THE Grand Slam tennis season returns on Monday with the Australian Open. Our man Mark Stinchcombe (@markstinchcombe) gives us his thoughts on the Men's draw.
Men's Australian Open | 18th January – 31st January
Novak Djokovic heads into the season's first major looking for his sixth Australian Open as overwhelming 8/11 favourite. Indeed before the season began you could have got 10/11 but such was his demolition of Rafael Nadal in Doha (6-1 6-2), it has seen his odds contract to as short as 8/13 in places.
Indeed the Spaniard remarked “I played against a player who did everything perfect,” Nadal said. ”I know nobody playing tennis like this ever.”
Is 8/11 value? Well the tournament is on Djokovic's racket. Such as his dominance in the men's game at the moment and the fact the conditions in Australia support the master defenders game, unless he has an off day it's difficult to see him not triumphing. He has won 32 of his last 33 matches here and 89 of his last 96 matches overall since the beginning of 2014.
Australia plays a medium pace court and with no wind to worry about, it's very difficult to get shots passed one of the best defenders in the game and beat Novak, especially over five sets.
Let's have a look at his cumulative odds over his last three victories here since his year of dominance in 2011:
2015: Bedene, Kuzentsov, Verdasco, Muller, Raonic, Wawrinka, Murray – 11/10
2013: Mathieu, Harrison, Stepanek, Wawrinka, Berdych, Ferrer, Murray – 21/20
2012: Lorenzi, Giraldo, Mahut, Hewitt, Ferrer, Murray, Nadal – 13/8
As you can see cumulatively you could have got better odds backing Djokovic round-by-round, however with no Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka or Rafael Nadal in his half – three of the next four in the betting – it's unlikely this strategy would see you outperform his outright price this year.
I expect Novak to win – like most people – but at 8/11 it's not something I'm going to entertain. For those looking to get the Serb onside, I would suggest looking for a big price on him completing the Grand Slam and/or the Olympics. Djokovic won three of the four majors last year and was just 1/7 when defeated by Wawrinka at Roland Garros.
The main contender in Djokovic's draw is Roger Federer. However, age is against him – he will be 35 this year – and he's won just one slam in the last five years, on the quick courts of Wimbledon, suggesting he's no longer up to the rigours of a best of five set match.
Indeed he was defeated at the 3rd round stage here last year to Andreas Seppi and heads in having lost as 2/7 favourite to Milos Raonic in Brisbane in straight sets.
Federer had reinvented his return game somewhat under Stefan Edberg with the SABR to potentially find a new way to upset his opponents (Sneak Attack By Roger – returning the serve well inside the baseline on the half volley), however given the court speed in Australia it gives opponents plenty of time to pick him off.
Second favourite and four time previous finalist Andy Murray heads in at 11/2. Beaten by Djokovic three times as a finalist possibly makes him an attractive eacxh way proposition on the other side of the draw, however with impending fatherhood on the horizon he has openly stated he will fly home mid-tournament if his wife goes into labour so I wouldn't want to be backing him given this potential situation.
Two-time previous winner Rafael Nadal is still far from his best and I'm not convinced he may ever return to those heights. 2015 saw him lose 22 matches – three more than 2014 and 2013 combined. He's lacking in confidence and is still regularly dropping the ball short given his opponents a lot more opportunities to punish him.
He's probably just on the cusp of still being value to suffer an upset – some of you may have profited well if you followed on Dustin Brown to cause a shock at 15/2 in the 2nd round of Wimbledon – so keep an eye out on-site for any advice opposing Nadal as the tournament progresses.
One man who looks to be value on the opposite side of the draw to Djokovic is French Open winner – the man who denied the Serb the Grand Slam – and 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
At 16/1 he looks great value. He already has the credentials with victory here two years ago and only Djokovic has stopped him last year and in 2013.
Despite that, Stan has actually beaten him in two of their last three meetings at Slams, including in 2014, to prove he can go toe-to-toe with Serb when it matters.
Wawrinka has the ability to attack off both wings and cause Novak problems, with the speed of the court giving him time in particular to execute his superb one-handed backhand.
Of course he can't even face Novak until the final and there looks to be great each way value with getting 8/1 he reaches that stage – this is best price just 4/1 in the To Reach Final market so we're getting twice the odds.
39 of the last 43 Slams have been won by the men's ‘Big 4' of Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal. However, three of the last eight men's Slams have been won by players outside of the ‘Big 4', including two by Wawrinka, to prove perhaps that there is a changing of the guard. With Stan as short as 10/1, take the 16/1 each way as the value in this years tournament.
Men's Australian Open 2016 – Stan Wawrinka each way (16/1 Paddy Power)
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