Men's Australian Open 2014 Preview

Nila Amerova

Saturday, January 11, 2014 3:26 PM GMT

Now that the Australian Open 2014 Draw is out, Djokovic has a conspicuous advantage over Nadal with a much weaker section on paper. So is it a foregone conclusion: will Djokovic reign supreme or can Nadal defy the field as well as the tennis odds to win the title.

The draw release revealed World No.1 Rafael Nadal in a stacked top half with Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and Roger Federer all in company. On the flipside, Novak Djokovic drew Tomas Berdych, Stanislas Wawrinka and David Ferrer, a triplet that flatters to deceive.

The upshot of which: Djokovic’s odds to win the title have been cut from +125 to win outright at Bet365 down to -125 to win outright while Nadal’s odds have increased from +200 to +275 to win outright. This conspicuous movement of the markets is a direct reaction to the draw, the degree of difficulty between the top half significantly higher than the bottom half, which, in turn, presents each player with contrasting probabilities of winning. It’s also encouraged experts across the board to tip Djokovic as the smart pick to win the title.

First Quarter: Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro

Nadal’s path to the quarters looms treacherous on paper. If all goes to plan, he’s potentially slated to take on Juan Martin Del Potro (+1200) in the quarters; the winner of Federer (+1800) vs. Murray (+800) in the semis; and, finally, Djokovic in the title match. To put it another way, that is the entire list of top favourites to win the Australian Open according to sportsbooks.

In that case what does that say about Rafael Nadal and, all threats being considered, his relatively modest +275 tennis odds? That if a player were to negotiate a successful campaign in OZ, despite obvious landmines, he’s that player. Take heart-Rafa fans, all is not lost yet. 

That said Nadal has the dubious pleasure of opening his campaign against Bernard Tomic, who is not only going to be a home favourite but can be annoyingly tricky. Other potential stumbling blocks and players to watch in his section, outside of the aforementioned top threats, include Gael Monfils (+15000), Lleyton Hewitt, Milos Raonic (+10000), Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori, to name a few.

Second Quarter: Murray and Federer

Despite coming off back surgery and seeing very little time down the stretch in 2013, Andy Murray carries the burden of third favourite to win the title. Just like Nadal, his path is similarly (if not, more so tougher) as he’d have to potentially beat both the World No.1 Nadal and No.2 Djokovic in order to clinch the Oz title, not to mention Roger Federer as well. Before he can look ahead to any of those threats, he could come up against former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who a tournament, dark horse pick at +4000 to win the title. As well, his section includes big serving John Isner (+20000) , dogged baseliner Gilles Simon and wily all court player Phillipp Kohlschreiber, who, though, is a long shot to win the title at +30000 at Bet365 is not averse to the occasional upset at a grand slam.

Third Quarter Berdych and Ferrer

As far as sections go, the third quarter is the most wide-open with both Berdych and Ferrer flanking both ends. While the latter is the World No.3, bookies are taking very little stock of his ranking tipping the Spaniard at whopping +5000 to win the title. Berdych, the World No.7, is rated at a slightly better +4000. That said neither has ever won a grand slam, the closest whiff of one was a final appearance by each.

That bias towards Berdych is also prevalent in the tennis betting odds to win the third quarter where the Czech rings in at +175 and Ferrer comes up a smidgen behind at +200 at Bet365. Ferrer however is in our opinion the smart pick to win this quarter because of his consistency. It being a wide-open section, other potential section winners include Tommy Haas, Kevin Anderson, Mikhail Youzhny or last season’s surprise package Jerzy Janowicz, listed as the long shot at +12500 to win the title.

Fourth Quarter: Djokovic and Wawrinka

The most memorable match last season was the Australian Open clash between Djokovic and Wawrinka, listed at +4000 at Bet365; by all accounts, it was an epic. Naturally, most avid tennis fans are keen for a sequel at this year’s instalment of the event and for those who are fans of Stan the man (or just not fussed about Djokovic) will be backing the Swiss No.2 to victory. He very nearly accomplished the feat last season only to succumb in the fifth set.

Otherwise, not a whole lot that leaps off the page in terms of a challenge in Djokovic’s section – as if he needed any help from the tennis gods –with players such as Lacko, Mayer, Baghdatis and Tursunov looming in the early rounds. Ernests Gulbis, arguably, is the toughest prospect in his section but the Latvian’s merit as a challenge largely depends on his mood. Wawrinka’s path into the quarters on the other hand could see him face relative newcomer Vasek Pospisil, a revived Robredo and seasoned veteran Davydenko, all of which however listed as outsiders in tennis betting markets.

Tennis Betting Verdict: The bottom half of the draw would appear to be the most straightforward and, as such, Djokovic does indeed jump out as the smart tennis pick to win outright. The only players that could potentially deny Nole his Oz crown are Wawrinka and Berdych (on a good day).

Nadal’s section is littered with threats and obstacles making his path to the title match treacherous indeed if all goes to plan. Still, Nadal can beat anybody on any given day. He has the winning record against all the top players and, as such, he’s still the value tennis pick to win the title outright. The only player that could potentially give him trouble and a serious run for his money is Juan Martin Del Potro.

Tennis Free Picks:

Nadal over Tsonga in the semis; Djokovic over Ferrer in the semis; Nadal over Djokovic in the final.