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Djokovic v Medvedev

The final match of the Australian Open for another year. Thank you to everyone who has read and interacted with any of the work over the course of the fortnight, it has been a lot of fun as always, and it has been nice to end up in the green for the home tournament!

Onto the final tonight, and it looks like it has the potential to be an absolute cracker. Like most of his matches since the third round, Novak Djokovic has found himself at slightly longer odds in most of his matches whilst he and everyone betting gets a feel for just how fit he is.

He looked better as the match went on against Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev, then was fortunate to face Aslan Karatsev in the semi final. Novak looked good in patches, but there probably wasn’t the same consistency that we have come to almost expect from the world number one. I do have a couple of question marks, however, I am not the only one based on the odds on the exchange.

It has been a crazy grand slam for outright fluctuations. I remarked in the outright preview that Novak was a little short in the market pre-tournament, and to consider an unmatched bet in the outright market in case he were to strike trouble along the way. He struck trouble, however, I didn’t anticipate it in the form of injury and Taylor Fritz. Djokovic hit an in-play high of $27 in the tournament as rumours of a muscle tear ran rampant.

When you think back over a number of tournaments over the last decade that Djokovic has gone on to win, you do note there have been moments of crisis along the way. A great example was the Australian Open final last year against Dominic Thiem. Down 2 sets to 1 Novak’s expression suggested that he was struggling, and yet he still found a way.

Even Medvedev hit $13 in the outright markets as he struggled at times (although never trailed) against Filip Krajinovic. I am going to back the Russian with small stakes in two markets, however, there was a patch of his semi final that gives me enough cause to set up a small ‘back selection on Novak at larger odds, were he to reach the price.

Medvedev put on an absolute clinic against Tsitsipas, however, there was a 15 minute patch in the third set that was not ideal. He went from 2 sets to 0 up and 3-1* with double break point to *3-4 30/40 in the blink of an eye. He saved the break point with an ace and found a way to get back on top, however, his comments after the match regarding he didn’t know what to do besides ‘serve big’ wasn’t the best answer.

He served an ace this time, but up the pressure and the situation against Novak in a final and there may be some added tension there. I like him overall, but I would like to take Novak at $6 in-play for a 0.15 unit stake just to cover off the position on Medvedev at the money line.

First grand slam title on the line, extra nerves, and a player who can find his way back from the brink better than anyone on the other side of the net is enough for me to set up a safety net here if things are going well for the Russian.

Most of all, sit back and enjoy what has the potential to be an incredible match.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 0.75 units Medvedev first set winner

BACK  – 0.75 units Medvedev to defeat Djokovic

Set a 0.15 unit ‘Back’ bet on Djokovic to win at $6

Brady v Osaka

The women’s tournament comes down to this.

On the bright side, from pre-tournament positions and a small play on Osaka after the quarter final, these two prices are currently in play:

0.2 units Brady to win outright at $36

0.4 units Osaka to win outright at $2.30

In an ideal world, Brady wouldn’t have been coming into the final with pre-match odds of $5, but that is what happens when you come up against Naomi Osaka obliterating Serena Williams in the other semi-final. The small staking on Osaka from the quarter-final does soften the blow a touch, however, I now find myself in a slightly tricky position.

When Brady won through, I sat down and crunched the numbers on this match, and, well, Brady is at a value price here. When you look at the starting price of Osaka against Muguruza and Williams, I don’t feel you can justify Brady being the same starting price as say Ons Jabeur earlier in the tournament, especially when you consider the body of work Brady has put together on hardcourts since the tour returned from the COVID suspension.

Naomi Osaka has been dominant since trailing double match point to Garbine Muguruza in the 4th round. Straight set wins over Hsieh and Williams have allowed her passage through to the final, however, there is still a question mark around that first serve percentage. It caused me to reduce my staking down to 1 unit in the semi final with Serena, yet she still managed to win and cover with a first serve percentage of 45%. What was key for Osaka? 4/4 break point conversions, whilst saving 5/7 on her own serve. It is a highrisk high reward strategy that was aided by exceptional BP conversion and some poor errors from an out-of-sorts Williams.

The key difference for Brady, and what makes her a difficult opponent in these conditions, is her heavy use of topspin. Osaka’s backhand has broken down at times, and the Brady inside-out forehand is going to be one of the more important shots on the court.

Brady handled the occasion of the semi final against Osaka at the US Open incredibly well, and showed great composure to be able to force a decider in that match. She is playing well enough to do the same here, and I am happy to back her in to win a set here for 1 unit, and 0.5 units on the outright price.

Please note: given the outright bets in-play, and Osaka’s ability to come back from the brink of facing match points, I will be placing two in-play ‘back’ bets on Naomi Osaka (see below).

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 1 unit Brady to win a set ‘yes’ (to be recorded at $2.36) – alternate option of the same bet is to ‘LAY’ Naomi Osaka 2-0 set betting.

BACK  – 0.5 units Brady to win outright (to be recorded at $5.50)

Unmatched bets set to ‘keep’ when turning in-play, for those on the outright play of Brady at $36:

BACK  – 0.5 units Osaka to win at a price of $4

BACK  – 0.5 units Osaka to win at a price of $8

Please note: Osaka bets at $4 and $8 won’t count towards the record unless these prices are hit on the Betfair Exchange.

Medvedev v Tsitsipas

This is a match-up that I am very interested in, given the history between these two players both on court with their tennis, but also verbally.

Daniil Medvedev was again the better player in meeting with Andrey Rublev in the quarter final on Wednesday, winning 7-5 6-3 6-2 in just over two hours. Medvedev saved 4/5 break point chances faced, three of which came at a very crucial time midway through the second set. After saving those chances for 4-3*, Medvedev instantly broke Rublev, and ran away with the match from there.

What was interesting to note from that match was Medvedev had to delay his on-court media interview after the match, citing cramp. The match was played in the heat of the day, however only went for a touch over two hours.

It is worth noting how much the conditions are taking it out of players, with conditions forecast to still be upwards of 30 degrees when players take to the court tonight. One player who looked quite fresh given the circumstances on Wednesday night was Stefanos Tsitsipas.

I must say I am a little amazed that I am even sitting here writing about Tsitsipas, as he came from 2 sets to 0 down against Rafael Nadal to win through to the semifinal. After being run off the court in the first two sets, Tsitsipas clung on in the third set, and after opening the tiebreak with a poor unforced error, was near faultless from that point on.

He was fortunate that Nadal made a couple of uncharacteristic errors in that third set tiebreak, however Tsitsipas was the player generating the majority of break point chances from that point onwards, not facing another one on his serve until serving for the match.

Tsitsipas’ forehand was incredibly wayward early, however once he adjusted to the conditions, he looked to be a completely different player.

The biggest step forward for Tsitsipas was his overall temperament on the court. He has come a long way over the last two years in terms of his ability to stay in the contest and not feel as though he is defeated. If you look at the comments from his press conference after his loss to Nadal at the Australian Open a couple of years ago, you will notice just how significant the shift is.

Tsitsipas now finds himself up against another player who he has historically struggled with in Medvedev. He had taken sets off him over the first six meetings, however finally got his breakthrough at the ATP Finals when they last met in 2019.

Couple that with the improved mindset of Tsitsipas, and the fitness edge to the Greek as well, and his price above $3 here is awfully enticing.
Medvedev is one of the most versatile players on tour, and part of that versatility is what has frustrated Tsitsipas in the past.

Whilst Tsitsipas may not be the best of most consistent return of serve, he has the versatility in his game to be able to work through different scenarios in this match. He can re-direct rally direction well, play with power and margin where required, and isn’t afraid to come in at the net.

Medvedev will look to use angles at any opportunity, so limiting the Russian’s ability by approaching through the middle of the court where necessary is a tactic we may see at times from Tsitsipas.

Given there is already a staking involvement in Tsitsipas in the outright market, I have capped this play at 3.5 units for this evening. I think, much like his match with Nadal, the longer this goes, the more it favors Tsitsipas.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 3.5 units Tsitsipas to defeat Medvedev (to be recorded at $3.10)

Djokovic v Karatsev

This isn’t a match that I want to get heavily involved in this evening, as the number 1 seed managing an injury faces a qualifier in a grand slam semifinal in his debut on the big stage.

If you feel you have a reasonable understanding of how Djokovic is feeling coming into this match, then you are a step ahead of everyone else who is still trying to figure out what on earth is going on physically with the Serbian. I have an inkling that with each passing match things will improve, and although Novak looked shaky in the early stages of his match with Alexander Zverev, he looked to get better and better as the match evolved.

Gianluca Mager. Egor Gerasimov. Diego Schwartzman. Felix Auger-Aliassime. Grigor Dimitrov. Aslan Karatsev has done a phenomenal job of reaching the semi final, including coming from 2 sets to 0 against FAA and a set down to Dimitrov. When you weigh up the form here though, this is undoubtedly many tiers above in terms of strength of opponent, even with Novak hampered to an extent.

There are a couple of ways to look at Karatsev’s win over Dimitrov from a set down. Whilst he did a fantastic job of coming back from a deficit and beating the Bulgarian, it also needs to be acknowledged that he dropped the first set 2-6, including throwing a game late, and needed to save a bunch of break points early in set 2 against a player in Dimitrov who couldn’t even put his own socks on when preparing for the match. The anti-inflammatories wore off and Dimitrov couldn’t put up a fight late.

Something to consider with Karatsev is his behaviour at times late in sets where he is already trailing. His efforts late in sets 1 and 2 against FAA, and in the first set against Dimitrov, left a lot to be desired. Against a player like Djokovic, that turns 6-4’s and 6-3’s into 6-2’s and 6-1’s, which leads to some appeal in Novak at the -7.5 game handicap here. Karatsev will need to redline for hours to match it with Novak, even with his injury. He can still cover the court, and extend points at times.

If Djokovic does have an injury flare-up and retires, the handicap will be voided as well, which is worth noting.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 2 units Djokovic -7.5 games vs Karatsev (to be recorded at $1.87)


Osaka v S Williams

This match has the feeling of another match in the slow process of the passing of the torch at the top of the WTA.

These two both found their way through tricky quarter final wins in straight sets over opponents that have recently caused each of them trouble. Osaka overcame an early battle with Hsieh, running away with things 6-2 6-2 in the blink of an eye. Hsieh is an incredibly crafty player, and to beat her you generally need to be playing pretty solid tennis.

Osaka looked to have learnt from her previous matches, playing within herself and hitting her spots consistently enough to control the match. Something you see so often at grand slam level is the freedom and almost relaxation that comes with a player saving match points in the previous round, and Osaka played with a lot less tension than we have seen from her in previous meetings with Hsieh.

She isn’t afraid of the prospect of Serena standing across the net, and with Brady and Muchova on the other side of the draw, the opportunity here is massive for Osaka to back up her US Open win.

Williams has looked the best we have seen her in terms of her confidence and her movement and did a fantastic job of coming back from a deficit in the second set against Halep. I do feel Williams has looked better in the conditions at night, so whilst that is against her today, that is a massive positive for her should she make her way through this match.

This match falls in the heat of the day, and her matches against Potapova and Sabalenka in similar conditions have yielded a touch more inconsistency from Williams compared to other matches. I am not counting her out by any stretch of the imagination, however against the clear tournament favourite, and given Osaka’s form and ability to handle tight moments of late, my preference at the game handicap ever so slightly lies with Osaka.

Just the 1 unit play here at the game handicap. There is so much on the line for both players, with the winner likely to be a very heavy favourite heading into the final. Whilst Osaka going bigger on her first serve and causing her to win cheap points but also have a lower first serve percentage, has me a little more worried for Osaka than previous matches. Sit back and watch two of the best on tour slug it out in the heat of the day and appreciate the presence of a crowd back at the tennis.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 1 unit Osaka -2.5 games vs Williams (to be recorded at $1.84)


Muchova v Brady

We got the money with our selection on Jennifer Brady to win the second quarter, and now the outright selection on Brady is very much in play, albeit unfortunately due to Barty’s loss to Karolina Muchova yesterday.

In the battle of the fittest, these two players now have to back up 24 hours later for their semifinals, allowing the winner to have a day break prior to the final. When you look at the overall demeanor of both players yesterday in their respective wins, I am very strongly leaning to Brady here at the game handicap.

Muchova is undefeated across the course of 2021, however that is in part due to withdrawals from matches in Abu Dhabi and Melbourne in the lead-up tournament. She is carrying an abdominal injury of some sort and based on her withdrawals to star the year she is also struggling to back up a little more within 24 hours than the usual 48-hour break that comes at grand slam level. She had 17 winners and 33 unforced errors in her win over Ash Barty, and Barty dropping her first serve percentage to just over 50% was key in Muchova’s chances of victory.

Whereas Muchova required a significant drop in level of Barty, Brady was able to significantly up her level against Jessica Pegula after dropping the first set. I remarked in the first set that Brady couldn’t buy a first serve and Pegula was only up *4-3, with Pegula needing to make the most of the opportunities handed to her early in the match before things change. Pegula did take the first set, however outside of a service break early in the third, Brady was in complete control of both sets.

The experience from the US Open will be invaluable here for Brady, and I cannot pass up taking her at the -3.5-game handicap here for 3 units. Hopefully Brady can’t continue the momentum she has built over the fortnight and give us a finals appearance for our outright chance.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 3 units Brady -3.5 games vs Muchova (to be recorded at $1.95)

Rublev v Medvedev

Andrey Rublev had absolutely every chance to take a set off Daniil Medvedev at the US Open, and he couldn’t get the job done. Has enough changed since to think anything will change this time around, on court conditions that are better for Medvedev?

The US Open meeting was a funny one, with Rublev losing 5 points in a row from 6-3 in the first set tiebreak, as well as being unable to close out the third set tiebreak and extend the match when Medvedev was physically struggling. Rublev is one of the players that Medvedev has the measure of over time, and looking at the prices today there doesn’t seem to be an exceptional amount of value anywhere outside of this set betting play.

Rather than find myself involved in the need for no lapses from Medvedev to ensure the game spread is covered, I am going to play stakes over the markets of Medvedev to win in 3 sets and 4 sets. I do feel in the conditions if things do end up going 5 sets, this may slightly favour Rublev in the live odds at the start of a fifth were it to eventuate.

If Rublev is able to overcome Medvedev, this will be a significant step in the right direction for him in terms of his prospects not only for the tournament here, but in taking the next step again this year.

I am happy to bet against Rublev today, but only with small staking.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 0.9 units Medvedev 3-0 set betting (to be recorded at $3.30)

BACK  – 0.6 units Medvedev 3-1 set betting (to be recorded at $4.40)


Tsitsipas v Nadal

With the quarter winner and outright stakes already on Stefanos Tsitsipas still alive and active, the staking here will be slightly reduced given what is already active on this match.

Both players have had some solid patches of play across the tournament. Nadal has been able to rectify lapses within the same set, making his way to the quarter final without dropping one. I mentioned the other day that I think a little too much has been read into the 5-setter between Tsitsipas and Kokkinakis, a match which I thought Tsitsipas had control over more than the majority as the only player generating break point chances. The biggest difference between the two of them through the early rounds was Tsitsipas’ lapses cost him sets whereas Nadal was able to steady the ship within the set.

Nadal has looked solid without being spectacular this tournament, which is a strange thing to say given the fact he hasn’t dropped a set across his matches against Djere, Mmoh, Norrie and Fognini. None of those players faced have a significant first serve or the power game to challenge Nadal consistently, meaning this will be a different look for Nadal in best of 5 on hardcourt compared to many of his recent matches. This is the first match where be faces a player with a serve capable of earning semi-regular cheap points, which will be important in these faster conditions.

The head to head favours Nadal, but I think in the next 12-24 months we may see this start to even out. Tsitsipas has made great strides in his game.

When you look at the conditions tonight, and the question marks I have around the Spaniard if this goes beyond 3 sets (I have been consistent on this on hardcourts over the last couple of years), I am comfortable siding with Tsitsipas at the game handicap for 1.5 units, and the money line for 1 unit. He has the game to match it with the Spaniard; it is now down to his application.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 1.5 units Tsitsipas +3.5 games (to be recorded at $1.87)

BACK  – 1 unit Tsitsipas to win (to be recorded at $2.65)

Outright Update

Several outrights and quarter winning selections are still in play for the tournament. Here is a quick comment on the remaining live selections:

Women’s Outrights

The current women’s outrights still alive are Ash Barty and Jennifer Brady. They both fall in the same half, however, won’t meet unless they both win their quarter-finals. I think Barty is at the correct price assuming that crowds are to return at the end of this 5-day lockdown. If crowds do not return, then I think that will play more into the hands of the Australian based on her play in the last couple of rounds.

Looking at the bottom half, there are a couple of ways to approach it. As you will see below, I am liking the odds-on offer for Halep to defeat Williams today, however, the strongest player and most in-form here is Naomi Osaka. I am comfortable playing Halep in her individual match-up with Serena Williams, as I think there is more value in that individual match than the outright price.

So, what to do with Osaka? She is scheduled to be first on court tomorrow, facing Hsieh about 7 hours before the Halep/Williams match. I think Hsieh is going to be a genuine test for Osaka in the heat of the day, making her head-to-head price of $1.15 a little too short. So short in fact that I will most likely be against her in some capacity today, however, if she comes through today, she is the most battle-tested player in the semifinals. I am happy to bypass the slight hit to the price to wait and make sure she beats Hsieh, and back her at a price of $2.40 for 0.5 units.

The Jennifer Brady quarter winner market I am happy to play through this match with Pegula and am unlikely to make a bet on that match-up as a result.

Men’s Outrights

On the men’s side, there are two quarter winner selections that are coming into their respective matches in Alexander Zverev (vs Novak Djokovic) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (vs Rafael Nadal). I don’t see value in the price of Zverev currently (largely due to the injury question marks around Djokovic), however, I do like the match price on Tsitsipas against Nadal. Given the quarter and outright selections on Tsitsipas, the staking in that match is likely to be lower as a result.

Selections decided by next match:

Zverev Quarter Winner
Tsitsipas Quarter Winner
Brady Quarter Winner

Hold Fire for 1 more round:

Barty Outright
Brady Outright
Tsitsipas Outright

Added Selection:

0.4 units Osaka outright (if $2.40 AFTER defeating Hsieh)


Dimitrov v Karatsev

Experience is well and truly on the Bulgarian’s side today, as Grigor Dimitrov comes up against another player coming off a 5 set match in the previous round.

Whilst Dominic Thiem was certainly below his best in the previous round, it was a credit to Dimitrov that he was able to dig in as much as he did when trailing by a break early in each of the first and second sets. He is certainly the freshest player in this match-up, thanks to the retirement of Carreno-Busta followed up with a straight set win over Thiem. He looks like he is close to back to his top fitness, which will be crucial given the hot conditions forecast or today.

This incredibly impressive run from Karatsev started on the clay at Challenger level, after the Russian put together a decent body of work in exhibition matches whilst the tour was suspended. When the tour restarted, he had a ranking of 253, then made the Prague Challenger final (lost to Wawrinka), won the Prague 2 Challenger, won the Ostrava Challenger, lost to Sebastian Korda in the final round of Roland Garros qualifying (Korda went on to make the 4th round), and made the semi final of the Ortisei Challenger on hardcourt in November.

He dropped one set between the first round of AO qualifying in Doha and the 3rd round of the Australian Open, and then came rom 2 sets to 0 down in the fourth round to defeat Felix Auger Aliassime. He is putting a high percentage of first serves into play and when you are consistently winning north of 70% of points behind your first serve, you are generally well placed.

Looking at the caliber and type of opponent today in Grigor Dimitrov, this is a step up, and looks to be a tougher match-up. One of the great parts of Dimitrov’s game is not only his court coverage for his size, but his ability to use his slice to neutralize points and find a way back onto level footing.

A great indication of his confidence levels is his ability to pull the trigger down the line off both wings, and this is comfortably the best I have seen him do it off both wings in a very long time. Couple those with the fact he has been here before and won at quarter final level in the past of an Australian Open, and I think the Karatsev run ends here.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 1.5 units Dimitrov -4.5 games (to be recorded at $1.80)


S Williams v Halep

How much will the 2019 Wimbledon final remain in the mind of Serena Williams?

It is difficult to gauge whether that result is a genuine outlier or whether that result impacts Williams long term. After several matches in a row against bigger strikers of the ball, she now finds herself coming up against the best counter-punching player in the women’s game.

Something to consider for this match is the fact the weather is predicted to be 27 degrees and around 50% humidity. The last time Williams played in conditions that were similar against a player able to retrieve balls consistently was when she met Maria Sakkari in the week before the US Open. That match she started cramping early in the third set and had similar physical struggles the week after when facing Victoria Azarenka in the US Open semifinal.

The harder Sabalenka hit the ball in their fourth-round match, the more it seemed to favour Serena. It plays right into the hands of Serena if you cannot counterpunch and keep her of balance enough, such has been the case over the course of her last couple of matches. From pace in almost every point to generating her own pace today against Halep, this is going to be an adjustment for Serena, especially in the heat tonight.

The response from Halep when falling down a set the other night against Iga Swiatek was exceptional. In the blink of an eye, she was up 3-0 in the second set, and looked to have control of the match for the most point from that point onwards. She looks to be back to a level close to her best in terms of her movement, and that is going to be crucial for her chances here against Serena.

Halep has arguably the best coach in the game in Darren Cahill, and their tactics clearly worked well at Wimbledon. I anticipate that the longer this match goes, the more it favors Halep. I am happy to place a 1.5-unit selection on Halep to win, and an extra 0.5 units on Halep to win 2-1.

Such is the nature of this match-up, it is likely that Williams is going to go on a run of some sort, however I think Halep’s ability to turn this into a grind, and the weather conditions for tonight, all favour the Romanian to cause the upset.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 1.5 units Halep to defeat Williams (to be recorded at $2.05)

BACK  – 0.5 units Halep 2-1 set betting vs Williams (to be recorded at $4.70)

Fognini vs Nadal

I was originally only leaning the upset here, however the fact these two are likely to step on court in the heat of the day does favour Fognini in these faster conditions.

This will be the greatest test by some way for Nadal for the tournament. He looked fantastic in his exhibition match against Thiem over in Adelaide, then missed the entirety of the ATP Cup due to a niggling back injury. His serve stats were down a little bit in the first couple of rounds, however he did report an improvement in his condition after his third round win over Cam Norrie. To start the tournament against Djere, Mmoh off 5 sets and Norrie to reach the second week of the slam. He has had a couple of slip-ups within sets, however managed to reach the third round without dropping a set. I think he would have preferred the night conditions for this match with Fognini, having looked solid under lights against Mmoh and Norrie in the last two rounds. Will the significant change in on-court conditions impact his play today?

I could sit here and write about Fabio Fognini all day; however I will try and sum him up in a couple of sentences. He is an enigma, and arguably brings his best tennis against the top players or when he isn’t given a hope. Look at the level he produced against Caruso in the second round, in a match that he was a heavy favourite and ended up in a 5th set tiebreak and contrast it with the sustained level he was able to produce from start to finish against Alex De Minaur in the third round. Chalk and cheese.

I think the bigger the opponent, for the most part the better the output from Fabio. De Minaur is a great lead-in opponent for a match with Nadal, as the Italian was forced to cover the court incredibly well to stay in the contest. Whilst his winner counts against the Australian wasn’t overly high, the ability to force errors with deep hitting was crucial to his overall victory.

Fognini is erratic and at times will play low percentage tennis, however he is also a tricky opponent for Nadal for that very reason. There will be patches of very low percentage tennis, but looking over the last couple of years, you would almost give the fitness edge to Fognini over best of 5 in the heat against Nadal.

Splitting the first two sets at worst would be a great spot for Fognini, and I think with no crowd there to distract him, and only his player box in his corner, he finds himself in a great spot here. If I didn’t think there was a fitness edge for Fognini, I would lean moreso to the first set being a great play for Fognini, however I give him a great chance here at least splitting sets 1 and 2. I will play the match line price for 2 units.

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 2 units Fognini to defeat Nadal (to be recorded at $5.80)


Rogers vs Barty

The fact this is slated to be played as part of the night session is a big advantage for Ash Barty in this one, especially when you consider how well Shelby Rogers has been striking the ball this week. With their meeting last week going to a match tiebreak, I do wonder if that has opened up a little more value on Barty at the game handicap at grand slam level.

Whilst there have been some concerns around the fitness of Barty, she continues to deliver exceptional results in Melbourne. She won the lead-in tournament, and bar a lapse against good friend Daria Gavrilova in the second round has looked pretty comfortable overall. Although players know it is coming, the slice still seems to be a massive problem for most opponents, and Rogers will need to handle it better today to be a genuine chance.

Rogers has done a fantastic job in reaching the 4th round; however this is the first time she really finds herself up against it in terms of an opponent with variety. As I mentioned earlier, I think the conditions on court tonight probably don’t suit Rogers as much as they did when they met last week, and that is going to be tough for the American to overcome.

Barty has remarked that be enjoys playing in the empty stadiums, and it looks as though her performances are backing that up. The pressure can get to her at times with big home crowds cheering her on, so she should relish this opportunity with the empty stadium. Look for Barty to continue her good run here, and I will be taking her at the game handicap of 5.5 games, at better than even odds, for 1.5 units

Betting Strategy

BACK  – 1.5 units Barty -5.5 games vs Rogers (to be recorded at $2.10)

Outright Update

I have had a number of questions over the last 36 hours regarding Novak Djokovic. He has fooled me too many times over the years to get involved heavily in making an opinion on his fitness. Djokovic said he has a tear, however scans haven’t come back, so that it not confirmed.

I will not be changing my approach, however it may be worth keeping an eye on the outright markets whilst he is on court tonight, as there may be some wild fluctuations.

I will provide a futures/trading update tomorrow.


Zverev vs Lajovic

If there is a player that has a pep in their step as the result of the uncertainty surrounding Novak Djokovic and his fitness, it must be Alexander Zverev.

Whilst there were originally some doubts regarding the difficulty of his draw, Zverev has had a relatively comfortable time of things since losing the first set in round 1 to Giron. He won through against two very different style of opponents in Maxime Cressy and Adrian Mannarino in round 2 and 3, and never looked to be in significant danger, not dropping serve in either match. He is still going bigger on his second serve; however, he has been doing this for long enough now that I am not majorly concerned about it until later in the tournament when nerves start to build.

The large game handicaps can be fraught with danger at times on the ATP side, however like we saw with Tsitsipas against Ymer yesterday, I don’t think the serve of Lajovic is strong enough to not experience regular pressure from the Zverev return of serve in these conditions. It has not been an easy journey to the 4th round, with a 5 set win over Stakhovsky, and 4 set wins over Bublik (who struggled in the heat) and Martinez.

His average first serve in round 3 of 177km/h was only 10km/h faster than Zverev’s second serve. Look for Zverev to get a lot of returns into play and keep the pressure on the Serbian.

Happy to step up to the -8.5 game handicap at $2 and make a 1.5 unit play here. Zverev should be far too strong in the conditions, and in my opinion, will be heading into his quarter final match-up with confidence.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1.5 units Zverev -8.5 games vs Lajovic (to be recorded at $2.05)


Swiatek vs Halep

Whilst many have the Roland Garros meeting fresh in their memory, I think there may have been a slight overreaction to both that match and the form of both players leading into this match.

Swiatek is no longer one of the hunters on the WTA tour. She now has a grand slam to her name, and with that comes more pressure and consequences that need to be dealt with when stepping on court. I don’t think she has looked exceptional by any stretch of the imagination over the last couple of weeks, but she has been able to win comfortably when it has mattered.

This is going to be a bigger test of where the Swiatek game is at currently. I just don’t feel these odds should be as close to a coin flip as the market currently suggests. Whilst I originally thought the injury concerns from Halep were rearing their ugly head against Tomljanovic, she backed that up with a dominant performance against Kudermetova the other night. I am going into this one under the impression she is close to 100% and should be comfortable in the night conditions after her last couple of matches.

If Swiatek’s winner numbers were higher through the first three rounds I would be more interested in her price. Alas, she has been more reliant on opposition unforced errors, and that just won’t be occurring today. Considering the larger body of work on hardcourt, I am happy to take Halep to win this match for 1.5 units.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1.5 units Halep to defeat Swiatek (to be recorded at $1.91)

Tsitsipas v M Ymer

Whilst on the surface it does look and feel as though Stefanos Tsitsipas was pushed to the limit against Thanasi Kokkinakis, the overall flow of the match was almost always in favour of him in round 2.

The overall scoreline was 6-7 6-4 6-1 6-7 6-4. Tsitsipas faced three break points for the match and didn’t drop serve. Conversely, he earned 22 break points on the Kokkinakis serve and was able to break on five occasions. What saved Kokkinakis? His ability to find very big first serves in key moments across almost the entire match. It begs the question: if he can generate that many opportunities against Kokkinakis serving well, then how is Mikael Ymer going to fare today?

Mikael Ymer has done a phenomenal job of making his way through to the third round of the Open. He defeated a seeded player in Hubert Hurkacz in round 1 in 5 sets and got the better of a very close tussle with up-and-coming teenager Carlos Alcaraz in round 2.

Whilst Hurkacz does have a big serve, he doesn’t have the weight of shot that is going to consistently overhit Ymer given his court coverage, and he paid the price over the best of 5 set format. Against players with a mixture of movement and power thought, Ymer finds himself outmatched, as I think we will see today.

This match shapes, in my opinion, to fall more along the lines of the first-round match of Tsitsipas than the second. Whilst Tsitsipas isn’t the strongest in terms of serve return, he is boosted by the drop in power from the other end of the court. Tsitsipas plays with the right level of power and margin to be a significant issue for Ymer on both serve and return.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 4 units Tsitsipas -8.5 games vs Ymer (to be recorded at $1.84)


Khachanov v Berrettini

I still think Khachanov is being somewhat overrated in the conditions, and I don’t see him having a fantastic time of things today against Matteo Berrettini.

Both players have their deficiencies on court, with one of Khachanov’s being his forehand and its mechanics on a faster hardcourt. Coming up against a power player in Berrettini, this issue is going to be harder to mask than Berrettini’s issues around his backhand win in key moments.

Khachanov has been solid without being spectacular through the first two rounds. He had some very shaky moments in round 1 against Vukic, however, was able to make the most of Berankis’ slow starts to set in round 2 as well. There isn’t the form from him that jumps off the page and makes me want to get involved overly heavily in this one, especially with the game handicap across best of 5 sets sitting at 4.5 games.

The fact Berrettini dropped a set for Machac in the previous round doesn’t concern me a great deal, as I do have a high opinion of the Czech. What impressed me was the Italian’s reset and recovery heading into the fourth set, taking it 6-3, not facing a break point, and earning break points in each of Machac’s service games.

Style-wise this is a great match-up for Berrettini, and rather than a larger stake play at the -3.5 games, I will drop the staking at take the -4.5 games for the Italian at odds around the $2 mark. Look for the Italian to target the Khachanov forehand and be stronger in the moments that matter based on past form and experience.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1 unit Berrettini -4.5 games vs Khachanov (to be recorded at $2.00)

Shapovalov v Auger-Aliassime

I haven’t been all that impressed with Denis Shapovalov to start 2021, and I am struggling to justify him coming into this all-Canadian match-up having to give up a 3.5 game handicap.

The form to end 2020 was disappointing for Shapovalov, albeit influenced by injury, and I don’t think I have seen enough here to start 2021 as well. Brave losses to Djokovic and Zverev get you so far, however, my biggest issue with those two performances was his efforts late in those sets, as well as his efforts when the match tightened up in the ATP Cup doubles tie with Serbia. Couple that with his struggles to close out Jannik Sinner on his last legs, and you have a body of form that just doesn’t instil confidence for me.

It has long been thought about Shapovalov that he needed to add more of a defensive component to his game. We saw patches of improvement in the months after Mikhail Youzhny came on board as coach, however, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of consistency in this component of his game, and that becomes more apparent in the best of 5 set format.

Whilst there were some question marks initially about Auger-Aliassime backing up after playing a decent amount of tennis last week, however, has responded with two very impressive performances. FAA made his way through matches against Stebe and Duckworth with straight set wins, only dropping serve once across the six sets. Switching gears from the heat of the day against Duckworth to the night session on Margaret Court Arena also suits him in my opinion and given the rhythm he has found on his serve in Melbourne the +3.5-game start for him is hard to look past for today.

If FAA can maintain the consistency in his game that he has shown over the last couple of weeks, then he should be right in the hunt for the outright victory today. The +3.5-game handicap looks to be a better option in this battle between friends, and I will take that for 2 units.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 2 units Auger-Aliassime +3.5 games vs Shapovalov (to be recorded at $1.93)


Thiem v Kyrgios

They often say the most dangerous person in the world is someone with absolutely nothing to lose. That is in fact the case this evening as Nick Kyrgios takes to John Cain Arena against Dominic Thiem in a fascinating third round match-up on John Cain Arena.

Unlike last year against Rafael Nadal, Kyrgios gets to play this one on John Cain Arena, the court that has become synonymous with a more vocal crowd. On Friday night the majority of fans will be heavily supporting Kyrgios, even more so if a snap lockdown which is being reported is to come into effect.

Whilst you can certainly question the commitment of Kyrgios in previous years and previous tournaments, it was impressive to see him genuinely lock in once down a break in that fourth set. He was in a position that so many times previously in his career hasn’t ended well, yet found a way to save match points, break, dig out of a 0/30 hole and rarely look headed the rest of the way. It was a solid effort statistically for Kyrgios, facing only 5 break points for the match across the 5 sets.

Whilst Thiem may not be as thrilled by the fact this match is on John Cain Arena, he may enjoy the cooler night conditions slowing things down a little bit. This court hasn’t been the happiest hunting ground for the Austrian over the years, however, he did look solid in his second-round win over Dominik Koepfer in the heat of the day. Thiem has looked solid without being spectacular and will experience a significant step up in terms of opposition quality from Kukushkin and Koepfer to Kyrgios today.

These two have only played once a handful of years ago on the clay, with Kyrgios retiring in the first set. Instead of having the form and history to know how players match up (ie. Nadal vs Djokovic), there is a little more to this one. Outside of the physicality and fitness of Thiem, I don’t see this as a bad match-up for Kyrgios.

When you look at how Nick handled the 5 sets on Day 3, he actually looked quite fresh and up for the contest across the last hour of play. It is also worth noting that after a 5 set marathon against Karen Khachanov last year, Kyrgios came out and played 4 quality sets against Rafael Nadal in the next round.

The variety in the game of Kyrgios is where his strength lies in tonight’s match. Firstly, Nick has one of the better serves on tour, and I would expect him to heavily target the Thiem backhand, which doesn’t have as much of the control on service return, reducing his margin for error.

Secondly, the variety of paces used by Kyrgios when rallying is crucial against a player like Thiem. Kyrgios can bring down the spin rate on his backhand and rally until finding an opportunity to pull the trigger, and historically Thiem can go for patches where he can struggle for consistency when needing to generate his own pace consistently.

This match is going to be about moments. Whilst Nick will have a lapse or two along the way, he should also find ways to dig into the Thiem service if he cannot find his first serve consistently. Throw in a healthy dose of the crowd, which will be on the borderline in terms of their behaviour, and this has the recipe to be a fantastic match.

$4+ for Kyrgios does appear to be excessive though. Using $4.30 as a gauge of win probability, that implies a 23.25% probability of Kyrgios winning this match-up. I don’t think that is correct given the tournament and court in play tonight. I am happy to place a 2.5-unit selection on Kyrgios to cause the upset and progress to the 4th round.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 2.5 units Kyrgios to defeat Thiem (to be recorded at $4.30)

Brady vs Brengle

This has the makings of a match that may very well be one-way traffic.

I don’t think too much can be read into the first round win of Madison Brengle over Arina Rodionova. The best friends were drawn to face each other and based off what I saw from Rodionova across her couple of matches across the last week, it seemed as though she was somewhat hampered by a leg injury. Brengle had control from start to finish, winning in straight sets. Things will be a lot far more difficult against Jennifer Brady today on what is shaping up to be a very fast hardcourt.

Brady did what she had to in the first round, after playing up until the semifinal in one of the lead-up tournaments. She didn’t face a break point in her 6-1 6-3 win over Bolsova, and she showed the consistency that is required to consider taking a top player at a game handicap that is north of 6 games.

This match sits on the racquet of Brady, and in the form, she is in currently, she should be too strong.

Betting Strategy

BACK —1.5 units Brady -6.5 games vs Brengle (to be recorded at $2.00)


Juvan vs Sherif

Backing up again on Kaja Juvan, a player I have a very high opinion of for her age.

Juvan was the beneficiary of a retirement in round 1 from Johanna Konta, with the Brit suffering an abdominal injury late in the first set. Juvan was looking reasonable and will likely enjoy the drop in opposition strength today in Mayar Sherif.

Sherif has certainly made great strides over the last 12 months, however I do feel she rarely comes up as value in the current markets. She had one of the friendlier draws of the first round, defeating Chloe Paquet 7-5 7-5 in 1hr41 mins. I’d have been hoping for a more dominant performance from her given her first serve percentage was north of 70%, and against a far more capable player today I am struggling to justify taking her at the game handicap.

Look for Juvan to take control of this one early. I think this match rests on her racquet often, and I am happy to take her at the handicap for a unit.

Betting Strategy

BACK —1 unit Juvan -3.5 games vs Sherif (to be recorded at $1.80)


Caruso vs Fognini

I have come very close to pulling the trigger on Caruso to win this match outright, however I have found it a little too hard to pass up the plus game handicap on Caruso in these conditions.

We have another incredibly warm day in Melbourne, with the temperature likely to hit 34 degrees while these two are on the court. Fabio Fognini was able to get the better of Herbert in the first round, largely aided by the Frenchman’s ability to only get 46% of first serves into play. That is below par for a player who builds their game around their serve, and Fabio took advantage. Fognini won’t have it all his way today against Caruso, who looked excellent in these conditions on Tuesday.

Caruso was dominant against Henri Laaksonen, winning comfortably in straight sets in the type of fashion I had anticipated. The appeal in Caruso today is his consistency, as in the conditions against an erratic player such as Fognini, consistency and potentially even grabbing just one set with the 4.5 game handicap.

The current ranking system significantly flatters Fognini’s short to medium term form. He is still on the comeback from double ankle surgery and regaining his top level, and I just can’t justify him giving up a 4.5 game handicap to Caruso, who will go all day in the conditions on previous form.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1.5 units Caruso +4.5 games vs Fognini (to be recorded at $1.86)


Zhu vs Mertens

Lin Zhu appears to have been playing her best tennis of late in the first set of matches, and I am happy to try and catch her at a sneaky price here to snatch the first set against Elise Mertens.

Mertens is quickly falling into the type of player that I will be keener to oppose over the shorter sample size of a set. Zhu has looked blistering early in most of her matches recently, and in the heat of the day and what is shaping up to be very fast conditions she looks to be value to she may have a flurry in her to cause an early shock.

This will be a 0.5-unit selection, as $5+ represents slight value even with the recent form of Mertens. Zhu plays aggressive tennis and has the luxury of a win over Mertens a couple of years ago as well. Look for her to come out all guns blazing and try and exert some pressure on Mertens.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 0.5 units Zhu 1st set winner vs Mertens (to be recorded at $5.50)

S Williams vs Stojanovic

I am ready to strap myself in and make a play on a double-digit underdog.

If you have been following my work for a while, you may be aware that I have been scouting and aware of Nina Stojanovic for a couple of years now. I generally prefer to side with her in match-ups where she comes up against a bigger striker of the ball, as she thrives on the power play back and forth. I think it is more than fair to class Serena Williams as a bigger striker of the ball.

I am not sure that Serena should be sub $1.10 at this stage of her career against any player in the top 100 with a mixture of power and sufficient court coverage. For perspective, the speeds of both players’ first and second serve speed averages were near identical in round 1, with Williams dispatching Siegemund in straight sets and Stojanovic defeating Begu in straight sets as a big underdog.

It is the best Stojanovic has looked on court for some time, and a performance she will take a lot of confidence from in the short term. At this stage of her career, Williams can be exploited in terms of movement, so it will be interesting to see if Stojanovic can handle the occasion.

Another component of this match is the weather conditions, with the forecast top of 30 degrees and a little humid with these two on court. I don’t see that as a major advantage for Serena, as it may cause her some concern coming off such little tennis of late.

Siegemund allowed Williams to dictate, however, I don’t anticipate the same type of game-plan from Stojanovic. Whilst she might go down in a blaze of unforced errors, it is something I can live with at the price on offer. She is comfortable changing the direction of a rally, and that is important when ensuring Serena doesn’t establish rhythm on court.

I have Stojanovic significantly shorter in the market, even with the occasion factored in, which leads to a predicament on my end. I think the value lies in the head to head price more than the game handicap or game total, so I will side with that for 2 units.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 2 units Stojanovic to defeat Williams (to be recorded at $11.50)


Bolt v Dimitrov

I wrote up a preview on day 1 highlighting the difference in strategy that comes with analyzing Alex Bolt. Part of the trouble with handicapping him is the fact that his performances at Melbourne Park are overall significantly better than any other performances in any other part of the world. Has that been factored into the price here enough? I am not quite sure.

I don’t feel as though a victory over Marin Cilic in 2021 is worth a lot anymore. Dimitrov was solid last week without being spectacular, losing to another left-hander in Corentin Moutet in straight sets. The Bulgarian benefitted from 69% of first serves in play in his match against Cilic, and given the struggles of the Croatian on the return of serve of late, that set the tone for the match.

The form of Bolt last week seems to be stacking up quite well. He defeated Kokkinakis and McDonald, who both won comfortably on day 2, and pushed Wawrinka to the brink. Bolt has worked incredibly hard on his fitness over the break, and as he was given a wildcard he didn’t need to travel overseas to play qualifying and then quarantine. He was measured in his round 1 win over Norbert Gombos in 4 sets, and I was most impressed with his ability to bounce back in the 4th set after dropping the 3rd.

I like the serve and forehand combination of Bolt digging into the backhand of Dimitrov in these conditions. Dimitrov hasn’t quite looked his old self over the last couple of months, and I think he may be a touch vulnerable here today. Happy to take Bolt at the game handicap and outright in this one with the local crowd at his back.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 0.5 units Bolt to defeat Dimitrov (to be recorded at $5)
BACK — 1.5 units Bolt +6.5 games vs Dimitrov (to be recorded at $1.81)


Diyas v Pera

The win of Bernarda Pera over Angelique Kerber looks to have been overrated a touch based on the odds for this second round match-up.

Given they have gone with Zarina Diyas as the underdog, I am going to jump at the opportunity to take a plus game handicap. My one major knock on Diyas in round 1 was the fact she hadn’t played a competitive singles match in some time, which would lend itself to Tamara Zidansek being a very tricky first round opponent.

Diyas was super and was clearly the better player in almost every key moment throughout the match. Diyas was hitting her spots well with her first serve, winning over 80% behind it against a capable returner of serve in Zidansek.

The readings out of the post-match press conference seem to attribute the 6-0 6-4 scoreline moreso to Kerber’s lack of training in quarantine and an inability to find any sort of rhythm early in the match coming off their practices. Pera was great in patches, however, It is a better performance from Diyas then was anticipated, and may suggest that the struggles of the back end of 2020, which included a loss to Pera, may not be overly accurate form to now consider.

Recency bias is common in tennis, and it looks to be present in this one. I prefer to back Diyas against bigger strikers of the ball, and the game handicap is an added bonus.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1 unit Diyas +2.5 games vs Pera (to be recorded at $1.90)


Cirstea vs Kvitova

It is going to be hot and humid today, and Petra Kvitova is slated to play in the hottest part of the day, at a price around $1.25. That to me spells danger.

Sorana Cirstea has put together a very solid body of work over the last couple of tournaments and looks to finally have regained some confidence in her game. Like a few other players she got the right amount of time on court last week without hindering her chances this week, and started the tournament off with a dominant win over Patricia Tig in round 1.

She didn’t drop serve for the match, faced only one break point and ended the match with 22 winners and 13 unforced errors. This is the most comfortable and confident she has looked in some time, and shouldn’t be too worried about the weather conditions here today.

Petra was lucky to get out of the first round with a straight set win, coming from 1-4 down in the second set to defeat Minnen 6-3 6-4. With the good also comes the bad, with Kvitova hitting 34 winners but also finding 10 double faults across the two sets. Her first match was in a night session, so switching back to the day will be a slight adjustment for her as well. Her struggles with heat and humidity have been well documented in the past, however I don’t think they seem to have been built into the price here today as much as I had anticipated.

Just a small play, however, I have Cirstea rated a touch below $4 in this one, opening up value on her on the head to head price. She has kept most of their past matches relatively close (except their 2016 meeting), and shouldn’t mind the power hitting from the other end of the court.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 0.75 units Cirstea to defeat Kvitova (to be recorded at $4.60)

Samsonova vs Badosa

Given the complaints still coming out of the Badosa camp regarding her treatment in hotel quarantine, as well as after she tested positive in said quarantine, and the fact she had to spend an extra week off-court than everyone else, there is some appeal in opposing her with Liudmila Samsonova today.

Whilst Samsonova did struggle in her first outing after quarantine, her form over the last 12 months has been impressive. She is currently in the phase of her career that many find most difficult. She is sitting just outside the Top 100, meaning she needs to be on her game weekly in her attempts to qualify for any tournaments that are going to have a significant number of ranking points. Her AO qualifying draw was tough, needing to defeat Kung, Anderson and Tsurenko, and her game should be suited relatively well by the conditions.

Badosa had a bit of a stop-start 2020 and is a couple of years ahead of Samsonova on her trajectory, now inside the Top 100 at 70. Badosa was solid without being spectacular in the Abu Dhabi tournament prior to quarantine and found herself overcome by the power of Kudermetova in the third round. The big question is so many players in hard quarantine have mentioned their struggles on returning to the court. How will Badosa fare having had an extra week of it, and symptoms associated with COVID?

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1 unit Samsonova -1.5 games vs Badosa (to be recorded at $1.83)


Sharma vs Hibino

What Astra Sharma would give to have a service game back from last week.

All of a sudden, the form last week of Sharma doesn’t look too bad. She led Kaia Kanepi a set and a break, had a break point for a double break, and served for the match, before Kanepi stormed back into contention and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Kanepi then went on to defeat Sabalenka, Kasatkina and Alexandrova on her way to the final, not a bad list of players even in the week before a grand slam. Sharma was looking comfortable until she attempted to serve out the match, struggling to find her first serve when she needed it most. These conditions do suit her and her serve however, as her style and spin level on serve should cause Nao Hibino a bit of trouble.

Speaking of Hibino, we haven’t seen her on court to play singles or doubles this year. There is no substitute for competitive time on court, and when the conditions aren’t in your favour in a match-up, the issue is compounded. She struggled in her two outings on hardcourt post the COVID tour suspension and looks vulnerable here off a quarantine period and no tennis.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1.5 units Sharma to defeat Hibino (to be recorded at $1.93)


Pliskova vs Paolini

Whilst it doesn’t look like a close match-up on paper, I am fascinated by this match and the implications around it this week.

Karolina Pliskova has been handed a decent draw in comparison to other seeded players, however, is it too late in her career to consider her a genuine threat at grand slam level anymore? I personally prefer to support her in matches against other big strikers of the ball with questionable court coverage. Those match-ups lead to her being able to dictate still more often than not, without the craft or shot placement coming from the other end of the court.

My general target opponent to oppose at big prices is any form of counterpuncher with solid court coverage, or a player who has decent court coverage as well as the power to exploit Pliskova’s movement (ie. A Danielle Collins type as we saw last week).

Pliskova will need to display far better form than I have seen recently to justify such a short market price. Paolini surprised me last week, beating Marino and Wang before losing in 3 sets to Muchova. I caught some of her match against the Czech and she seems to be enjoying these conditions far more than I anticipated.

For her to be classed as a 14.8% chance of winning this match based on current odds seems harsh. She will be up against it on her serve at times (it is not the strongest), however, if she keeps her energy up and doesn’t find herself trying to overhit and lose her margin for error, I give her a chance here.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 0.75 units Paolini to defeat Pliskova (to be recorded at $6.75)


Caruso vs Laaksonen

The Italian looks to be a great price here at the game handicap of 3.5 games, and I am happy to attack.

Whilst he may not be the biggest hitter or the most proficient hardcourt player on tour, you know you are going to get 100% effort. I opposed Caruso at the US Open against James Duckworth and was made to pay with his consistency from start to finish, grinding down his opponent for an impressive win.

I see a similar type of match today for the Italian, as Henri Laaksonen doesn’t have the type of consistency, I would want to be supporting him at such a game handicap. Laaksonen had Sam Querrey on the ropes in the Great Ocean Road Open last week, before dropping a tiebreak he had control of and losing the 3rd set 0-6.

His qualifying form was solid, beating Kamke, Diez and Gojo, however, I wouldn’t classify his overall recent hardcourt form since his Challenger title in Bangkok in 2019 to be of great note.

I was impressed with Caruso’s ability to hang tough against Kecmanovic last week, and when you look at how each player handled third sets last week, I know where I want my money staked today. It may start as a close match; however, I like Caruso to keep the pressure steady and run away with it.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 2 units Caruso -3.5 games vs Laaksonen (to be recorded at $1.93)

Vondrousova vs Peterson

I am not sure where in the recent form of these two players that a 4.5 game handicap for Vondrousova on a fast hardcourt is justified.

I mentioned in my WTA outright article that this match is one of the more competitive, interesting matches of the first round. This is the second tough grand slam start for Vondrousova in a row as a seed, having faced eventual champion Iga Swiatek in the first round at Roland Garros.

Vondrousova has started 2021 in patchy fashion, losing to Hsieh in Abu Dhabi, before wins over Gracheva, Zvonareva and Podoroska (in a match tiebreak) in Melbourne. It all came crashing down in the quarter final, however, winning only 1 game against Garbine Muguruza. When you glance back over the hardcourt form of Vondrousova, there have not been any significant scalps on hardcourt since Indian Wells in 2019, far slower conditions than what is on offer in Melbourne this week. I just don’t feel as though the conditions here are made to suit her overall.

I am happy to forgive Peterson’s 2020 for the most part. She kicked off the year with an injury in Hobart, whilst also trying to adjust to a new racquet. She struggled to find form after the COVID tour suspension, leading to 2020 being largely a write-off. There were significant signs of improvement in Peterson this week, defeating Inglis 6-2 6-1 in the Yarra Valley Classic.

She also pushed Shelby Rogers to 3 sets, a solid effort in these conditions. Break point conversion was her undoing against Rogers, as well as a slow start to the third set, causing all momentum to be halted from her second set win. Those lapses have stopped me taking her outright here, instead settling for the Swede at the game handicap.

I do not think the form is there from Vondrousova to justify the 4.5 games, and I am happy to take Peterson for 1 unit. Another option is Peterson to win a set (or a Lay of Peterson 2:0 set betting).

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1 unit Peterson +4.5 games vs Vondrousova (to be recorded at $1.90)


Diyas v Zidansek

Lack of time on court is likely to catch up with Zarina Diyas, who comes up against a tricky opponent on a fast hardcourt in Tamara Zidansek.

I opposed Zidansek in Abu Dhabi and she made me look a little silly. Zidansek has played some decent tennis in Melbourne over the last couple of years, however running into Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams in the second round in the last two years has made life a little difficult for her. She did look to be rusty in her first-round match on Wednesday against Danka Kovinic, however, it is one match more than we have seen from Diyas.

Diyas pulled out of her match with Laura Siegemund last week, so we have not seen her since Abu Dhabi, where she lost to Ekaterina Alexandrova 4-6 4-6. Diyas needs competitive time on court, and it has not eventuated. Against a player that can cover the court and counterpunch on a faster hardcourt in Zidansek, I cannot justify Diyas at a touch over $2. Too rusty to justify that price, however, I will keep the staking low.

I will be taking Zidansek to win for 1 unit.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 1 unit Zidansek to defeat Diyas (to be recorded at $1.80)


Tiafoe v Travaglia

Whilst Frances Tiafoe is a little on the inconsistent side, he does generally put together a more predictable output at grand slam level.

At grand slam level on hardcourt, Stefano Travaglia currently holds a record of 2-5 for his career. His wins came over Fabio Fognini at less than 100% in 2017, and Guido Andreozzi two years ago at the Australian Open. There has been a bit of talk over the last couple of hours surrounding the pressure that is coming for Jannik Sinner tomorrow, backing up his finals appearance yesterday to face Denis Shapovalov tomorrow night.

Things will be just as hard for Travaglia, with this match scheduled for the afternoon of Day 1. His form in Antalya and Melbourne this week has opened some value here for Tiafoe as a result.

Past grand slam performance on hardcourt is key here, as Travaglia has struggled at times over the longer format. Add on the full week from Travaglia in the lead-up, and Tiafoe’s reasonable form, albeit with poor break point conversion his undoing lately.

The -4.5 game handicap over the longer format is incredibly appealing in the conditions. The longer this match progresses, the more it favors Tiafoe in my opinion. I will be placing a 2-unit selection on Tiafoe at the game handicap. An alternate option would be to take Tiafoe in play if he falls down an early break or set.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 2 units Tiafoe -4.5 games vs Travaglia (to be recorded at $1.95)


Wawrinka v Sousa

I am generally not a person to become involved in big game handicaps when it comes to Stan Wawrinka, however, time is of the essence for him early in this tournament.

There are a couple of question marks around Stan due to his recent COVID diagnosis and lost fitness, which should ideally lend to a more switched-on Stan early this week, keen to limit his time on court. Alex Bolt was able to hold his own for patches of their match the other day, largely due to his ability to be aggressive and force the issue against Wawrinka. That will not be the case today with Stan coming up against Pedro Sousa.

Sousa played two hardcourt tournaments across 2020: The Australian Open and the US Open. Hardcourt is not a happy hunting ground for him, with most of his ranking points coming from his performances on clay. He was able to get a win over Li Tu last week, who was a little overwhelmed by his first ATP level appearance, before losing in straight sets to eventual title winner Dan Evans. There just isn’t enough in his game to class him as a threat here if Stan is able to bring a reasonable level.

-8.5 games here for Stan at over $2 looks to be a solid day 1 spot to target. Sousa does not have the serve to be able to generate cheap points, which will lead to Stan being able to find his way into return games consistently. This for me is a 2-unit selection, which I will record at a price of $2.

Betting Strategy

BACK — 2 units Wawrinka -8.5 games vs Sousa (to be recorded at $2)

Welcome to the preview for the women’s draw of the Australian Open. Almost all players have had some form of a hit out in the week leading up to the tournament, with some having more success than others. The defending champion is the number 4 seed Sofia Kenin, who claimed the title over Garbine Muguruza last year in 3 sets.

Credit to Tennis Australia for delivering a grand slam tournament with crowds and some atmosphere, and fingers crossed things go to plan over the coming fortnight.

For this preview, I will comment on each seeded player, as well as a couple of unseeded players. I mention some in the seeded descriptions below as many face seeds in round 1. This is one of the craziest draws I can remember in recent memory.


Quarter 1

Ashleigh Barty – Barty finds herself in a tough spot coming into this tournament. Taking 11 months off the tour would generally result in a much lower ranking, however, with the COVID ranking rules in place allowing points to stay on a player’s ranking for longer, Barty gets a reprieve.

Whilst Barty has not played a lot of competitive tennis, she wasn’t impacted by the 14-day quarantine that all international players had to undertake upon arrival to Melbourne. Barty has worked through some rust over an exhibition and a couple of lead-up matches and needs to be considered a contender.

You could make a case that the occasion and the crowd got to her in her semi final with Sofia Kenin last year, as well as the Federation Cup final in 2019. I think the reduced crowds at the Australian Open this year may in fact work in her favour. Most seeded players would take her draw here all things considered, although a potential second round meeting with Daria Gavrilova and a third round meeting with Alexandrova is far from an easy journey.

Ekaterina Alexandrova – The Russian is the type of player that I would rather take in individual match-ups rather than relying on her to deliver a level close to her best for seven consecutive matches. The first major challenge for her is Barbora Krejcikova, who is still flying under the radar at WTA level currently.

Anett Kontaveit – I was not as keen on getting involved in Kontaveit at her price…until the draw came out. The further you work down this draw, the more stacked it becomes. Based on the performance of Petra Martic in the lead-up tournament, she is a good seeded player to pair with here as a potential third round match-up.

I do think her ceiling here is the 4th round if she were to face Barty or even Alexandrova. She meets Sasnovich in round 1, and would then face either Kristyna Pliskova or Heather Watson, who both struggled this week in the lead up tournament. Not in the outright picture, but could make it to early in week two.

Petra Martic – As honest as she is as a player, I just think there are currently too many opponents that are either faster and/or stronger than her to consider her in any capacity for an outright. Prefer to take her as an underdog in particular stylistic match-ups.

Belinda Bencic – We only saw Bencic once on tour post COVID in 2020, and it was a 3-6 1-6 loss to Danka Kovinic. She pulled the pin on the rest of the year and is looking to regain her form here in Melbourne.

Things got off to a shaky start with Bencic having to go through the hard quarantine, and didn’t improve at all with her loss to Sorana Cirstea in the Grampians Trophy, fading after a competitive start. I just don’t feel as though she has the same mix of movement and power that we saw in 2019, and given the state of the WTA at the moment, many players have gone past her as a result.

Elise Mertens – When it comes to grand slams, I think I have reached the point with Elise Mertens where I feel like I will put her grand slam outright ceiling as a trading option and not a pure outright selection. She is ultra-consistent and rarely puts in a poor performance, however, I don’t think her ceiling is high enough to be considered as an overall outright threat given the quality of the field.

That was my thoughts before the draw, however, she does have a pretty nice run which leaves me conflicted. She has looked solid in the lead-up tournament, which makes it even hard to wrap my head around. I still think trading option at best…

Karolina Muchova – I am a little confused with Muchova. I have written in a couple of my match previews this year that I have a very high opinion of Muchova and feel that there is the potential for her to be underrated to start 2021 given her injury-interrupted ending to 2020.

She was looking brilliant at the US Open against Victoria Azarenka before injury struck, with Azarenka taking advantage of that draw and reaching the final.

I would be a lot more interested in her in this section of the draw if: 1) she hadn’t withdrawn from matches twice in the last month citing injury and 2) if she weren’t playing the dangerous, yet erratic, Jelena Ostapenko. I think that combination is enough to put me off for now on the outrights, however, I may jump in if she remains in the draw come round 3.

Karolina Pliskova – Much like Elina Svitolina, it is hard to see her best grand slam results being ahead of her at this stage of her career. She remains a threat and under her true price to win grand slams based on her potential, however, given she struggles against players with a mix of solid court coverage and enough power to exploit her movement weaknesses, and this type of player appeals to be more common now than at any other time in recent memory, I cannot have her at the price. She would need to be over 45-1 for me to be interested in a trading spot, which is not the case at the time of writing.

Other players to watch:

Danielle Collins – One of the more dangerous floaters in the draw, based on her previous form here in Melbourne and the fact she has shown herself to be able to handle the pressure of grand slams. Her potential second round match with Pliskova will shape the section if it eventuates, however, I think her form last week has taken any value out of her outright price currently.

Jelena Ostapenko – Her first round match with Muchova will likely lead to one of them making the third round at worst. Remains patchy, however, and someone I would prefer to take match to match.


Quarter 2

Sofia Kenin – We will see Kenin in action for the first time defending a grand slam, having won this tournament in 2020 by defeating the likes of Gauff, Barty and Muguruza along the way.

Kenin has had an up-and-down 12 months since her grand slam win, with one of her best performances during that time reaching the final at Roland Garros in conditions that didn’t seem to favour her game overall. She looked a little off her game in Abu Dhabi to start the year, although she did admit that part of her reason for entering that tournament was to get back out and on the tour again to establish some normalcy in her life.

She has looked up-and-down in the lead up events this week, however, continues to find a way out of trouble when needed (see the game by game of Kenin vs Pegula as a recent example). She needs to be respected, however, she isn’t at the top of my list personally for the fortnight ahead.

Donna Vekic – I wish I could trust Donna more than I do on current form given what is a nice little portion of the draw. There just isn’t enough recent form to consider her in the outright picture.

Jennifer Brady – I am a little more interested in Brady now that the draw has been published. The bottom half is absolutely stacked, so I do feel there is potential in this second quarter for her to make a run. If she brings a level that is close to what was seen in New York at the US Open, there is a high ceiling on Brady here.

Her biggest threat across the first three rounds is Jo Konta, who doesn’t have the recent form of Brady. I think she has all the tools to be able to challenge the likes of Kenin, Azarenka and Svitolina amongst others, and is worth considering given the lack of firepower in the quarter.

Johanna Konta – Another player who has made a push to quarter finals and semi finals at this level in the past, however, she has lacked the killer instinct to reach a grand slam final or win the lot. Konta took part in a marathon match against Begu the other day, which will have given her an indication of her fitness levels coming into the slam. Her form wasn’t fantastic late last year, and her saving grace is some of her previous form at Melbourne Park. For mine, it’s not enough to consider her for an outright

Victoria Azarenka – Azarenka has a lot of fans down under, and it will be fascinating to see if she is able to back up her form on the hardcourt from the end of 2020. Azarenka was one of the US Open surprise stories, making her way through to the final before losing in three sets to Osaka.

One of the smartest players on tour, capable of tactical changes and variety based on opponent and situation, she needs to be respected. Azarenka does thrive on rhythm and finding consistency in her game, and the hard quarantine and lack of tennis may work against her a touch.

She didn’t look great against Putintseva last week and has a difficult first round meeting with Jessica Pegula. I don’t think there is value in her outright price given the tough first round, however, I will reassess if she is still in the draw after a couple of rounds.

Maria Sakkari – Another player who looks to have benefitted quite well from the draw here. Maria Sakkari looks to have taken another step with her game based on the early form of the 2021 season. She was one of the more impressive players from the Abu Dhabi tournament, and looks to have come to terms with the need to be a little more aggressive if she is to match it with the top players.

I do like her early draw more than other similar players in this section, however as the fortnight progresses and Sakkari enters uncharted territory, the more questions I start to have. Hard to fault in the lead-up, and arguably one of the fittest players on tour. Worth consideration for the quarter and a trading spot.

Yulia Putintseva – Yulia didn’t enjoy quarantine life all that much, and made it known. Her inability to close out Victoria Azarenka the other day sums up her career to this point. She has a lot of potential to take the next step, however, when you need 7 wins for the title and you lack consistent weapons in 2021, things become far more difficult.

You can only play cat and mouse with opponents for so long at grand slam level before you get found out. I don’t think there is value currently in her outright price, which is a shame as this is a more open section of the draw.

Elina Svitolina – I have supported Svitolina at grand slam level a couple of times in the past, however, it has always ultimately ended in disappointment. I feel like her best chances of claiming a grand slam have come and gone, with the 2020 Roland Garros quarter final loss to Nadia Podoroska another opportunity missed.

I don’t feel as though I can ever consider her for an outright selection at this level moving forward, such is the lack of offensive firepower in her game at the moment. When you have to play seven matches to win a slam, you are bound to come across a bigger striker of the ball who is in form, especially as the tournament progresses. This isn’t the worst draw, so I won’t be actively opposing, however, I will start by watching her versus Bouzkova before making a trading decision.

Other players to watch:

Coco Gauff – I saw Gauff play Teichmann live last week and was quite disappointed in her play. Whilst her game will continue to develop in the coming years, I think there are still too many question marks around her consistency and her second serve to have a significant impact in the outright markets. I will be watching her closely against Teichmann again to start here though, as a second round meeting with Elina Svitolina is a good match-up for her stylistically.

Sloane Stephens – A lot has changed since her US Open win, however, if she can find a semblance of form against Putintseva there is the potential for her to make a run here to late in the first week. Too much inconsistency to consider from an outright perspective though.

Kaia Kanepi – After Astra Sharma served for the match against her in round 1 this week, Kanepi has been on fire, defeating Sabalenka, Kasatkina and Alexandrova on her way to the final of the Gippsland Trophy. A genuine threat in round 2 to Kenin, however, she won’t want to look past Sevastova in round 1, who has the variety in her game to present as a genuine challenge. I won’t be looking to actively oppose her early in the tournament, however grand slam outrights discussions are asking a little much.


Quarter 3

Bianca Andreescu – The great unknown in this entire draw. I just haven’t seen enough from Bianca Andreescu since she burst on the scene in 2019, which included the US Open title. Her top level matches it with absolutely everyone in the game, however, she hasn’t been been in a competitive match on tour since the tour finals in Shenzhen.

Andreescu had to undertake the 14-day hard quarantine,\ and then withdrew from the Grampians trophy opting for practice time on-court instead. It would be a monumental task for Andreescu to come back after 16 months away from competitive tennis and claim a second grand slam. I am happy to steer clear of her initially, however, I will provide an update on her as necessary after seeing her on court.

Qiang Wang – She was able to cause one of the bigger upsets in recent memory at Melbourne Park when she defeated Serena Williams on Rod Laver Arena last year. The COVID tour suspension halted any momentum she could have gained from her 2020 start, and it is back to square one for Wang. She has started the year with three-set losses to Kasatkina and Paolini, and off that form it is also hard to make a case for her in this section.

Marketa Vondrousova – Another player with a tricky first round match against Rebecca Peterson. She looked good through her couple of wins in the lead up tournament this week, before being wiped off the court by Muguruza on Saturday. Given some of the other names in this portion of the draw, it is hard to see her as an outright threat.

Petra Kvitova – One player who will benefit from the February start with the weather forecast, as cooler conditions expected over the first week of the tournament. I think Petra will be able to make the most of Andreescu’s lack of tennis and make her way through this patch. She has been found wanting late in slams over recent years and given the strength of this half there are enough question marks for me to look elsewhere. I will monitor her closely.

Garbine Muguruza – If she brings her best, she is a huge threat. What does work in the Spaniard’s favour is that she does tend to bring her best level at grand slams more often than not. She made the final here last year, and just couldn’t quite finish off Kenin after taking the first set.

She has dominated the Yarra Valley Open and looks incredibly confident on court. The performance vs Sakkari in Abu Dhabi was a little concerning, however, I don’t mind her in this section against some of the other bigger strikers.

Angelique Kerber – I cannot justify her current price given the strength of this group. Prior to the draw I was keen to see where Muguruza, Kerber, Jabeur and Osaka ended up, and now they all fall within the same group of 16 players. Given that I can’t take Kerber at the price.

Ons Jabeur – One of the players I am intrigued to watch across the course of 2021. A tough section for Jabeur, who has all the talent and shot-making to challenge almost any player in the game. My worry for her is her low first serve percentage in key moments, as it becomes a significantly limiting factor against some of the higher-ranked players.

Naomi Osaka – The tournament favourite has been given a draw full of competitive players. A first round against Pavlyuchenkova, a potential second round against Garcia, third round against Jabeur and fourth round against Muguruza is a difficult first week of a grand slam.

Having watched Osaka live early last week, her general footwork and consistency felt as though it was lacking a touch. She did what she had to for a victory, however, she will need to be able to find a level close to her best from the outset here, especially given the level of tennis Pavlyuchenkova has delivered in her career in Melbourne.

Other players to watch:

Tsvetana Pironkova – caught the attention of many at the US Open on her return to the tour. I am intrigued at the potential of a Pironkova/Andreescu second round match, especially if the Canadian is a little rusty.


Quarter 4

Aryna Sabalenka – When you look at the outright market from top to bottom, Sabalenka’s name is the first one you will see that doesn’t have a past grand slam title to her name. She has been incredibly impressive in her hardcourt form over the last 12 months.

She snapped a 15 match winning streak on hardcourt the other day with a loss to Kaia Kanepi, however, it is hard to look past her dominant form in Abu Dhabi. The big question mark around her remains her ability to break through at grand slam level. I think I have reached a point with Sabalenka where her odds are so short given the lack of breakthrough that even if she were to win the tournament, I am more than comfortable missing that boat.

She struggled here in windy conditions last year, and I cannot wait to see how she handles the occasion. It is a tough quarter to make a statement with, I must say.

Shuai Zhang – Cannot have in the outright market given the strength of this quarter.

Alison Riske – Should enjoy the faster conditions here however haven’t seen enough from her over the last 18 months to consider her for an outright.

Serena Williams – Time. Is. Running. Out. Serena is desperate for another grand slam, however, her opportunities continue to pass her by. She has looked solid in the build-up this week, but I still get the impression that she isn’t quite at 100%. Whilst she is hiding it well on court, a number of times of the coverage she has been seen hobbling or limping in the corridors, which makes me think her Achilles is not quite as good as she had hoped. Given her struggles late in slams over the last two years, there are still some question marks. Laura Siegemund is a tough first round match, and will make Williams cover every inch of the court.

Iga Swiatek – I think any outright value on Iga Swiatek disappeared when she claimed the title at Roland Garros. She looked very rusty in a loss to Alexandrova this week, and is likely to need a little bit of luck with the draw to be here late in the fortnight.

Elena Rybakina – An interesting spot her for Rybakina, who continues to loom as a threat from outside the Top 10. The Kazakh was the only player to take a set off Sabalenka in Abu Dhabi last month and has all the tools to be a threat. The question mark for her is the need to have undertaken the hard quarantine in the lead-up to the Australian Open. We saw at the US Open the lack of tennis and the inability to find a sense of rhythm or comfort on court. She got some time in this week, and should relish the faster conditions. In a loaded bottom section, she may be worth a small play here on the outright.

Veronika Kudermetova – The Russian has snuck in as the 32-seed, however gets a tough first round opponent in Marta Kostyuk. Kudermetova made the Abu Dhabi final prior to the quarantine period, which is solid form coming in here. She can be a little erratic through, making it hard to consider her in the outright markets at this stage of her career.

Simona Halep – Simona, Simona, Simona. Halep remains one of the more difficult players to get a read on coming into the Australian Open. On the one hand, she is arguably the best counterpunching player on tour at the moment. She covers the court as well as anyone and is able to limit her unforced error rate significantly when the going gets tough, meaning that her opponents need to be near their best to be able to move on by her in tournaments. She also has one of the best coaches in the game, as it is clear her relationship with Darren Cahill is rock solid.

For me, however, there remains one significant question mark. Can Halep avoid a top-level performance from one of the bigger strikers near the top of the rankings? Compared to a couple of years ago, there seems to be a higher number of big striking players that have the ability to hit through her on their best day. We saw that was possible even at Roland Garros with Iga Swiatek, so it can definitely happen here. The injury issue in her quarter final on Friday was also on the concerning side.


Summary

Good luck to anyone who is brave enough to aggressively attack the 4th quarter, and even to some extent the third quarter of this draw. Those sections are stacked and filled with a number of top-level players (still a little annoyed at the Muguruza/Jabeur/Kerber/Osaka section).

There are a couple of players I want to monitor in round 1: Victoria Azarenka, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep are three in particular. I need to see more from them before formulating an opinion, even if it means missing a better price.

My focus moves to the top half of the draw. Looking at her odds comparative to the other favourites for the tournament, I am happy to place a wager on Ash Barty to make her way through the top quarter, as well as the overall winner market. Her biggest threat in week 1 is likely to be Alexandrova or Krejcikova, and although she hasn’t won comfortably at times in the lead-up tournaments, she has been able to shake off the rust that comes with 12 months away from the tour.

With my focus on targeting the second quarter, I’m looking to Jennifer Brady and Maria Sakkari in different ways. I have Sakkari as more of a quarter winner and trading value, as I think potential semi final and finalists may be a little too strong for her. Her draw is favourable, however, and with questions marks early over Azarenka and Putintseva, there is appeal. In terms of having the game to match it with the best players across the fortnight, Brady is the pick in this section and worth a small outright play.

Looking to the bottom half and with so many options for big names I’m happy to just make the small play on Elena Rybakina. The conditions should suit her and I am comfortable with her getting involved in some power hitting matchups in the bottom half.

As mentioned above, given the tricky first rounds for some, and limited lead in form, I may add to my book after the first round.


Betting Strategy

Outright

BACK — 0.5 units Barty to Win

BACK — 0.2 units Brady to Win

BACK — 0.2 units Rybakina to Win

Quarter Winner

BACK — 0.2 units Brady to win Quarter 2

BACK — 0.2 units Sakkari to win Quarter 2

BACK — 0.2 units Rybakina to win Quarter 4

Trading Option

BACK — 0.1 unit Sakkari to Win Outright

More TBC

Please note 1 unit = 1% of bankroll

Quarter 1

Novak Djokovic – Certainly not the easiest draw Novak has ever encountered. I just feel as though there are better value prices out there in the outright markets as well as match to match. When Novak is this short and at this stage of his career, with many younger players slowly but surely bridging the gap, I do question backing him at this price slam after slam.

Melbourne has been a very happy hunting ground for Novak, however, considering the potential to need to beat Zverev to progress through the quarter final and Thiem to progress through the semi final, I am not sure his current price is value.

If you are interested in backing him in the outright market, it may be worth leaving an unmatched bet in the outright market that you would anticipate being matched if he were to strike trouble against a player along the way.

Taylor Fritz – I have high expectations for Fritz for 2021, however, being so close to Novak in the draw makes outright value hard to find.

Stan Wawrinka – Given he was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and is still on his way back to full fitness, it is hard to make a case for Stan in the outright markets as a result. He didn’t set the world on fire against Kukushkin and Bolt in the lead-up tournament, so I will be keeping an eye on his fitness and energy levels in the early rounds. He has the type of style to trouble Raonic and a 4th round meeting with Djokovic would be a great way to start the second week.  I will monitor.

Milos Raonic – If you consider him largely for his best level of tennis, Raonic is definitely a threat in this quarter. My concern for Raonic is his ability to play seven best-of-5 set matches at a level good enough to be a threat. May be able to take a scalp or two, however, being so close to Wawrinka and Djokovic kills any potential value in his price.

Gael Monfils – I think it is time I stop trying to justify Monfils in any outright markets, especially given his injury issues and the fact he is in the same quarter as Djokovic, Zverev, Wawrinka and Raonic. Prefer match to match, assuming there are multiple matches.

Dusan Lajovic – An honest competitor, however, outmatched in the hardcourt outright discussion.

Adrian Mannarino – Like Lajovic, not in the outright picture, however, he is a tricky opponent for most on tour.

Alexander Zverev – Needs to start making his presence felt at grand slam level on a more consistent basis. By that I mean he needs to find a way to make the most of this draw. The highest-ranked player he is slated to face before a quarter final is Gael Monfils.

Zverev looked solid in his two hitouts at ATP Cup level, losing to Djokovic and Medvedev in very tight 3-set matches. Personally, I don’t mind that he is slated to meet Djokovic in the quarter final. I feel that is probably a better situation for him, with a little less pressure than that of a semi final or final.

Zverev remains insistent on going incredibly big on his second serve in key moments, so if you are getting involved with him in any capacity you do need to be aware of the increased variance that may come with him serving like that. On my list currently as a value selection, and prefer him for the quarter than the outright.


Quarter 2

Dominic Thiem – I wouldn’t be too worried by his ATP Cup no show. He put in a similar performance in the week before the US Open, and that fortnight ended up working quite well for him.

Thiem is one of the players that definitely benefits from the best-of-5 set format given his fitness. He came within a set of the title last year, however when you combine that with his US Open title, and the fact he is on the same side of the draw as Novak Djokovic, I don’t see any value in his current outright price. I don’t anticipate I will be opposing him in the first week a great deal, however, the faster conditions don’t suit him as much.

Ugo Humbert – The Frenchman continues to make steady progress, however, I do get the feeling that he is still a touch outmatched in the grand slam format against the very best. Being placed so close to Thiem doesn’t do much for his outright value either.

Grigor Dimitrov – Not in the 2021 outright market discussion. Prefer match by match.

Pablo Carreno-Busta – PCB vs Nishikori would have been a great encounter here a couple of years ago. In fact, it was a great encounter here in 2019 and ended with a PCB dummy spit. In terms of hardcourt ceiling of the seeded players, I just don’t think it is high enough to consider PCB as anything more than a trading option here. On recent form he should be making at least the 4th round, barring some sort of breakout performance from Alex Bolt or a resurgence in form from Grigor Dimitrov or Marin Cilic.

Denis Shapovalov – The Canadian struggled in key moments in the ATP Cup against Djokovic and Zverev, and also struggled in the conditions in Melbourne a year ago. The draw has not been kind to him, with Jannik Sinner across the net in round 1. I initially liked the prospects of both himself and Sinner this fortnight, however, I think it may be best to sit out their round 1 meeting, enjoy the spectacle, and then formulate an opinion. The draw wouldn’t get easier from there, with Auger-Aliassime likely to be waiting in the third round as well.

Felix Auger-Aliassime – After his career did stall a touch over the last 12-18 months, Felix looks to now be playing with a lot more confidence. He was able to put together a really solid week of tennis this week in the lead-up, and has one of the more favourable first two rounds of the seeded players in this section. One to keep an eye on from a trading perspective and value at double figures for the quarter on form.

Benoit Paire – Paire? Outright? I’ll pass.

Diego Schwartzman – I am not sure the faster conditions here are overly suited to Diego. An honest competitor who will give his all out there, however, I think he will struggle to feature in the outright picture.


Quarter 3

Andrey Rublev – Andrey is a really intriguing prospect based on the great strides he was able to make at ATP level over the course of 2020. I was hoping Rublev would find himself in a different quarter to Medvedev, so that has knocked out some of the value in his price in my opinion.

One of a few names really banging on the door of the Top 3, and one to watch this fortnight. I’m waiting for him to stamp his authority on a slam draw. Is the temperament there to do it?

Lorenzo Songeo – grand slam outrights are a bridge too far for Sonego on hardcourt, especially based on his level in the lead-up. Prefer many others in this section of the draw.

Casper Ruud – His style is actually more suited to the hardcourt than his recent form has shown. Nevertheless, if he has been falling short on clay at grand slam level, he is going to struggle to feature in the outright conversation on hardcourt.

Roberto Bautista Agut – Whilst the Spaniard is a consistent performer who has drawn me into supporting him over the years in outright markets, I am stopping short of that here. Whilst he did look solid in his win over De Minaur at the ATP Cup, I have found both Rublev and Medvedev to be too much of an obstacle to escape the quarter, let alone have him in the outright conversation. Faster conditions here don’t help him a great deal.

David Goffin – Whilst he has been a very good player for a number of years, there is no recent hardcourt form that suggests Goffin is in the outright conversation here. Could take a scalp or two but his ceiling is too low to be invested in an outright.

Borna Coric – Another player who is just a little too far off the likes of Medvedev, Rublev and even RBA in this section to consider with a lot of confidence. A threat to Goffin in this section in week 1.

Filip Krajinovic – Given the strength of some of the other players in this quarter, as well as the injury concerns that are following him out of the ATP Cup, I cannot entertain Krajinovic in this section.

Daniil Medvedev – Whilst he needs to be respected as the second favourite, I think the value on him in this field probably disappeared as soon as he went undefeated in the ATP Finals last year.

Medvedev will enjoy the cooler conditions and has a favourable draw through the first week overall. Will take a fantastic performance to beat him, and given I think he has the edge over Rublev at this stage of their respective careers, I am happy to entertain him winning this quarter.


Quarter 4

Stefanos Tsitsipas – Tsitsipas must be absolutely thrilled with the draw he has received for the tournament. He is on the other side of the draw to Djokovic and Thiem, and in the other quarter to Medvedev and Rublev. Given all we have seen from Nadal over the last couple of weeks has been an exhibition, you would have to think that Tsitsipas is liking his chance to make a big impact in this tournament.

The best-of-5 format gives him the edge over some of the other big names in this section, and he looked good in the ATP Cup in wins over De Minaur and Bautista Agut.

Hubert Hurkacz – His time will come, however, I do feel as though Hurkacz is currently a little more suited to the shorter format of the game at the moment. He won the Delray Beach title in January, however multiple long matches may be a little tough for him to back up based on past form at Melbourne Park.

Karen Khachanov – Too many weaknesses in his game to consider him for anything more than value spots in particular matches. Will find better players in this quarter tough to beat from a match-up standpoint.

Matteo Berrettini – One of the more intriguing players in this section given his overall efforts at the ATP Cup. I do feel as though there is a slight deficiency still in his game on the backhand wing, leading him to play too many inside out forehands and leading him to be out of position when he doesn’t hit a winner. Prefer others in this section overall.

Fabio Fognini – Whilst his form at the ATP Cup has been solid, this is a step up for Fabio. Rather than trust him across a handful of matches, I am more inclined to focus on motivation

Alex De Minaur – Looked to be forcing the issue a little too much in the ATP Cup, where he went down to Bautista Agut and Tsitsipas. He did look great in Antalya before the quarantine period though, so I am trying not to read too much into these last two matches. I think this draw sets up fairly well for him. The first seed he would face is Fognini, and he would have to like his chances against Nadal if there is a fitness question mark. If not already invested, he may be worth a trading selection.

Daniel Evans – The Brit has looked great in the lead-in tournament, however, the step up to best of 5 sets and the lack of success at this level compared to others in the group leads me to focus on his individual matchups.

Rafael Nadal – The Spaniard looked good in his exhibition with Thiem last week, however, missed the entire ATP Cup due to a back issue. Whilst there are benefits to him coming into this tournament fresh, the question marks over his ability to endure consecutive long hit outs on hardcourt in the long format remain. I think he is under the odds with the question marks, and the likes of De Minaur and Tsitsipas will test him in this quarter, let alone what lies beyond.


Summary

I am on Nick Kyrgios and Alex De Minaur from months ago, however, given their form and current concerns it is hard to make a case for them at the moment, Nick moreso than Alex. With Djokovic and Thiem in the same half, I am happy to look into the other half with greater detail in the outright market.

The first quarter looks to be a battle of Djokovic and Zverev, and the German has an easier early draw. Whilst I have question marks over Zverev in the final 4 of slams, I don’t mind a small play on him to win this first quarter at $5+ given the draw.

The faster conditions make the second quarter appealing in terms of finding some value outside of Thiem and Medvedev. I do wish Shapovalov and Sinner didn’t have to meet in the first round as that will have a large impact on this section. In terms of the early draw strength and recent form, I don’t mind a small play on Felix Auger-Aliassime winning the quarter here.

In the third quarter, my eyes are on Medvedev, with him just having the edge over Rublev at this stage. The gap is closing, however, so Rublev commands respect. I need to see him perform more consistently at grand slam level before I consider his price I think, and I do wish he found his way into the draw of Tsitsipas as that looks to be the key spot to attack in this draw. I think I will pass and focus on the 4th quarter.

That brings me to Tsitsipas. This is one of his better draws of late, and based on his wins in the ATP Cup as a guide of form, he commands respect here. He has the ability to beat Nadal in this bottom quarter and would avoid the likes of Djokovic and Thiem until the final. He will be an incredibly tough opponent over the best-of-5 format and at the current price, I am happy to get involved on the outright market.

Good luck if making any plays, and if you have any questions, please let me know!


Betting Strategy

Outright

BACK — 0.5 units Tsitsipas to win

Quarter Winner

BACK — 0.3 units Zverev to win Quarter 1

BACK — 0.2 units Auger-Aliassime to win Quarter 2

BACK — 0.3 units Tsitsipas to win Quarter 4

Please note 1 unit = 1% of bankroll


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