We have a new world number 1 and a different top seed at the Australian Open for the first time since 2014. Andy Murray was able to claim top spot in the rankings following a remarkable season but his rise to the top seems to have reignited Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record 6 times including 5 of the last 6. Murray meanwhile is a 4 time runner up (all to Novak) and we could see them face of in a 5th final as they are on opposite sides of the draw.
The big news heading into the start of 2017 is the return of two former winners and the two all time leaders in Grand Slam titles. Federer and Nadal need no introduction and there is no doubt that if they play their best, they can win any tournament that they enter. The extensive time off has seen them slip in the ranking and that means that will be dangerous floaters in the draw as lower ranked seeds.
The Big 4 is virtually a thing of the past as Djokovic and Murray have established themselves as the two best players on the planet. That being said, Stan Wawrinka has shown that he is the most dangerous player on the tour and no one can stop him when he is on. He is a perfect 3 from 3 in slam finals, denying Djokovic at the French in 2015 and at the US Open late last year.
Raonic has worked extremely hard on his game over the last 24 months and the reward was there to be seen when he made his maiden major final at Wimbledon last year. He made the semi’s here last year but let a two sets to one lead over Murray get away from him. With several days in the high 30’s and even 40’s predicted The Wolf is concerned that he doesn’t have the stamina in tough conditions over two weeks.
The there is the small matter of Federer and Nadal. Both are returning from injury and both men are seeking just one more slam but The Wolf says their best chances will come later in the year when they has some match fitness in their legs and at least 20 more tour matches under their belts.
Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record 6 times including 5 of the last 6 – beating Andy Murray in 4 of those finals. Djokovic also made a statement in Doha a week ago handing Murray his first defeat in 28 matches. There is no denying that there was a dip in Djokovic’s form in the second half of last season and it seemed as though he had somewhat lost his edge – especially after the opening round loss to Del Potro at the Olympics. He won just a single title following his French Open triumph but The Wolf says losing the number 1 ranking is exactly what he needed. Djokovic has a 39-1 at the Australian Open since 2011. Enough said!
Odds to Win Australian Open: $2.65
Best Bet: Djokovic To Reach Final ($1.60)
1st round match: Djokovic v Verdasco – Over 31.5 games ($1.83)
One of the hardest and most determined players on the tour was rewarded for his efforts at the end of last season as Murray was finally able to claim the number 1 ranking. There is no questioning whether he deserved it either. He won 9 titles last season including Wimbledon and Olympic Gold before defeating Novak in the ATP Tour Finals – a winner takes all match with the victor to hold the year end number 1 ranking. Murray ended the year on a 25 match win streak but The Wolf says he did benefit from the perfect storm with two of his long time rivals in Nadal and Federer on the sidelines. It will be interesting to see how he performs as the hunted but with 5 finals here in the last 7 years he will take some beating.
Odds to Win Australian Open: $2.75
Best Bet: Murray Does Not Win Aus Open ($1.45)
1st round match: Andy Murray v Marchenko – Under 26.5 games ($1.80)
This may seem hard to believe but Stan Wawrinka has the same amount of Grand Slams as Andy Murray! Murray has needed 11 finals to accumulate his slams while Wawrinka is a perfect 3 from 3 beating Novak twice and Rafa once. It reinforces The Wolf’s view that Stan is the toughest man to beat on tour when he is at the top of his game. There is no other player on the tour that can take the game away from the top players like the Stanimal. We have seen him blow Novak, Andy and Rafa off the court but he is in perhaps the toughest part of the draw – a section that features Cilic, Kyrgios, Tomic and Tsonga. Even more concerning for the other players on tour is that Stan has been very consistent at the slams, making the quarters or better in 9 of his last 12. When it comes to value it is hard to look past anyone else.
Odds to Win Australian Open: ($13.00)
Best Bet: Wawrinka 3rd Quarter Winner ($2.60)
1st round match: Wawrinka v Klizan – Sets Wawrinka 3-1 ($4.00)
Many would put this name further down the list but he ageless Federer is back and if his form at the Hopman Cup is anything to go by, we could see him do some damage this season. Comes in as the 17th seed so will have to navigate his way through the draw but with his two biggest threats in Djokovic and Nadal on the other side of the draw he could raise some eyebrows. He may be a 4 time winner here but he has lost in the semi’s in 5 of the last 6 years here. Apart from his loss to loss to Seppi in 2013 he has been knocked out by Djokovic (twice), Nadal (twice) and Murray. If it takes one of them to beat him we will again see him make a deep run. Can beat Murray who is in his quarter and may be able to avoid Novak who has defeated him in the last 3 Grand Slam Finals he has made.
Odds to Win Australian Open: ($23.00)
Best Bet: Name The Finalists – Federer/Djokovic ($9.50)
1st round match: Federer v Melzer – Federer -7.5 & Under 30.5 ($3.60)
It will be interesting to see how Murray handles the pressure of the number 1 ranking and if we get thre dream quarter final we are after he will face Federer – a man that knows all about the pressures of being at the top of the mountain. Federer would have to overcome Berdych and Nishikori along the way but there is light for Fed Fans as he is a combined 8-0 against the pair since 2014. On paper Isner and Querrey could pose a threat to Murray but the Brit is 8-0 against Isner and 6-1 facing Querrey. With Roger drawing a couple of qualifiers early on he will be fresh coem the tail end of the opening week and we will get the quarter final we are after. Federer is 14-11 lifetime against Murray with wins in each of their last 5 meetings – including the 2014 quarters here. Time to turn back the clock!
Best: Roger Federer ($4.20)
Value: Kei Nishikori ($6.00)
This shapes as both the toughest and most open quarter of the draw. There will be plenty of Aussie interest with Kyrgios and Tomic in the draw but Wawrinka, Cilic and Tsonga will have plenty to say about it. Wawrinka is a former winner here and is coming off victory at the US Open. For some reason he continues to get undervalued at the majors, especially when you consider that his last three losses here have all been decided by a 5th set! There are some big hitters in this quarter with Kyrgios, Tsonga, sock, Troicki and Steve Johnson all renowned for going for their shots. Cilic is coming off a bad loss to Kovalik in Chennai, Tsonga has failed to make it past the 4th round here since 2010, Kyrgios and Tomic cannot be trusted while Johnson has been bounced in the first round in 2 of his last 4 appearances here. The Wolf likes Jack Sock to go on a run. He made the 4th round at the US Open and was strong in the closing stages of last year with quarter finals appearances at the Shanghai and Paris Masters. The ever dangerous Stanimal is still the one to beat.
Best: Stan Wawrinka ($2.60)
Value: Jack Sock ($21.00)
With Raonic being the highest seed in this part of the draw a handful of men will fancy their chances. Nadal makes his return from injury but it hasn’t made it past the quarters of a slam since the 2014 French Open. Monfils has made it past the 3rd round here just twice in 11 appearances while the iron man of the tour, David Ferrer, is running out of steam. Fellow Spaniard Bautista-Agut has never made the quarters of a slam and Gilles Simon doesn’t have the game to make a deep run. That leaves the door open for a young man with a big game and a level head – Alexander Zverev. Wolfy has put the pressure on him by stating that he would one day be the number 1 player in the world but there is no denying his talent. He was a junior champion here in 2014, won his first title in St Petersburg ending Wawrinka’s finals win streak and beat Federer at the Hopman Cup. The Wolf will be taking several outsiders in this section!
Best: Alexander Zverev ($8.50)
Value: Gilles Muller ($41.00)
Novak finds himself at the bottom of the draw for the first time in a while but what will make him feel even more nervous is his first round opponent – Fernando Verdasco. Djokovic may be 9-4 lifetime against the Spaniard but he needed to save 5 match points in Doha to claim victory less than a fortnight ago. Looking deeper into the quarter there are also a handful of players who bring winning form with them to Melbourne Park. Dimitrov claimed the title in Brisbane playing fantastic tennis along the way, Goffin beat Murray en route to the final of the Mubadal Exhibition in Abu Dhabi while Thiem won 4 titles last season. It is hard to look past Novak though. Against Goffin, Gasquet and Thiem he is a combined 22-1. Novak’s record here speaks for itself. If he gets past Verdasco there will be no stopping him in this section.
Best: Novak Djokovic ($1.40)
Value: Grigor Dimitrov ($8.00)
Aussies in the draw: Alex De Minaur, James Duckworth, Sam Groth, Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, Alex Bolt, Jordan Thompson, Andrew Whittington, Christopher O’Connell, Blake Mott.`
Top Aussie: Nick Kyrgios ($2.00)
Nick Kyrgios Stage of Elimination: Fourth Round ($2.40)
De Minaur v Melzer: De Minaur +2.5 ($1.83)
Duckworth v Lorenzi: Duckworth WIN ($1.91)
Tomic v Bellucci : Over 38.5 games ($1.91)