Daniil Medvedev celebrates during the US Open final
Danill Medvedev - can celebrate in Australia

Australian Open tips: Tennis betting preview for men's singles draw in Melbourne

Andy Schooler attempts to cut through a chaotic build-up to the Australian Open, picking out 7/4, 28/1 and 200/1 selections for the men’s singles.

Written and published prior to Novak Djokovic’s appeal - full story on his visa being cancelled here...

Tennis betting tips: Australian Open

3pts win Daniil Medvedev at 7/4 (BetVictor)

1pt e.w. Pablo Carreno Busta at 200/1 (General)

1pt Roberto Bautista Agut to win the third quarter at 28/1 (BoyleSports)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Australian Open – men’s singles

  • Melbourne, Australia (outdoor hard)

Well, this is a new one.

I’ve written plenty of Grand Slam previews over the years but I haven’t had to produce one without knowing whether the title favourite will be thrown out of the country one day before the tournament begins.

It’s fair to say that an unvaccinated Novak Djokovic turning up to play by claiming an exemption via recent COVID infection has caused something of a storm Down Under and we won’t know for sure until Sunday whether he’ll be able to bid to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title.

Frankly, that makes writing a preview rather difficult.

For what it’s worth, punters using the Smarkets betting exchange give Djokovic around a 40% chance of playing, although I’m not going to be someone trying to second-guess a judge’s decision in a judicial system I know little about.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

What I do know is that if Djokovic is forced out prior to Monday’s order of play being announced, the draw will have to be rejigged with Andrey Rublev moving into Djokovic’s slot on line one. That would be a boost for the Russian, taking him away from the quarter involving Daniil Medvedev.

That’s the reason why there are no quarter markets for those sections yet – a universal decision by the layers.

Where they are split, however, is how they are dealing with Djokovic.

For example, Unibet have already taken the world number one out of the betting given he needs to win a court appeal in order to compete.

Sky Bet say they will refund all bets on Djokovic if he withdraws “before or during the event”.

Yes, no doubt it’s a confusing picture, but they say time waits for no man – and I can’t wait until Sunday to be publishing this preview.

So, onwards and upwards. Let’s look at the draw, quarter-by-quarter.

First quarter analysis

If Djokovic does play, he’ll be in this section.

Having gone out to 2/1, I’m sure the nine-time champion will still have his backers but those people need to go into that bet with their eyes wide open.

The Serb spent five consecutive nights in an immigration detention hotel – not something a multi-millionaire is used to a week out from one of the most important tournaments of the year.

Denied the chance to train and eat the food an elite athlete is used to, it’s impossible to think it won’t have affected Djokovic in some way. This weekend will hardly have helped either – another visa-related interview on Saturday, followed by a return to detention that night prior to Sunday’s appeal hearing.

Even if it’s won, what will follow won’t be a barrel of laughs – a media frenzy like he’ll never have seen before and a crowd which looks sure to be hostile from day one.

On the plus side, Djokovic is one of the most mentally-tough players of all-time so if anyone can deal with this situation it’s him, but I just don’t see how there won’t be some sort of negative effect left from the past 10 days – possibly quite a big one.

I haven’t even mentioned yet that while Djokovic fell only one win short of achieving the fabled Grand Slam of all four majors last season, he was actually below his best during the second half of 2021.

He failed to win a medal at the Olympics, was beaten in the US Open final and also missed out at the ATP Finals. Despite his efforts, Serbia were defeated in the semis of the Davis Cup Finals which meant Djokovic missed all four main targets in the second half of the year.

For me, there are more than enough reasons not to back the defending champion this year, particularly given he’s no bigger than 2/1.

So, who could take advantage?

Matteo Berrettini is next in line, according to the current odds, although it should be remembered there’s still a chance of Andrey Rublev being moved into this quarter.

Berrettini went only 1-2 at the recent ATP Cup though and with no significant record to speak of in Australia, I can look elsewhere.

Gael Monfils started the season well (again) by winning in Adelaide but a few days later he was pulling out of a match injured – an all-too-familiar tale for LaMonf.

It’s also worth noting he’ll also be moved (to the other half of the draw) if Djokovic is booted out early enough.

Some will ride with Carlos Alcaraz, the teenage Spaniard who shone at last year’s US Open.

He’s 50/1 to win here but will attempt to do so without having played in any of the warm-up events, a somewhat strange decision given his limited experience Down Under. Perhaps he has struggled to recover from a COVID infection which forced him out of the Davis Cup Finals in November.

It is another Spaniard I’m going to take a punt on in this section, namely PABLO CARRENO BUSTA.

200/1 seems a little disrespectful to someone who has twice made the semi-finals of a hardcourt Grand Slam (admittedly both were at the US Open).

I’ve long felt Carreno Busta’s nationality sees him priced up a bit longer than he should be in the hardcourt events but he’s certainly no claycourt specialist as many of his compatriots have been over the years.

He’s been to the fourth round here on a couple of occasions and I feel he’s got a decent chance of improving that effort given his draw.

PCB is very solid in all facets and capable of bothering the likes of Cameron Norrie and Berrettini, whom he could have to face before a quarter-final with Djokovic (perhaps).

He started the year well at the ATP Cup, winning four of five singles. There’s no doubt the level of opposition will rise here at some point but it was a strong start which can be built upon.

Second quarter analysis

This looks a tricky section.

Alex Zverev is odds-on in places to safely negotiate it and reach the semi-finals but that looks skinny to me given the quality of players involved.

Yes, Zverev was arguably the best player in the second half of last season, winning Olympic gold and the ATP Finals.

But he remains without a Grand Slam title and that remains a pretty big mental hurdle.

The German has big weapons in his game and a massive first serve should prove difficult to return in faster-than-average conditions that the GreenSet surface and Dunlop balls in Melbourne provide.

There’s also an excellent backhand for opponents to deal with but I still doubt Zverev will have things easy here – he does have a long track record of failing to win matches consistently in straight sets.

Rafael Nadal is also in this section – a potential quarter-final foe for Zverev – and although the Spaniard is only just back after several months out, he started the comeback well enough with a title success at this same Melbourne Park venue last week.

He’s also one of the great fighters on the tour so despite a tough draw, he cannot be discounted, even if I see little value in single-figure quotes.

Remember, even at the peak of his career, Nadal only managed to win this title once (in 2009).

There are also several other contenders with genuine aims of making the last four.

Denis Shapovalov helped Canada win the ATP Cup in the opening week of the season, winning three of four singles despite having only just stepped out of COVID isolation.

With another week on the practice court under his belt, the Wimbledon semi-finalist may be capable of causing an upset.

There’s also plenty to like about Hubert Hurkacz, the Pole who won in Miami last year, made the Wimbledon semis and qualified for the ATP Finals.

He also won three of four at the ATP Cup, his only loss coming in a final-set tie-break.

Another with a strong serve, Hurkacz should thrive in these conditions and for those seeking a long shot, is worth considering at 80/1.

The Russian pair of Aslan Karatsev and Karen Khachanov, both of whom have already reached an ATP final this season, are also in this section which I just feel is a bit too loaded to be confident about.

Yes, Zverev is a worthy favourite but I would not be at all surprised to see someone else emerge so the third seed isn’t for me in the outright betting at a best of 10/3, his odds having contracted following Djokovic’s visa defeat on Friday.

Third quarter analysis

This looks the weakest of the quarters, a view backed up by the fact that the man considered most likely to win the title in it, Stefanos Tsitsipas, is a 25/1 shot in the outright market.

Part of that is down to the Greek’s long-standing elbow problem, one which reared its head again only last week at the ATP Cup, an event from which Tsitsipas withdrew having already lost to Diego Schwartzman.

Despite a good record at this event – two semi-final appearances in his last three visits – Tsitsipas has to be taken on.

Casper Ruud is the next highest seed. He improved markedly on hardcourts in 2021 and I’m of the opinion he can continue on that trail this season.

However, this may be too soon for the Norwegian, especially with some awkward opponents in his path, including local hero Alex de Minaur and the man who is actually bet365’s favourite to win this quarter, Jannik Sinner.

Sinner is 33/1 for the title and could make waves – he certainly started 2022 well enough with three straight-sets wins at the ATP Cup.

However, I’m rather put off by his 0-3 record against potential semi-final opponent Daniil Medvedev, while he’s also 1-2 down to Tsitsipas, albeit they are yet to meet on a hardcourt.

Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner

De Minaur was awful for much of 2021 but he looked to have rediscovered his form at the ATP Cup where he defeated Berrettini and went 2-1, losing only to Medvedev.

With a home crowd behind him, quotes of 200/1 about him becoming the first home winner since 1976 look a tad big given he’s landed in a good part of the draw.

Lightning-fast, De Minaur is something of a human backboard and if he plays as he did in Sydney, he might just have a chance here.

I always respect Grigor Dimitrov’s record in Australia – he’s been a semi-finalist at this event in the past, as well as reaching three other quarter-finals.

The Bulgarian is 1-1 on hardcourts against possible third-round opponent Tsitsipas, a match which could see the higher seed fall.

Dimitrov is a tempting 200/1 shot, as is Taylor Fritz, who enjoyed some fine form on the North American hardcourts last summer and has also started 2022 well.

He beat Felix Auger-Aliassime and Cam Norrie at the ATP Cup and the big-serving American will be a tough opponent for many.

However, one player he’s struggled to beat in the past is the man I’m happy to back – ROBERTO BAUTISTA AGUT.

The Spaniard changed his coaching team in the off-season but the early signs were good at the ATP, RBA going 4-1, including victories over Hurkacz and Ruud.

You never really know how much of an impact the new men at the helm – in this case Daniel Gimeno Traver and Thomas Carbonell - are going to have but maybe they’ll provide that something extra that will take RBA into a part of the tournament he’s yet to reach.

The 15th seed has been to the quarter-finals before (in 2019) as well as appearing in the last 16 on three other occasions so it’s a venue he’s done reasonably well at.

A player with few weaknesses in his game, Bautista Agut leads Fritz 5-1 in their head-to-head, 2-0 on hardcourts, and so would be confident about a win in the last 32.

Tsitsipas could follow, then Ruud or Sinner.

It’s hardly the worst draw in the world for a highly-experienced player, who is 200/1 to win the event.

My play, however, will be in the quarter betting with Bautista Agut worth a try at 28/1 with BoyleSports. Other firms are as short as 9/1.

Fourth quarter preview

And so we come to DANIIL MEDVEDEV, who really arrived at tennis’ top table with victory over Djokovic in September’s US Open final.

Djokovic’s Grand Slam denier should now feel he really belongs among the elite and it’s not hard to see the Russian adding more major titles in 2022.

Less than 12 months ago, Medvedev made the final here in Melbourne and in the second half of the season, as well as his New York success there was a Masters title in Toronto, runner-up finishes in Paris and at the ATP Finals, while he played a key role in helping Russia win the Davis Cup.

There was a bit of an upset to kick off 2022 – a 7-6 in the third defeat to Ugo Humbert – but Medvedev quickly put that to one side, winning his three other matches against De Minaur, Berrettini and Auger-Aliassime.

In short, Medvedev looks bedded in and a player with variety like no other looks like he’ll take some beating over the next fortnight.

Hardcourts are his preferred domain – in the last five Slams on this surface he’s won one, finished runner-up twice and made another semi-final.

Conditions should suit here with Medvedev possessing a serve which is very hard to break when it’s firing. That said, the Russian has many ways of winning a match in his arsenal, his defensive skills right up there with the best if he needs to grind out points.

With so many doubts hanging over his main rival Djokovic, Medvedev looks the bet in the outright market at 7/4.

You can list players who might trouble him in this section but I’m not sure I see him losing before the semis.

Andrey Rublev is the player Medvedev is seeded to meet in the quarter-finals but the older Russian has had his compatriot’s number so far, leading their head-to-head 5-1.

Felix Auger-Aliassime started the season by helping Canada lift the ATP Cup and also made the semis at the US Open last year but it was Medvedev he fell to in New York.

Perhaps Nick Kyrgios (R2), Ugo Humbert (R3) or John Isner (R4) could produce a big serving day to trouble Medvedev but I’m not convinced.

If there’s anyone else worth backing in this section then maybe it’s Dan Evans.

The Briton has started the season very well, winning three out of three at the ATP Cup (all in straight sets) and then reaching the semis in Sydney.

He might have won that match too had he not lost his rag over a lengthy toilet break taken by opponent Karatsev.

At 200/1, Evans does have some potential, although I’m struggling to see past Medvedev here and indeed make him the man most likely to lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup on January 30.

Posted at 1045 GMT on 15/01/22

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