The Men’s Event
Novak Djokovic arrived in Melbourne having not lost a match here since 2010. The Serb was looking to become the first man in the Open era to win three Aussie Open titles in succession and the tennis odds makers fancied his chances – pricing him up as the early 11/10 favourite.
With Rafa still out injured, it always looked nailed on that Djokovic would, at the very least book himself a place in the final. What couldn’t have been foreseen was the difficulty the Serb would have in a fourth round encounter with Swiss no.2, Stanislaus Warwrinka.
We predicted that Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic would make the final and that despite the Scot’s victory at the US Open final last September, this time we expected the Serb to stamp his authority back on the rivalry.
Roger Federer and David Ferrer were the two other players ranked in the top four in the men’s draw and again we rightly suggested that both would go deep into the event, perhaps missing out in the semi-final reckoning.
Federer came incredibly close to overcoming Murray in his semi-final but just fell short in the final set.
I’d expect to see that trend continuing across the season and whilst Roger may still be able to get past his nearest rivals on the Wimbledon lawns, that is probably his only real chance of Slam success this season.
Nadal will be back soon and should be fit enough to contest the French, however Murray v Djokovic looks set to be the new big rivalry in men’s tennis.
For me, Djokovic has an excellent chance of finally claiming a French Open title this season and he’ll be favourite for the US Open in September. With that in mind, it could be worth considering a bet now on the Serb to take three, if not all four of this season’s Slams.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, there wasn’t an awful lot to take away. Warwrinka and Ferrer were both outstanding until they were dispatched by the best player on the planet but, given their age, they are hardly men to watch out for in the future.
Bernard Tomic played very well in his opening couple of matches before falling to Federer, and whilst the Australian’s confidence ahead of the Federer contest was seen as verging on arrogant by some, it will ultimately take that kind of attitude to breach the quartet currently at the top of the game.
I’ll be keen to keep an eye on Tomic as the season develops.
The Women’s Event
Despite coming into the event as the defending champion and world no.1, there weren’t many punters prepared to give Azarenka a shot of reclaiming her crown.
Serena Williams was the name on everyone’s lips, after winning pretty much every title in sight since Wimbledon last season.
The American kicked off her campaign as odds on favourite for success and although I certainly didn’t count Serena out, I saw the 4/1 on offer for Azarenka as the greater value and she was my Tennis betting pick for this one.
Serena was looking unstoppable until her injury and her opponent’s ingenuity saw her bow out at the quarter-final stage. From that point onwards, there was only ever going to be one real winner for me and the Belarusian duly obliged, despite making a bit of a meal of the final.
30-year-old Chinese star, Li Na will be thrilled with another successful fortnight in Melbourne, having defeated Sharapova in the semis to book herself a spot in her second Aussie Open final.
For Sharapova, it’s back to the drawing board. Maria came into the event as an 8/1 shot with the tennis bookmakers, amid suggestions that a shoulder injury may hamper her progress. There was no sign of the injury as the Russian marched through to the semis without breaking a sweat and barely losing a game, but it seems that when things go wrong for Sharapova they really do go wrong. As soon as Li Na got a foothold in their semi final encounter Sharapova looked lost and the all the good things she’d been doing across the fortnight quickly unravelled.
Elsewhere, there were some positive signs for Wozniacki who came through the first week and a couple of tough looking encounters – perhaps looking as if she may be able to get back to somewhere near her best this season.Laura Robson and Sloane Stephens were the two bright young sparks of the event. Both girls knocked out Grand Slam champions, in the shape of Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams, but it was Stephens who looked the more accomplished when the pair met in the third round and it will be interesting to follow the young American’s progress in the upcoming events.