Australian Open: Bookies' verdict
Our tennis man Andy Schooler spoke to some leading bookmakers to get their views - and best bets - for the forthcoming Australian Open.
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Here's what they had to say:
Novak Djokovic has won this tournament in each of the last three years. Do you expect him to win again?
Phil Charlton, Sky Bet: I honestly can't see past Djokovic and over the past days the market has agreed, having shortened from 11/8 into 11/10. Murray's injury and Federer's decline make it look a two-horse race to me.
David Stevens, Coral: He's a worthy favourite given his tremendous record in the season's opening major, and clearly it would not be the least bit surprising were he to make it four in a row, but from a betting point of view I would rather ignore the Serb at around evens and side with Rafa Nadal at the odds on offer.
Charlie McCann, BetVictor: Yes. He's the even-money favourite at BetVictor and I think he can make it four on the spin with only four realistic contenders in the men's event.
Ray Collis, Stan James: Yes, we cannot see anyone to stop the Serb making it four in a row.
Robin Green, bet365: He is certainly the most likely winner at this stage.
What do you make of world number one Rafael Nadal's chances?
Phil Charlton, Sky Bet: He comes here with a fighting chance but was pushed to three final sets in Doha last week. With a possibly tricky quarter-final, semi-final and a final against Djokovic, he seems plenty short enough at around 9/4.
David Stevens, Coral: Nadal enjoyed an extraordinary 2013 to reclaim top spot in the rankings, and the Spaniard has already got a tournament victory under his belt this year, with success at the Qatar Open, and as stated earlier, at around the 5/2 mark he will be carrying my money, with a final against Djokovic the most likely outcome providing Friday's draw keeps them apart during the earlier rounds.
Charlie McCann, BetVictor: Rafa is the 5/2 second favourite and looked impressive when beating Gael Monfils to win the Qatar Open. The Spaniard is a 13-time major winner and won in Melbourne in 2009 - another Nadal v Djokovic final beckons.
Ray Collis, Stan James: The Spaniard is always a trier but the faster surface along with a worry about the stress on his knees here could be a problem for him.
Robin Green, bet365: He is the clear second favourite and will relish the opportunity to extend his lead as world number one.
Andy Murray is a bigger price than in the past, essentially because of his recent back surgery. Does that price make him worth chancing?
Phil Charlton, Sky Bet: I couldn't bring myself to back Murray at single figures! In the two events since his operation he has had two early losses and comes in undercooked and out of form.
David Stevens, Coral: Apart from Novak Djokovic, no player has a better recent record in Melbourne than the newly-crowned Sports Personality of the Year, and the Scot will almost certainly lift the title here at some point in the future. However, he himself has admitted that his primary aim at the moment is to regain full fitness, and this year's Australian Open could just come too soon for him following his break, and although his class could well take him to the last four once again, chances are he will have to overcome both Djokovic and Nadal to win, and therefore the market looks to have it right.
Charlie McCann, BetVictor: Murray is 11/2 with us but we think his best chance of Grand Slam success in 2014 will be at Wimbledon as he looks for back-to-back titles at SW19. We're happy to take him on and bet 10/11 that he doesn't win a Slam in 2014.
Ray Collis, Stan James: Not on what we've seen so far. This tournament seems to have come too early for him after his operation and we think he will be concentrating on finding form and regaining match sharpness in time for the US Masters events in the spring.
Robin Green, bet365: In recent seasons he has won two Grand Slams and been runner-up here twice so we know he can do it. As with most Grand Slams, his price may not contract before the last-16 stage, or even the quarter-finals, so we should get a decent look at him before making a decision.
Who's the best bet from the chasing pack?
Phil Charlton, Sky Bet: If I was forced to defer from Djokovic, I would go down the route of a big-serving big-hitter. Tsonga (50/1) pushed both Djokovic and Nadal close at the Mubadala Champs recently and comes in buoyed by winning the Hopman Cup. Berdych (66/1) took Djokovic to four sets in the quarters in Melbourne last year.
David Stevens, Coral: Men's tennis has been dominated by the big four of Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray for several years now, and this quality quartet could again see off the opposition. As outlined already I fully expect to see the world's top two contest the final, but if there is to be a relative shock, then odds of 16/1 about four-time Melbourne winner Roger Federer make some appeal, with the move to bring Stefan Edberg on board clear indication that the Swiss ace believes his major-winning days are not behind him just yet.
Charlie McCann, BetVictor: The Big Four no longer includes Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro (10/1) has tasted major success. But can the Argentinian beat both Nadal and Djokovic which the winner is most likely to have to do Down Under?
Ray Collis, Stan James: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga appears to have regained his appetite for the game and shaken off some of those niggling injuries. He also now has a coach which must also be a positive. David Ferrer is a big price considering the doubts over both Murray and Nadal.
Robin Green, bet365: David Ferrer probably won't win but he is extremely solid and reliable, qualities that are more relevant in this Grand Slam than any other. With two semi-final appearances and one quarter-final in the last three years and a few matches under his belt so far this season, he could go all the way to the final. He would need a bit of help from the top seed in his half but even the top two guys have off days.
Is Serena Williams nailed on for the women's title?
Phil Charlton, Sky Bet: You would think so. She won in Brisbane last week beating both Azarenka and Sharapova comfortably in straight sets. She will also be motivated to avenge recent shock losses in Melbourne to Makarova and Stephens.
David Stevens, Coral: It may be boring but, as so often in recent years, the answer is yes. Without Serena Williams women's tennis would be a highly-competitive affair, but the American is a class above the chasing pack, and if she turns up wanting to win - and her performance in Brisbane suggests that is the case - the title is hers for the taking.
Charlie McCann, BetVictor: In a word, yes. She's 5/6 and whilst that may look a touch skinny she is head and shoulders above the chasing pack.
Ray Collis, Stan James: We believe so. If she's mentally and physically prepared, and there's no reason to suspect otherwise, then she is without doubt the one to beat..
Robin Green, bet365: No, but with straight-set victories over the second and third favourites in the year's first event in Brisbane, she is certainly looking very strong.
If not Williams, then who? Anyone worth a shot at a big price?
Phil Charlton, Sky Bet: Having closely followed Simona Halep's rise towards the end of last season, I already hold a nice ante-post price for her, but couldn't back her at prices as short as 25s. A couple of big-hitting lefties, Kvitova and Kerber, could be interesting at 22/1 and 50/1 respectively.
David Stevens, Coral: Not a big price, but odds of 4/1 about reigning champion and second favourite Victoria Azarenka seem fair enough each-way. She should make the final (where she will lose to Williams!)
Charlie McCann, BetVictor: Victoria Azarenka is seeking the hat-trick having won here for the past two years and each-way punters looking for value will say that 4/1 is too big about the dual champion.
Ray Collis, Stan James: Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova looks to have returned to form and the surface should suit her.
Robin Green, bet365: Azarenka is the most likely player to benefit if, as in the last two years, Serena has a meltdown.
Give us your best bet for the tournament as a whole.
Phil Charlton, Sky Bet: The Novak and Serena double is available at 7/2.
David Stevens, Coral: Andy Murray to be eliminated in the semi-finals.
Charlie McCann, BetVictor: Serena Williams could prove to be the best 5/6 shot we've seen in a long time. She could, indeed should, make mince-meat of her rivals. The 10/1 about her for the 2014 Grand Slam isn't bad either.
Ray Collis, Stan James: It's very hard to see past the two favourites in the men's and women's outright. Tsonga to win his quarter could be a decent bet but that will obviously depend on the draw.
Robin Green, bet365: David Ferrer each way in the men's singles at a big price.
- Andy Schooler will bring you his previews of both the men's and women's singles on Friday.