We are on the cusp of another great tennis betting season. To fan the flames of excitement, we begin by looking at the first Grand Slam event of the season: the 2015 Australian Open Men's Singles field and the tennis odds to win outright.
The Big 4 vs. The Field
The 2014 Australian Open delivered the season's first big surprise, a player outside of the established Big 4 (now notional according to ATP Rankings): Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. It could not have been more surprising when Stanislas Wawrinka won the coveted title at the expense of Nadal, marking the first player outside of the Big 4 to win since 2009 when Del Potro beat Roger Federer in an epic, five-set showdown at the US Open. Going into the final, Wawrinka trailed Nadal 0-12 head-to-head and 0-26 in sets.
Big 4 loyalists would add an asterisk on that victory though. The Spaniard may have been outhit, outmuscled and outplayed in the first set, but historical trends and Wawrinka's conspicuous nervy play through the remaining three sets suggest a healthy Nadal (he injured his back at the start of the second set) would have had more than a punters chance to turn the match in his favour. In any event, that's all semantics now as we stand on the cusp of a new season, the Australian Open Series (string of events Down Under that lead into the Australian Open) on the verge of getting underway. After last season's surprising turn in the men's field, punctuated by Marin Cilic's unlikely US Open victory as well, the question begging an answer: is this year going to continue the trend of new champions or will the Big Four clean up the house again?
The 2015 Australian Open Tennis Odds Board
If the Tennis odds were any indication, bookies expect the Big 4 to re-establish order at least for the time being with the season just getting warmed up on the burners. The idea: so long as the Big 4 doesn't struggle as it did last year with a slew of individual injuries and the like, collectively they present a tough nut to crack for the young-up-and-comers on the major stage.
Predictably, Novak Djokovic leads the charge on +100 tennis odds in futures betting. But he has a considerable edge over his Big 4 counterparts with Rafael Nadal priced at +500, Roger Federer at +600 and Andy Murray at +650.
Djokovic capped his 2014 season with another stellar run down the stretch, winning everything of import, beginning with the Asian swing and culminating with the Barclay's ATP World Tour Finals, and clinching the year-end No.1 ranking. This week, Novak Djokovic is participating in the Abu Dhabi Exhibition event, where he's reached the final. Clearly, his preparations for 2015 are off to an auspicious start with just one hurdle left: Andy Murray in the final.
Rafael Nadal comes in as the second favourite at +500 to win the Australian Open, despite missing the bulk of 2014 due to injury and then appendicitis. Nadal's injury concerns are nothing new. He's battled ailments and various injury setbacks in almost every season of his career. Still, the Spaniard comes back stronger than ever, continuously defying the odds and his most ardent critics. Bookies long ago learned that where Nadal is concerned, his game, competitiveness and sheer will and determination outweigh any reasonable doubts; until proven otherwise it's de rigueur for bookies to install him as one of the top favourites for anything important on the men's tennis betting schedule. hence, he comes in as the second favourite tennis pick, although a distant second to Djokovic.
Roger Federer and Andy Murray are priced a smidgen apart on the tennis odds board at +600 and +650 to win outright. Federer enjoyed an incredible season and very nearly finished the year at No.1; he gave Djokovic a serious run for his money down the stretch. Federer may be on the wrong side of 30 and he may not have won a major title since 2012, making him the long shot tennis pick of the Big 4. Certainly according to ageists and critics. However, a 17-time Grand Slam champion (4-time Aussie champ) lurking in the draw is never a player to be dismissed out of hand and should be given his due consideration on the tennis odds board.
Andy Murray struggled with a back injury last season and a lack of match play that took away some of the confidence he'd enjoyed during his heyday with Ivan Lendl. Still, Murray is a legitimate contender by virtue of his championship credentials, sure (as anybody can expect to be) to return to fighting form. Indeed, he's warming up in Abu Dhabi alongside a star-studded cast and already is through to the final with wins over Feliciano Lopez and Rafael Nadal.
The Rest of the Field
Defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka leads the charge of the so-called "Rest of the Field" of contenders. He's priced at +1200 to pull off a successful title defence campaign, which is somewhat appropriate in the face of the Big 4 and his measure of success last season but, at the same time, a tad generous given his historical hurdles defending titles and the unchartered territory he's wading into as a defending Grand Slam champion. Add to that the inconsistencies of his 2014 season and his struggles with the burden of expectation, the work really is cut out for him to prove his worth.
In this group of contenders, Kei Nishikori, the US Open runner-up, strikes an appealing pose at +1400 to win outright Down Under. The Aussie Open is commonly known as the Slam of Asia-Pacific. It's the closest to a "home" slam for the Japanese starlet. Li Na of China enjoyed some of her best accounts Down Under and many expect Nishikori to make a similar mark for Asia in the men's singles game.
As well, Marin Cilic (2014 US Open champion) and Grigor Dimitrov (2014 Wimbledon semi-finalist) at +2000 emerge as contenders in this group. Both bring a lot to the table, in terms of pure natural talent and versatility that is well suited to hard courts, but Dimitrov nudges ahead in our estimation slightly despite being priced on par with Cilic. The Bulgarian is the hungry player with a lot to prove still. Cilic, by contrast, enjoyed his breakthrough in New York last summer and has struggled with expectations since, not unlike Wawrinka. It remains to be seen whether last season's surprise champions can reclaim the form that saw them shock tennis betting markets.
Outsiders To Spot:
Not until we near the Australian Open will odds makers roll out a complete tennis odds board that reflects the draw. For the time being, several players only have been included for various reasons. Some of which we've collated together as a group of outsiders to spot. As it stands, they are priced large to win the tournament. As the season gets underway their prices could shorten if they put forward convincing deposits in the lead up, but they'll still be long shots to win the coveted title especially if the Big 4 rounds into form going into the Australian Open. Where they hold the best appeal for your tennis picks is in match betting through the course of the tournament. Each season a veterans rise to the occasion or a complete unknown surprise package emerges to shake up the draw, one or more of which could be the following: Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych (all at +4000), Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios (both at +5000), David Ferrer (+6600), David Goffin (+125000) and Vasek Pospisil (+30000)
Tennis Betting Verdict
Djokovic is certainly the player to beat but at +100 he's not the value tennis pick. By the prices, Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal offer better bang for your buck. As does Federer at +600, if you are the sentimental tennis bettor. From the outsiders, Kei Nishikori at +1200 and Grigor Dimitrov at +2000 are tempting dark horse plays for your Tennis picks.