Women's Australian Open 2014 Preview

Nila Amerova

Saturday, January 11, 2014 1:26 PM GMT

Australian Open betting is almost set to get underway and leading the charge for the title is none other than Serena Williams. Can anybody stop her from claiming the coveted grand slam title? Find out as we analyse the draw and deliver our tennis free picks for your consideration.

Serena’s Rule

Serena’s rule over the WTA Tour is unprecedented in the game. Is there therefore any wonder she’s cornered the Australian Open betting market across sportsbooks? Domination that since our early preview of the Australian Open, which saw her sat at -110 to win outright, has now increased, moving as high as -163 to win outright at Bet365.

Over the last three years, Serena has steadily matured into a formidable force in the game. Make no mistake she was great from the get-go. But now, at the incredible age of 32, she’s even better than she was when she was but a spring chicken flexing her wings over the WTA coop. And, the fact of the matter is, that none of the current chicklets leap off the page with any conviction as a serious rival.

Now, in terms of tennis betting (more specifically, the search for value tennis picks), Serena’s rule over the WTA roost isn’t ideal. It’s a downright bummer really, limiting the options and thrills before tennis bettors. Such is the reality however when Serena repeatedly comes through on her fancied odds and that in no uncertain terms clearly tells you that tennis betting in the women’s game must – and always will – begin with Serena. Simply put tournaments are defined by the caveat: this is Serena’s tournament to win or lose.

Now draw is too tough for her, no challenge insurmountable on paper. Granted, last year the gasp-inducing defeat to Sloane Stephens in the Australian Open quarterfinals and the equally awe-inspiring victory by Sabine Lisicki over Serena at Wimbledon proved she wasn’t entirely invincible. But those instances are few and far in between and more often than not Serena is the last one left standing.

We could wax poetic forever...but time and space is of the essence ... and so, on that note, let’s look at the Australian Open draw and analyse Serena’s chances to win the tournament with respect to the rest of the field. As well – for fun – let’s serve up a few alternative tennis picks for the title.

First Quarter, Serena Williams draw routine

Serena Williams is presented with a routine draw with Sara Errani the highest seed in her quarter, a player who hasn’t a Hail Mary of chance to get beyond Serena, let alone to win the title at tennis odds of +15000 at Bet365. Let’s not bring up ancient history and the Italian’s double bagel at the French Open to Serena, her beloved surface no less.

Australian hopeful Samantha Stosur, who beat Serena at the US Open final a few years back, looms somewhat tricky. But the Aussie is a notorious choker in Oz, something that persists still, based on her run Down Under ahead of the Australian Open. Fittingly, she’s a long shot bet at +6600 to win outright or thereabouts depending on the sportsbook of choice. There are several promising young guns strewn throughout Serena’s section such as Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova (a player to spot in the future) and Laura Robson, as well, several veterans such as Ana Ivanovic, Daniela Hantuchova and Vera Zvonareva. But all are tennis picks priced in the quadruple digits or higher for the title, giving you a sense of just how difficult the task before them is really.

Li Na and Petra Kvitova’s Second Quarter

Two potential spoilers in the mix are Li Na at +1200 and Petra Kvitova at +2000 at Bet365 . The former typically plays well in Oz, twice reaching the finals – including last year, when she lost a heartbreaker to Victoria Azarenka. Many avid tennis betting fans would love to see her finally win the title here, making her the most tempting tennis pick of the pair. Kvitova, a former Wimbledon champion, has underachieved since that breakthrough. She has the chops to win. But questionable fitness (and Asthma) could prove insurmountable obstacles in the torrid heat of the Australian summer. Others in this section to strike an interesting pose include Sabine Lisicki (+10000), Ekaterina Makarova (+20000) and Angelique Kerber (+3300).

Sharapova’s Third Quarter

Maria Sharapova’s odds remain unchanged since we last looked upon them in December. She’s the +800 tennis bet to win outright, the third in line to the throne behind Serena and two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka. What lends Sharapova’s odds value is the fact that she’s managed to avoid Serena’s half of the draw, which means she needn’t concern herself with the American until the finals and that has to be a decided relief for the Russian, should it come to that even. Best-case scenario for Masha: Serena suffers a shock upset in the early goings, leaving Sharapova and Azarenka to duke it out as the heir apparent to the crown in tennis betting markets.

Azarenka’s Fourth Quarter

Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka will have all to do to defend her title in Melbourne for a third straight season. She’s the second favourite at +500 to win outright, a price that has surged since December from +333 at Bet365 in reaction, most likely, to her defeat to Serena in Brisbane to start the season.

Azarenka plays well in Melbourne and the surface suits her. What's more she fancies her chances against Serena, even though their head-to-head record doesn’t support that notion. As far as her draw is concerned however Azarenka’s path is no picnic with Radwanska looming on the opposite end of the quarter (rather disingenuously underrated at +5000).  More immediate threats such as Jamie Hampton, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sloane Stephens (+5000) also lurk.

Tennis Free Picks

In keeping with our introduction, Serena is the smart tennis pick to win the tournament at -163 to win outright while Li Na is the sentimental pick from the top half of the section. From the bottom half, shading either Azarenka or Sharapova wouldn’t be remiss.