The ATP Tour has been thrown a real curve ball over the last 12 months with key injuries to more than a handful of the world’s best. Federer and Nadal took full advantage in 2017 starting at the Australian Open. Their final was one to remember and with many of the top men falling by the wayside, Federer looks primed for Grand Slam number 20!
Andy Murray has undergone hip surgery while Nishikori has failed to recover from his troubles and both are on the absentee list. This will be the first tournament back for Djokovic and Wawrinka since Wimbledon last year with a fitness cloud also concerning world number 1 Rafael Nadal.
Could this finally be the tournament in which a new star is born… The young brigade made significant inroads in 2017, in particular Alexander Zverev and Aussie Nick Kyrgios. We also saw the emergence of a number of teenagers including Denis Shapovalov, Frances Tiafoe, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas along with Alex de Minaur. One thing is for certain – there is no shortage of story-lines heading into the 2018 Australian Open and many more will be written over the coming fortnight.
Over the last decade there was constant reference to the ‘Big 4’ but The Wolf says that term no longer applies. We have almost gone back in time with Federer and Nadal the clear standouts at the top of men’s tennis. The Wolf will focus on the top 4 in terms of betting odds before a in-depth look at each individual quarter of the draw.
He was The Wolf’s value pick a year ago at $23 but we will not be getting that price this time around. After a huge 2017 where he won two majors and a tour best 9 titles, he will begin the tournament as the overwhelming favourite. Now pushing 37 years of age there really are no boundaries when it comes to the FedExpress. Now a 5 time winner here, he has made the semi’s or better in 13 of the last 14 years! Not only is he the form player on the tour, he is also one of a select few that have zero injury concerns to speak of. He is the man to beat and with what looks like an easier draw than a year ago it will take a special performance to beat him.
Odds to Win Australian Open: ($2.75)
Best Bet: Quarter 4 Winner ($1.50)
1st round (v Bedene): 1st Set Correct Score After 2 games Federer 2-0 ($2.85)
The last 12 months typify everything we have come to know about Rafael Nadal – that he never gives up and when fully fit, he is the toughest man to beat on tour. He was given no chance here a year ago and after making the final went on to win his 10th French Open and sealed the world number 1 ranking by winning a 3rd US Open. Things did end on a low after he was forced to withdraw from the Tour Finals due to a knee injury but he has looked in perfect shape over the last week, taking the court in several exhibitions. The one concern for Rafa is his lack of tennis. He is the type of player that needs matches under his belt to find his best form and that has been a reflection of his results here. He has claimed the title on just one occasion (2009) making it to at least the semi final stage in 5 of 12 attempts. The first week will be key for the Spaniard. He has been handed a favourable draw and if he can get enough tennis in he will again be a threat.
Odds to Win Australian Open: ($5.00)
1st round (v Estrella Burgos): 2nd Set Score After 4 games Nadal 4-0 ($4.80)
A elbow injury kept him out for the second half of the season and ‘Djoka’ is well below his best physically. On his 30th birthday last may The Wolf declared ‘An End Of An Era’ and said Novak would not win another slam. He hasn’t as yet and Wolfy cannot see him getting back to his best. He has abbreviated his service motion in order to help prevent the injury from reoccurring and has been dealt a savage draw here. He could face Monfils, Alexander Zverev, Thiem and Federer all before any potential final. Until The Wolf sees otherwise he will be fading Djokovic over the next few months and is predicting some bad losses.
Odds to Win Australian Open: ($6.50)
Best Bet: Djokovic v Field – Field ($1.11)
1st round (v Young): Over 31.5 games ($1.83)
He currently sits at a career high number 3 in the world but The Wolf is a non-believer. Dimitrov deserves credit for his performances in 2017 – 4 titles and multiple Masters Series crowns including the ATP Tour Finals but he has an abysmal record against the top players. He went a combined 0-4 against Nadal and Federer last season and is a combined 5-30 against Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. His game isn’t quite at that elite level and it is the reason he is yet to make a Grand Slam final. Furthermore he has just two semi final appearances in 29 attempts at Grand Slam level. DO NOT have your hard earned on Grigor.
Odds to Win Australian Open: ($10.00)
This is a growing list and the names Zverev and Kyrgios lead the way. Zverev has catapulted up the rankings on the back of 5 titles last season while Kyrgios is the only man near the top of the betting market to have claimed a title this season (Brisbane). That being said, The Wolf does not like the chances of either man. Zverev has never made it past the 3rd round at a slam while Kyrgios failed to make it beyond the 2nd round of a slam in 2017. Kyrgios has shown that he can beat the best at the highest level but The Wolf has serious questions when it comes to the mentality required to win 7 best of 5 matches over the course of a fortnight. For Zverev it is all physical. He is still growing into his body and until he looks more like Tomas Berdych The Wolf will not be backing him to lift a major trophy.
Odds to Win Australian Open: A.Zverev ($13.00)
1st Round (v Fabbiano): Over 28.5 games ($2.10)
Odds to Win Australian Open: Kyrgios ($15.00)
1st Round (v Dutra Silva): 1st Set Scorecast Kyrgios 7-6 ($7.50)
There is very little to speak of in this part of the draw. Nadal and Cilic are the feature names and The Wolf says you can almost pencil them in for a quarter final meeting. They should breeze through their respective sections. Nadal could run into Isner in the 4th round but is 7-0 lifetime against the American while Dzumhur and Schwartzman do not have the game to beat the Raging Bull over 5 sets. Cilic could face Simon, the man that beat him in Chennai last week. The Frenchman has won 6 of their 7 clashes and is the only smoky to take out this quarter. His 1-8 record against Rafa means there will be a likely hurdle ahead but at the price and with Rafa just coming back The Wolf is happy to have something on.
Best: Marin Cilic ($5.50)
Value: Gilles Simon ($19.00)
This is the most stacked quarter of the draw and by far the most open. It is the only quarter not to feature a major winner but there is a very interesting blend of youth and experience. We have Ferrer, Tsonga, Anderson and Baghdatis (former slam finalists) along with Dimitrov, Kyrgios and Sock. 10 of the men in this quarter won at least one title last season and the quarter is also blessed with some incredible young talent. Shapovalov and Tsitsipas will be names that we hear a lot of in 2018 and their encounter in the opening round could be the first of many. In what is a very competitive quarter The Wolf will take two men at a price rather than play the shorts. He will be leaning on the French duo of Pouille and Tsonga. Pouille may have a terrible record here but won 3 titles last season and has made multiple Grand Slam quarter finals. He has an all round game and has shown that he can win on every surface. Tsonga is a former finalist here and has made the quarter or better in 5 of his last 9 appearances. Federer, Wawrinka and Nishikori are the men who have beaten him here over the last 5 years. He is way over the odds!
Best: Jo-Wilfired Tsonga ($8.00)
Value: Lucas Pouille ($13.00)
The Wolf has undertaken more of a process of elimination in the third quarter. He has already written off the chances of Djokovic and has been more than vocal in terms of Dominic Thiem’s inability to perform well on faster courts. Wawrinka is a massive unknown and after his last withdrawal at the Tiebreak 10s it would take more than just bravery to back him. Then we have Alexander Zverev… As previously mentioned he is yet to go beyond the 3rd round at this level. There is a chance that he faces his older brother in the 3rd round but they will both have work to do before that with Chung, Kokkinakis, Medvedev and Gojowoczyk in their section. Monfils and Steve Johnson shape as the two big dangers in the draw. Both have big games and can take the game away from their opponent. The enigmatic Monfils looked very impressive en route to winning Doha in the lead up and has made the 4th round or better in consecutive years here.
Best: Gael Monfils ($15.00)
Value: Peter Gojowczyk ($81.00)
Federer is hands down the man to beat in bottom of the draw and he is unlikely to drop a set in the opening week. The journey back to the top for Raonic will be a slow one while the big serving duo of Berdych and Del Potro could face some speed-bumps early on. Del Potro will have youngsters Tiafoe and Khachanov before a potentially meeting with Berdych – all in the first 3 rounds. That’s if Berdych can get past Aussie teenage sensation Alex de Minaur in the opening round. It is a savage draw for the youngster but The Wolf says he will more than hold his own. David Goffin made a heap of noise late last season and has the easiest draw of all the big names in this section but The Wolf will steer clear. It would be wrong of The Wolf not to talk more about de Minaur. His start to the season has been incredible. He won his opening match here a year ago before being forced to retire against Kuznetsov. The Wolf says his game is built for success over 5 sets and we will be riding him with the handicap start and in the H2H market for as long as he is in the tournament. He is the unknown quantity and on form he is worth a nibble.
Best: Federer ($1.50)
Value: De Minaur ($41)
Aussies in the draw: Nick Kyrgios, Alex De Minaur, Thanasi Kokkinakis , Alex Bolt, John Millman, Jordan Thompson, Alexei Popyrin, Alex Bolt, Jason Kubler.
Kyrgios v Dutra Silva: 1st Set Scorecast Kyrgios 7-6 ($7.50)
Berdych v De Minaur: De Minaur +4.5 ($1.91)
Kokkinakis v Medvedev: Number Of Sets – 5 ($2.75)
Millman v Coric: Coric WIN ($1.73)
Kicker v Thompson: Kicker +6.5 ($2.00)