser extent Federer. The main selection in my opinion at the price is Khachanov, and then from an outsider perspective you could make a small play on Tomic and hope he steals the draw of Cilic after a potential round 1 victory.


Quarter 4

 Kevin Anderson

Australian Open Record: 11-10

Best Result at AO: R4 (2013-2015)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Blaz Kavcic, 98 (2011)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 36-19

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 37-5

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  27-11

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 3-21

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 35-13

Comments:

Must be respected, even though he hasn’t really played his best tennis in Melbourne. Cast an eye over the latter half of the year and the players to beat him are Djokovic, Federer, Nishikori, Djokovic and Gasquet since the US Open. As a rule, beats the players he should be beating.

Has a friendly draw and must be respected in outright markets, especially in this section which is a touch weak in comparison to others.

Steve Johnson

Australian Open Record: 5-6

Best Result at AO: R2 (2015, 2016)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Denis Kudla, 190 (2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 10-14

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 16-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  5-10

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 2-14

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 14-18

Comments:

Prefer others to be honest. Hasn’t shown enough at Major Level, or in Australia in the past to consider with any confidence here.

Grigor Dimitrov

Australian Open Record: 20-8

Best Result at AO: 23-9

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Kyle Edmund, 49 (2018)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 28-16

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 33-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  15-15

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down:  0-16

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 18-13

Comments:

Comes into contention somewhat given the weak section of the draw. Very much a confidence player, I would like to see how he plays against Janko Tipsarevic first before casting judgement.

Looks slightly unders at the current quote, but if he plays to his ability, has the talent to take this group out, including Anderson in a potential 4th round. Current thought is to leave him out of outright selections but look for value in potential matches against Isner/Anderson.

John Isner

Australian Open Record: 13-10

Best Result at AO: R4 (2010, 2016)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Dominik Hrbaty, 251 (2009)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 44-23

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 51-3

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets: 19-20

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 2-17

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 21-17

Comments:

I walked past John on Friday and I can confirm for anyone wondering – yes, he is tall. That being said, he is the shorter player in his round 1 match with Opelka. Hard to see the big American featuring late in this tournament.

Australia has never seemed to be a happy hunting ground, and with the hot start to the week predicted, it may take a bit of energy out of the legs of Isner.

Kyle Edmund

Australian Open Record: 6-4

Best Result at AO: SF (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Damir Dzumhur, 81 (2016)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 11-9

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 11-0

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets: 9-5

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-10

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 20-13

Comments:

Kyle has me really intrigued. I think he might be a touch over the odds in round 1, but it is a very tough start. Had some knee issues in Brisbane that caused him to pull out in Sydney but having seen some footage of his movement in practice in Melbourne he doesn’t seem to be too troubled.

Obviously a big hurdle first up, but it is also a massive hurdle for Berdych – as he must deal with a best of 5 set match not long into his comeback from injury. Prefer others from an outright betting standpoint.

Diego Schwartzman

Australian Open Record: 4-4

Best Result at AO: R4 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: John Millman, 95 (2016)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 11-10

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 14-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  5-6

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 1-11

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 14-15

Comments:

Must be respected in any match where he takes the court – a touch outmatched against the top players, however worth keeping an eye on for handicap betting in the early stages. Appears to be working well with coach Chela, and generally beats everyone he is “supposed” to beat.

Alex De Minaur

Australian Open Record: 1-2

Best Result at AO: R2 (2017)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Sam Querrey, 32 (2017)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 3-5

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 2-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets:  3-1

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 0-5

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 29-17 (yet to play Sydney final at time of writing)

Comments:

I would be far more interested in De Minaur if he wasn’t spending some petrol tickets up in Sydney this weekend. He does have a soft draw to kick off his tournament, so he should be on and off the court in the first two rounds relatively quickly.

As a result, I think he does present a bit of value in this quarter. He is the type of player that I am sure that Nadal would not want to be facing with fitness concerns coming into the tournament. Well and truly worth a look for quarter futures. I think his worst match-up in this one is Anderson, who he wouldn’t meet until a potential quarter final.

Rafael Nadal

Australian Open Record: 55-12

Best Result at AO: W (2009)

Lowest Ranked Loss Opponent at AO: Fernando Verdasco, 45 (2016)

Hardcourt Best-of-5 Record: 116-24

Grand Slam Record 2-0 sets up: 185-1

Grand Slam Record 1-1 sets: 51-15

Grand Slam Record 0-2 sets down: 2-17

Hardcourt record since Jan 1, 2018: 14-2 (both RET)

Comments:

I was opposed to Nadal in Brisbane, and he didn’t end up taking the court. You do need to respect Rafa in the Major arena, because you know he will push his body to absolute breaking point compared to smaller tournaments.

Nevertheless, I think his price is just too short when you consider the injury doubts and whispers that have been going around. Yes, his hardcourt record looked okay last year, only largely due to withdrawing from most tournaments or retiring from both hardcourt Majors.

I think I would need to be trusting his body more that present to be considering him at the prices available.

Best of the Rest

The key one to watch from the best of the rest is Tomas Berdych, who is coming off a final appearance in Doha. Amongst several of the old guard fighting back from a break, I just wonder if the best of 5 format may make things a little more difficult for Tomas – that and the fact his round 1 opponent is the semi finalist from last year. Too short odds wise for my liking.


Overall Summary

I personally think that so long as he stays fit and the weather conditions remain relatively favourable, this is Novak Djokovic’s tournament to lose.

From the top half, I have his biggest challengers as Kei Nishikori from the top quarter, and a surprise in Borna Coric from the second quarter. I think the best value however rests with Coric, then Nishikori, then Djokovic on the current quoting, so will be keeping them green in my book.

I say that because I feel if either of these two are able to knock off Djokovic on the way, then I see them as a massive chance of defeating whichever player comes out of the bottom half.

Speaking of the bottom half, I think if you are gutsy enough to back around Federer, Nadal and Cilic, there is some value to be found. I think Khachanov to win Quarter 3 is an appealing prospect, with a small trading selection on Tomic (draw opens if able to beat Cilic).

If you want a longer selection from Quarter 4, I would look at Kevin Anderson and Alex De Minaur.

For the overall, I have selected two from the top half and two from the bottom half that I think are the best value from setting up to initially tackle the tournament. I think Nishikori and Coric would be great head to head prices against Novak, so happy to supplement with an extra stake on the specific match if I like what I see from them early (and they make it that far!

Note: Looking at the exchange, there may be some worth in a small play on Tomic at 700-1, low output and high risk, however if beats Cilic, things could really open up from a trading standpoint.


Betting Strategy

Quarter Winners

1st Quarter – Djokovic/Nishikori

2nd Quarter – Coric

3rd Quarter – Khachanov (Tomic small stake)

4th Quarter – Anderson/De Minaur


Overall Winner

 BACK – Novak Djokovic to win the Australian Open


Overall Tournament Outright Trading Selections

 BACK – Borna Coric

 BACK – Kei Nishikori

 BACK – Kevin Anderson

 BACK – Karen Khachanov

Quarter 1

Simona Halep

Career Australian Open Record: 16-8

Best Result: F (2018)

Lowest Ranked AO Opponent Loss: Paula Ormaechea, 189 (2012)

Grand Slam Record: 73-33

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 19-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 4-5

Comments:

With a lot of points to defend as the world number 1 having made the final last year, the early draw looks to be very troubling for Simona. Big hitting Kanepi, followed by Kenin/Kudermetova, then likely Williams/Buzarnescu/Cornet, and that is only the first week.

Just cannot see her making improvement on her 2018 performance without Darren Cahill and the confidence that he brought to her game as well. Tricky, tricky draw.

Mihaela Buzarnescu

Career Australian Open Record: 0-1

Best Result: R1 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Caroline Wozniacki, 2 (2018)

Grand Slam Record: 5-4

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 10-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 2-9

Comments:

Not enough form since her August ankle injury to suggest she is a threat in this field. One to watch later in the year once the confidence comes back into her game.

 Carla Suarez Navarro

Career Australian Open Record: 21-10

Best Result: QF (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Carina Witthoeft, 104 (2015)

Grand Slam Record: 79-40

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 13-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 5-12

Comments:

Prefer to be on CSN’s side in specific matches compared to an outright position. Her style suits playing some of the one-dimensional players but can be severely outmatched against other styles.

Serena Williams

Career Australian Open Record: 81-10

Best Result: Won (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Ekaterina Makarova, 56 (2012)

Grand Slam Record: 331-45

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 9-0

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 0-5

Comments:

Commands respect in any draw, however this isn’t the easiest draw she has even seen. Only troubles in her quarter are Muguruza if she brings her best, and Kasatkina if SW has an off day. Perhaps threatened slightly by either round 2 opponent (Bouchard or Peng) so will wait and see on her before making a play.

Darya Kasatkina

Career Australian Open Record: 3-3

Best Result: R3 (2016)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Shuai Peng, 83 (2017)

Grand Slam Record: 24-13

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 16-4

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 6-8

Comments:

Quite a favourable draw in my opinion, which leads me to think that she may be able to make a push through this first quarter. Will need to lift on her last fortnight, however potential matches against big hitting Muguruza and Williams aren’t the worst for Kasatkina, who can absorb and re-direct pace quite well. Form leading in was poor, but at decent odds could spring a bit of a surpsise.

Garbine Muguruza

Career Australian Open Record: 14-6

Best Result: QF (2017)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Su Wei Hsieh, 88 (2018)

Grand Slam Record: 60-22

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 20-6

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 4-7

Comments:

Bit of a tricky one, given her recent form hasn’t been sensational, but in the back of my mind I keep thinking just what Muguruza is capable when she delivers her best tennis. One to keep an eye on in the early stages, as a match in the searing heat against Zheng to start is one to keep an eye on for Tuesday.

Camilla Giorgi

Career Australian Open Record: 4-6

Best Result: R3 (2015)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Stephanie Foretz Gacon, 101 (2013)

Grand Slam Record: 28-27

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 15-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 1-7

Comments:

Not sure if she can consistently play well enough to be featuring late in this tournament. In a strong quarter, I prefer others.

Karolina Pliskova

Career Australian Open Record: 13-6

Best Result: QF (2017,2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Eleni Danilidou, 94 (2013)

Grand Slam Record: 46-26

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 28-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 6-13

Comments:

Winner in Brisbane, Pliskova looks to keep up the winning form with another solid performance at the Australian Open. Has looked to struggle at times in the searing heat, and I will be interested to see how she goes in high temperatures against Muchova, who looked dominant in qualifying, on Tuesday. Another one to watch.

Best of the Rest

The ‘Best of the Rest’ section is a bit tricky for the women, as so many players can beat each other on their day. The list for this quarter includes Venus Williams, Alize Cornet, Dayana Yastremska, Sofia Kenin, Eugenie Bouchard, Shuai Peng and Johanna Konta. Very talented section, and I think there is the potential for several upsets in this quarter in the first week.

Summary

Whilst I think Serena Williams is a touch too short in this section, I think there may be a little bit more value around Pliskova/Kasatkina/Muguruza. I feel one of those three will make it to the Quarter Final.

On recent form and value from an odds perspective, I would say Pliskova is most likely to reach the Quarters from players 17-32, however Kasatkina can cause an upset or two here if she brings her A-game.


Quarter 2

Naomi Osaka

Career Australian Open Record: 6-3

Best Result: R4 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Victoria Azarenka, 16 (2016)

Grand Slam Record: 25-10

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 32-0

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 2-13

Comments:

I think the hardcourt stats over the last 12 months give a bit of an indication of just how important the first set is when Osaka is on court. Dominant frontrunner, but also rarely comes from behind. I think we saw in Brisbane just how much pressure Osaka puts on herself when she plays tennis. She was all at sea mentally against Tsurenko, and seemed really overwhelmed by the situation, even with the assistance of her coach.

Take the on-court coaching away for the Australian Open, and couple it with her struggles at times mentally to cope with being one of the best players in tennis at the moment, and I think she may struggle backing up her 2018 US Open. If she doesn’t have trouble, then women’s tennis will have a new world number 1 very soon in my opinion.

Su Wei Hsieh

Career Australian Open Record: 9-7

Best Result: R4 (2008,2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Barbora Strycova, 84 (2014)

Grand Slam Record: 23-31

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 21-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 4-13

Comments:

Crafty, and an absolute joy to watch, however severely outgunned in the power department, which can be her undoing. Needs to rely at times on stronger, more powerful opponents to struggle on the day, and I would rather focus my attention elsewhere. One to consider in specific match-ups only in my opinion.

Qian Wang

Career Australian Open Record: 1-4

Best Result: R2 (2016)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Polona Hercog, 88 (2015)

Grand Slam Record: 10-17

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 30-0

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 4-15

Comments:

Ultra-consistent and very solid behind her serve and both wings, however she needs to really life her early season form to feature here. Draw becomes tricky in Round 3 and think she may start to struggle the further the tournament progresses. 10-17 record in Majors does worry me a bit. One to watch early.

Anastasija Sevastova

Career Australian Open Record: 7-5

Best Result: R4 (2011)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Maria Sharapova, 48 (2018)

Grand Slam Record: 26-23

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 19-5

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 5-9

Comments:

Just when I think she is about to turn the corner with a ground-breaking win or two, things again fall apart for Sevastova. That was the case in Brisbane the other week, as she fell to Osaka after taking the first set quite well.

I think she is the type of player who will beat who she is meant to beat, however when the going gets tough, she has struggled a bit at times in slams. Big threats await her in round 2. If she comes out of that well, may be worth considering a small trade on her.

Elise Mertens

Career Australian Open Record: 5-1

Best Result: SF (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Caroline Wozniacki, 2 (2018)

Grand Slam Record: 15-8

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 21-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 3-14

Comments:

I must say I am struggling a bit to place Elise Mertens in this draw. Her previous record in terms of tennis in Australia is fantastic, however her form in the latter part of 2018 was disappointing. I don’t know whether it was the fatigue due to a long season or what it may have been, but she did struggle.

She will need to be on from the first point, with Schmiedlova coming off a Hobart Final appearance. Another to watch in the early stages, but I don’t think there is any value in her current price.

Madison Keys

Career Australian Open Record: 15-6

Best Result: SF (2015)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Shuai Zhang, 133 (2016)

Grand Slam Record: 60-25

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 13-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 3-4

Comments:

On the surface, her price looks to be incredible given she is well proven at Major level. The big question mark is her fitness, with a knee injury ruling her out of any potential lead up tournaments. Will have to wait and see how she looks on court in round 1 and act accordingly. Has the game to match the best on the biggest stage.

Elina Svitolina

Career Australian Open Record: 11-6

Best Result: QF (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Naomi Osaka, 127 (2016)

Grand Slam Record: 42-25

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 23-1

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 4-10

Comments:

Really hard to get a read on Svitolina leading into this tournament. Lost in the first round in Brisbane, but it has allowed her to get to Melbourne with plenty of time to acclimatise and with fresh legs. I wonder if the year-end championship win is enough to boost her confidence on the big stage, as she has shown herself to struggle with the occasion at times at Major level.

She isn’t too bad against fellow top-10 players (7-3 record in the last 12 months), however always seems to find a tricky opponent early in the fortnight of a Major (last year Mertens, Buzarnescu, Maria and Sevastova)

Should be beating all 4 of those to be honest. Should be able to play herself into form with a decent draw, and I think she should be winning this quarter unless Keys is at 100% fitness (she isn’t until she proves otherwise)

Best of the Rest

There are a couple of standout names in terms of threats for specific head to head matches, however I would be shocked if any of them came into outright calculations in a big way.

The first name that stands out is Victoria Azarenka, however, there just hasn’t been enough consistent tennis to consider her a threat to be honest.

Daria Gavrilova is another who has fond memories of Melbourne Park, but she would need to turn around her form in a big way to feature, and I don’t see that happening.

The likes of Diyas, Krunic, and Gasparyan can also shock on their day, however I don’t know how fit Gasparyan is after pulling out of tournaments to start the season.

Summary

Considering I am keen to play around Osaka and Keys until she proves her fitness, the price on Svitolina to win this quarter is very solid in my opinion. I don’t see a significant amount of value elsewhere in the early markets in this section.

Perhaps Mertens, if anyone, could recapture her 2018 form in Melbourne, and I prefer her price to win the Quarter over the outright price.

Quarter 3

Petra Kvitova

Career Australian Open Record: 14-9

Best Result: SF (2012)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Andrea Petkovic, 98 (2018)

Grand Slam Record: 92-39

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 23-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 7-10

Comments:

Was initially quite keen on Petra at the price, however a long week in Sydney, to the point where she started cramping up in the final on Saturday, doesn’t fill me with a great deal of confidence. We did see flashes of her best tennis in Sydney, as she was unstoppable against the likes of Kerber, Sasnovich and Barty at times.

Although she should win easily, I would rather see how she goes in round 1 against Rybarikova in the 30-plus degree heat before involving myself financially in any outright play.

Barbora Strycova

Career Australian Open Record: 17-11

Best Result: R4 (2016,2017,2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Stephanie Cohen Aloro, 106 (2009)

Grand Slam Record: 48-50

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 13-3

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 1-12

Comments:

Relatively decent record in Australia overall, having made the 4th round for the last three years. Hard to have on current form, as has only one top 30 win on hard in the last 12 months (against a flat Muguruza). Prefer others in this field.

Lesia Tsurenko

Career Australian Open Record: 5-8

Best Result: R3 (2013)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Varvara Lepchenko, 51 (2016)

Grand Slam Record: 24-29

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 17-5

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 6-6

Comments:

After watching her struggling to close out the match in Brisbane against Pliskova in the final, and looking at her Grand Slam record about, it is hard to get too excited about Tsurenko from an outrights perspective.

Did go on a nice run to the QF at the US Open, however with the question marks surrounding her ankle from Brisbane, and the fact she will likely encounter Sabalenka in the third round, is enough for me to pass here.

Aryna Sabalenka

Career Australian Open Record: 0-1

Best Result: R1 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Ash Barty, 17 (2018)

Grand Slam Record: 4-5

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 30-3

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 7-11

Comments:

Yep, a player with a 0-1 career record at the Australian Open is currently sitting as the third favourite in the outright markets. Whilst I totally understand the hype regarding Sabalenka, there is the big concern of Aryna finding herself in far too many 3 set matches. This could impact her ability to feature late in Grand Slams, particularly if the heat in on early in Melbourne.

Needs to be very careful in round 1 against Kalinskaya, who was impressive in qualifying. Right in the title hunt, however I am not sure there is any value in her price as she is currently unproven in the second half of a Major.

Ash Barty

Career Australian Open Record: 4-5

Best Result: R3 (2017,2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Mona Barthel, 181 (2017)

Grand Slam Record: 14-17

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 21-1

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 6-9

Comments:

Ash is a bit of a funny one. Having watched her slug it out in Sydney for the whole week leading up to the tournament and watching her backhand break down in key moments late in the final against Kvitova, I just struggle to see that all improving in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a home Major.

Happy to be proven wrong, however she needs to be switched on from round 1, as a very decent Kumkhum awaits. If she can win that, her draw does open quite a bit, however at present it looks like Kumkhum has been underrated by bookmakers. Considering she is under $1.15 for round 1, I would rather see how she plays in round 1 first. I think under $20 for the title isn’t value to be honest.

Jelena Ostapenko

Career Australian Open Record: 4-3

Best Result: R3 (2017,2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Su Wei Hsieh, 90 (2016)

Grand Slam Record: 26-13

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 12-3

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 1-12

Comments:

One of the great unknowns. Pulled a Wimbledon SF out of nowhere in 2018, and as a former Roland Garros Champ, does know how to win the big matches. Very hard to have on form though, as she won 8 games across her two lead-in matches and looked largely disinterested.

Would need a big turnaround, but not completely out of the question. Sakkari in round 1 is tough.

Maria Sharapova

Career Australian Open Record: 54-13

Best Result: W (2008)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Klara Koukalova, 113 (2003)

Grand Slam Record: 194-49

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 8-1

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 0-4

Comments:

I still am yet to recall a time where Maria Sharapova has been value during her comeback. Just hasn’t come back with the same level of tennis as before her ban.  Gets the qualifier in Dart, who ground down Jorovic in the last round of qualifying.

A level close to her best tennis would yield perhaps a 3rd or 4th round, but I cannot see her getting beyond the other seeds considering her recent withdrawal from Shenzhen. Could perhaps surprise Wozniacki if she has a bad day. Needs to feature late in Majors again before I am interested in her from an outrights perspective moving forward.

Caroline Wozniacki

Career Australian Open Record: 32-10

Best Result: W (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Jelena Dokic, 187 (2009)

Grand Slam Record: 112-45

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 22-4

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 1-7

Comments:

Defending champion, who announced she is dealing with rheumatoid arthritis in August last year. It would make a lot of sense and explain the lull in her game around the US Open, where she lost to Tsurenko in the second round.

Her form in Beijing was extraordinary, winning without dropping a set, and signaled to me that whilst her RA diagnosis isn’t ideal she is still able to maintain a high level and match it with the best. Very interested to see how she goes defending her title this fortnight. There are enough question marks early for me to not back, however she may come into contention as the tournament evolves.

Best of the Rest

On form, it is worth looking at Anisimova and Bencic as the biggest unseeded threats in this section. Both have the game to beat most on tour on their day, it is just a matter of it all coming together. A star of the future, Anisimova is one to watch, however she does have a tricky first match against Niculescu. I love her game and think she is a future top 5 player, so she is one to watch.

Summary

I think Wozniacki’s RA diagnosis has almost assisted in some value in the market for her this tournament. She is quite a nice price to win the Quarter considering two of the top 4 chances played the full week in Sydney in the lead-up.

All that being said, all eyes are on Sabalenka. She brings her best tennis from the US summer, and she is winning this quarter. My only early worry for her would be a third round with Anisimova, but I will cross that bridge if I must on the weekend.


Quarter 4

Sloane Stephens

Career Australian Open Record: 9-6

Best Result: SF (2013)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Qiang Wang, 102 (2016)

Grand Slam Record: 58-26

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 19-6

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 6-8

Comments:

I guess to main question is: which Sloane Stephens is going to show up this year? Horrid showing last year, fresh off her US Open triumph. Form leading in isn’t fantastic, but her record at Premier and Major level over the last 18 months needs to be respected.

Considering her very tough draw, my interest lies elsewhere currently in the outright market. If she makes it through the first couple of rounds, I may dip my toe in at a double figure price.

Petra Martic

Career Australian Open Record: 4-7

Best Result: R4 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Kai Chen Chang, 149 (2012)

Grand Slam Record: 21-27

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 19-0

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 5-9

Comments:

It can be tricky to get a read on Martic, as she plays a lighter schedule and doesn’t meet the top players anywhere near as often. Made the 4th round of AO2018 (lost to eventual semi finalist in Mertens), the QF of Indian Wells (lost in 3 sets to Halep).

Occasionally can lack firepower against some of the bigger strikers of the ball, and I have highlighted Vondrousova as a potential second round trouble spot. No interest in the outright market, however would be interested in supporting her in specific match-ups during the tournament.

Anett Kontaveit

Career Australian Open Record: 3-3

Best Result: R3 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Maria Sakkari, 94 (2017)

Grand Slam Record: 14-15

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 13-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 7-14

Comments:

One player who I feel has a lot of potential, however, she just hasn’t quite brought it all together is Anett Kontaveit. Matches such as her one in Brisbane against Tsurenko should be hitting the win column, however they still seem to be escaping her at times.

Had quite the capitulation here last year against Suarez Navarro in the 4th round, and I just haven’t seen a strong enough mental game for her to be considered in outrights. Has the game and all the shots required to be a great player, I am just waiting for it all to click.

Kiki Bertens

Career Australian Open Record: 3-6

Best Result: R3 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Laura Siegemund, 97 (2016)

Grand Slam Record: 25-26

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 20-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 6-12

Comments:

Watching how much Bertens tightened up late in her semi final against Barty in Sydney is worrying, and for someone sitting on an outright price under $30 you would want some slightly better form leading into a Major. However, she has put together a solid 26-14 record on hardcourt over the last 12 months, which needs to be respected.

Should be largely untroubled until round 3, where she *should* run into Anett Kontaveit in what would be a very enticing match. The big positive for Bertens? She held a 12-6 record against Top 10 players over the last 12 months. I can understand the appeal.

Julia Goerges

Career Australian Open Record: 16-10

Best Result: R4 (2012,2013,2015)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Lauren Davis, 68 (2014)

Grand Slam Record: 46-43

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 22-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 5-10

Comments:

One of the big unknowns. Won the title in Auckland the other week, dropping only 2 sets along the way. This follows some impressive tennis in Luxembourg in October, which was a very impressive group of matches. She is currently sitting around the $45-55 mark, which I don’t mind from a value standpoint compared to other players.

Should at least make the 4th round (barring a disaster against Collins in round 1, who on her day can shock), which would lead to a possible meeting with Kerber, whom she hasn’t played on tour since 2012. One to watch.

Caroline Garcia

Career Australian Open Record: 8-7

Best Result: R3 (2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Alla Kudryavtseva, 162 (2014)

Grand Slam Record: 32-27

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 20-5

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost:3-11

Comments:

For a player who can match it with the best (see tournament win in Tianjin in October), her start to 2019 has been alarming, with losses to Ivana Jorovic and Sofia Kenin in straight sets. Rate her as a player, however needs more consistency in her game to feature late in this tournament in my opinion.

Donna Vekic

Career Australian Open Record: 3-6

Best Result: R2 (2013,2017,2018)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Lucie Hradecka, 146 (2014)

Grand Slam Record: 14-21

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 18-2

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 1-13

Comments:

Donna has really come of age in terms of her consistency since the US Open. She put together some solid tennis in Brisbane to commence the season, however she hasn’t proven enough for me at Major level to consider her in an outright capacity at the moment. Positive steps though from her lately.

Angelique Kerber

Career Australian Open Record: 26-10

Best Result: W (2016)

Lowest Ranked Opponent Loss: Irina Camelia Begu, 42 (2015)

Grand Slam Record: 98-41

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set won: 18-3

L12 months hardcourt record when 1st set lost: 5-10

Comments:

The one to watch from the bottom quarter in my opinion. I think she has been given a very nice draw, and unless Donna Vekic can spring a surprise in Round 3, then I have her making at least the Quarter Finals.

The later in the tournament you get Goerges the better, as she is unproven in the second week of Majors, so I don’t mind potentially meeting her in the 4th round. Always know what you are going to get with Kerber.

Best of the Rest

Of the rest, the main players I want to make note of include Marketa Vondrousova and to a lesser extent Ons Jabeur. Both have tricky styles that can match up well against most players, so will be worth watching.


Overall Summary

This is another wide-open Major, with so many players capable of the title this fortnight. I think there is enough in the price to cover your other selections with a small play on Serena, as she sits just over the $5.50 mark at the time of writing.

It is tricky though, as Pliskova/Muguruza/Kasatkina and Serena all come from the same Quarter. I think at the prices you are getting good value on Muguruza from Quarter 1, Svitolina to win Quarter 2, Wozniacki to win Quarter 3 and Kerber to win the title.


Betting Strategy

Quarter Selections

Quarter 1 – Garbine Muguruza (small stakes if anything)

Quarter 2 – Elina Svitolina

Quarter 3 – Caroline Wozniacki (small stakes if anything)

Quarter 4 – Angelique Kerber


Overall Winner

 BACK – Angelique Kerber to win the Australian Open

 BACK – Garbine Muguruza to win the Australian Open

 BACK – Serena Williams to win the Australian Open


Overall Tournament Outright Trading Selections

 BACK – Karolina Pliskova

 BACK – Elise Mertens

 BACK – Caroline Wozniacki

 BACK – Elina Svitolina


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