2018 Australian Open Finals: Expert Previews 5 min minutes

Australian Open 2018

January 15 – 29


Roger Federer v Marin Cilic

Federer took just an hour to advance to a 30th Grand Slam final as Hyeon Chung found it all too much. At this point we have to wonder whether Federer is getting better with age, or if, now that Nadal, Djokovic and Murray’s bodies are failing them we’ve simply reverted back to the 2005-2009 era when Federer reached 18 out of 19 Slam finals as he simply overwhelmed the rest of the Tour.

This is the sixth time Federer has reached a Slam final without dropping a set, with the previous time being at Wimbledon last year when he went on to steamroller Marin Cilic in straight sets. That’ll be an unwelcome memory for the Croat, who was reduced to tears mid-match on that occasion and in their nine career meetings Fed has come out on top eight times. They’ve played since, at the Tour Finals, where Cilic won the opening set on a tie-break but was beaten relatively comfortably in the end.

Federer won seven of eight ATP finals last year with five wins in straight sets and those two Slam titles the highlights as he ended a five year wait for a major title. Cilic reached three finals last year but only won one, though he has won big titles in the past. Most notably he claimed the 2014 US Open, beating Federer in the semis, and he also beat Murray to win the 2016 Cincinnati masters. However, further successes against the Big Four have been hard to come by and in completed matches (so discounting his win over Nadal in the last round) he’s gone just W6-L39 against Fed, Rafa, Djokovic and Murray, with three of those wins coming against Murray.

Cilic did look good in the past couple of rounds, but Edmund was clearly hampered by a hip injury and Nadal eventually had to retire. Before that he’d dropped a couple of sets in the opening four rounds despite a relatively easy draw, and that could have been worse but for a W5-L1 record in tie-breaks in those matches. So we’re not convinced he’s about to overturn the odds here, particularly since his record against the current top 10 (completed matches only) since October 2015 is just W4-L24, including W1-L13 as an underdog, with even that win coming in a match with Goffin where favouritism was a bit of a coin-toss.

Prices of about 1.25 for the Swiss look fair, though they don’t offer as much value as in the semis, when he wasn’t much shorter and was up against a far weaker opponent. Nevertheless, we want to get Federer on-side and with Cilic having lost in straight sets in five of his last seven matches when starting at 2/1 or longer and losing 3-0 in best-of-five set formats, again when starting at greater than 2/1, in another five of seven matches since 2015, we have to back that score at odds-against.

The previous two times Federer has reached a Slam final having not dropped a set, and then faced someone other than Nadal or Djokovic in the final, he’s won both matches 3-0 and he’s got every chance of doing so again, while a slow start for Cilic could quickly lead to some horrible thoughts about that Wimbledon loss.

Betting Strategy

BACK – Federer 3-0 at 2.4

Simona Halep v Caroline Wozniacki

After all the upsets of the first couple of rounds we’re left with the top two seeds in the final, with the added bonus of the top spot in the rankings up for grabs to the winner. Both players have survived match points to get here, with Halep saving two against Kerber in her semi and three in her third round marathon with Lauren Davis. Wozniacki, meanwhile, came back from 5-1 40-15 down in the final set of her second round win over Jana Fett.

The head-to-head is in favour of the Dane as she’s won four of their six meetings including each of the last three. Moreover, she dropped just two games as she thrashed Halep at the WTA Finals just three months ago, although the three meetings prior to that all went the distance.

How much that recent encounter matters here is debatable as the question is more how both players handle the pressure of being on the brink of a first major title. Wozniacki is appearing in her third Grand Slam final, though she was a far bigger underdog in the previous two against Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters. Halep too is in a third Slam final, though she’ll feel she should have won at least one by now having been a huge favourite at Roland Garros last June only to lose to Ostapenko from a set up.

So both have huge question marks over their ability to handle the occasion and that extends to their recent records in finals at other tournaments too. Halep had lost five finals in a row prior to winning the Shenzhen Open earlier this month while Wozniacki has lost seven of nine finals since the start of 2017.

All nine of those finals for Wozniacki were settled in straight sets but 12 of the 18 sets did have at least 10 games and she lost the opening set 6-4 in each of the last four finals she started as the underdog. Halep’s already survived two epics this fortnight and that should give her a confidence boost. Meanwhile, Wozniacki hasn’t actually had to beat anyone in the top 20 so far and we think the Romanian’s extra intensity should see her start faster, as she did in last year’s French Open final. Furthermore, she’s won the first set 6-4 in eight of her 23 matches against the current top 10 since 2016 and that looks a decent value proposition.

Betting Strategy

BACK – First Set 6-4 to Halep

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