Join us as we deliver an early primer on the 2014 Australian Open, complete with ATP futures odds and tennis free picks.
The 2013 ATP season on the whole was a memorable one, filled to the brim with exciting storylines, historic outcomes and many surprises, but on the big stage (Masters and Grand Slams) it was the established order that reined supreme with the usual suspects collecting just about all major accolades. We began with Novak Djokovic winning his fourth Australian Open, third straight. We witnessed Rafael Nadal’s other worldly comeback onto the ATP Tour that defied reason and logic – but at the same time somehow felt right, even expected given his pedigree – and was highlighted by winning an eighth French Open and second US Open. Finally, we shared in Andy Murray’s historic Wimbledon victory that satisfied the legacy of Fred Perry and a nation’s hopes – even shed a tear for the Scot- Brit (Brit-Scot?). The only noticeable absentee in the major champion’s circle was Roger Federer, arguably suffering the most frustrating season of his glorious career.
So what will 2014 yield? It’s hard to tell really. At the start of 2013, the major talking point was Nadal’s bum knees and if he would ever recapture even a soupcon of his trademark formidable form. A happenstance which increasingly appeared less and less likely when he gave the Aussie Open a skip, effectively spotting his rivals a month’s head start and both Djokovic and Murray (more so the former) the clear edge in tennis betting markets for all the major crowns. Some experts unabashedly took it a step further, serving up ominous predictions, gleefully penning an obituary to his career.
Tale told, Rafael Nadal, who began the season as the fourth-ranked player, then dropped to fifth for a brief stretch, surpassed all expectations, turned the tennis odds in his favour to produce one of the best season’s in the history of tennis culminating with 10 titles (2 Grand Slams), the year-ending No.1 ranking, the Player of the Year award, the Legend Award and......watch this space....
Exhausting though it might be to wax lyrical about Nadal there is no denying his championship credentials. Amazingly, Novak Djokovic, the bookies darling for most of last term, managed to give Nadal a run for his money late in the season. A belated surge to challenge the Spaniard for the year-end No.1 ranking that he very nearly pulled off but fell literally a match or two short. While he didn’t win another Grand Slam after Melbourne – had his hopes crushed by Nadal (French Open semis and US Open final) and Murray (Wimbledon final), he put forward a strong case for best player of the year by going undefeated after the US Open all the way to ATP World Tour Finals title.
One could say 2013 was a tale of two players – Djokovic and Nadal. A tug-of-war between titans in the game that is both mesmerising and awe-inspiring as they go at one other with unheralded competitive ferocity on the courts and try to outdo one another in the history books.
It’s only fitting then that the very same titans should be at the head of the Australian Open futures market currently in full swing across all sportsbooks. What’s more, it’s hardly surprising that Novak Djokovic leads the pack as the short-odds-on favourite at +125 at Bet365. After all, he did finish the season on a rich vein of form and twice beat Nadal rather convincingly – in Beijing and London.
Nadal lost some of his edge towards the end of the season, simply ran out of steam down the stretch proving that he’s human after all. That letdown cost him in tennis betting markets, his odds re-evaluated. But not so much to do him a disservice in tennis betting circles. In fact, at +200 to win outright in Melbourne, he’s the value tennis pick of the lot. Of all the players, he’s one of few that can challenge Djokovic when it matters most, in a final as evinced by the 3-3 head-to-head on 2013 (22-17 lifetime in favour of Nadal).
Andy Murray comes in as the third favourite to win the Australian Open title at +400 tennis odds but seeing that he gave the second half of the season a skip to undergo minor back surgery one wonders whether the odds makers are doing him a disservice. How can we gage where his form will be and though good he is –a top player and all that – he’s no Nadal. We won’t be so careless to write him off entirely as some did Nadal last season. But to expect him to pull off a Nadal is a long shot.
Juan Martin Del Potro rings in as the fourth favourite at +1000, just ahead of Roger Federer at +1600 to win outright at Bet365. After this tandem there is a considerable increase in price beginning with Stanislas Wawrinka (+3300), Tsonga (+4000) and the triplet of Raonic, Berdych and Ferrer all trading at +5000.
While Federer is a proven champion through and through, sweeping his frustrations under the carpet wouldn’t do. Last season was a gut-wrenching flop at the major level. Beloved though the 32-year-old Swiss might be, incredible legend that he is, perhaps the greatest player of all time, the clock is ticking and time isn’t kind on players, not to mention neither are Djokovic and Nadal who are happy to treat the ATP Tour as their own personal playground.
Del Potro is the only other player outside the four usual suspects to have won a Grand Slam. That alone justifies his favourable prospects for Melbourne even if it’s ages old (2009 US Open). Adding weight to those odds is his deposit on 2013, which was impressive and showed significant strides towards becoming a credible threat at the majors, particularly his epic Wimbledon semi-final against Djokovic.
The rest of the chasing pack listed within a reasonable shot for the title, some of which we’ve mentioned above, are not good options because they’ve flattered to deceive all too often. None boasts a Grand Slam title. Only Tsonga, Berdych and Ferrer have a Masters title; ironically all have but one and, as luck would have it, each won his lone Masters in Paris. So baking either one at this early vantage point, it’s akin to dropping water into the ocean. It goes for any other outside shot not mentioned in this article.
Tennis Free Picks best advice:
If you’re looking for a value outside tennis pick wait until the season gets underway and a sense of form is to be had. At the very least, it will help you to whittle down your selections to some reasonable and probable options. For the time being, looking beyond Djokovic or Nadal would be a foolish oversight. For those with loyalties in either camp the choice pick is straightforward of course. For neutrals that can’t decide between either an each-way bet would be handy.