Coco Gauff is fancied to make a run at the top of the world rankings
Coco Gauff

Tennis betting tips: Australian Open women's singles outright preview and best bets

Andy Schooler delivers his verdict on the 2024 Australian Open women’s singles and has a 55/1 pick among his selections.

Tennis: Australian Open women's outright

2pts win Coco Gauff at 6/1 (General)

1pt e.w. Elina Svitolina at 55/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power)

0.5pt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to win the fourth quarter at 50/1 (Betfred)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Australian Open

  • Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia (outdoor hard)

Sometimes when you watch tennis and see a player at the top of their game it’s easy to think ‘how do they ever lose?’

Aside from the obvious legends of the sport, Juan Martin del Potro was one player who made me feel that way on occasions, sadly not often enough due to his injury issues.

Iga Swiatek is certainly another.

The current world number one was simply outstanding in the latter stages of November’s WTA Finals as she first demolished Aryna Sabalenka in the semis and then Jessica Pegula – for the loss of just one game – in the final.

If Swiatek finds that level at the Australian Open, I’m nigh-on certain she’ll be holding the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup aloft on January 27.

However, the fact is Switaek has rarely, if ever, played at that level Down Under. In five visits, she’s gone past the last 16 only once, losing heavily to Danielle Collins in the 2022 semi-finals.

It’s understandable too.

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Since the Plexicushion courts were dug up after the 2019 tournament and replaced by a GreenSet surface, conditions have sped up a bit and these are considered faster than average hardcourts, definitely quicker than Swiatek would choose.

She can be rushed more on these courts than on her favoured clay, certainly if facing one of the power-hitters.

At this year’s Australian Open, she’s also been handed a tricky draw.

Her first match will be against 2020 champion Sofia Kenin and after that will be either 2018 queen Angie Kerber or 2022 runner-up Collins.

Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova (if fully fit), Elina Svitolina and Victoria Azarenka are seeds more than capable of causing problems in this quarter, too.

As already suggested, Swiatek could make odds of 5/2 look a steal in two weeks’ time but she’s not for me.

Neither is defending champion Aryna Sabalenka.

She impressed here 12 months ago to break her Grand Slam duck and enjoyed a strong season, almost finishing as the year-end no 1.

However, despite reaching the last four at the other three majors, no further Slam title was forthcoming – only some notable big-match defeats.

The Belarusian lost from match point up against Karolina Muchova at the French Open and then blew a set lead against Ons Jabeur at the same stage of Wimbledon.

Sabalenka also looked in full control of the US Open against Coco Gauff but then the errors that have dogged her game in the past re-emerged and she slipped to defeat.

On all three occasions, Sabalenka had the match on her racquet and letting such chances slip through her fingers must have left some mental scars.

Keeping down the errors was key to her success last year but it’s a tough task for someone who hits the ball so hard and really goes for their shots.

With the added pressure of defending a Slam title for the first time another factor to deal with, I think Sabalenka can be taken on.

Go for Coco

I will do that by turning to COCO GAUFF, who is alongside Sabalenka in the bottom half of the draw.

The American teenager made her big breakthrough at last season’s US Open, capturing the title in New York – and an 8/1 winner for this column.

Now, I fully accept that many have struggled to back up their maiden success – something reflected by the fact that there have been only four women in the last seven years who have won multiple Slams – but Gauff’s looks an old head on young shoulders.

She also has the significant advantage of having Brad Gilbert on her coaching team, someone who has seen and it done it all before, helping Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick to Grand Slam titles.

Having joined Team Gauff after Wimbledon last year, Gilbert appeared to make an immediate impact, notably improving the Gauff forehand which had previously been prone to break down.

The 19-year-old has already proved her form, winning her only warm-up event in Auckland where she lost just one set en route to the title.

Her draw looks very good with Maria Sakkari her scheduled quarter-final foe and Caroline Garcia awaiting in the last 16. Both disappointed in 2023 and this looks the weakest of the four quarters.

A rematch with Sabalenka could come at the last-four stage but the Belarusian would be the one carrying baggage into that.

In short, there’s a lot to like about Gauff’s chances and I’ll happily back her at 6/1.

I could have made an argument for Elena Rybakina, who is another player to start fast in 2024, winning the title in Brisbane where she didn’t lose a set and dropped just three games in beating Sabalenka in the final.

With one of the best serves in the game, she may well be tough to beat at Melbourne Park but odds of 11/2 appeal less following Thursday’s draw.

Like Swiatek, she has a tough start with Karolina Pliskova a far-from-ideal opening opponent, while Jasmine Paolini also looks a potential banana skin in round three.

Rybakina could also have to get through Daria Kasatkina, Jessica Pegula and Swiatek just to make the final so I feel she’s short enough.

I will instead oppose Swiatek in the top half with a long shot, namely ELINA SVITOLINA.

If you saw the Ukrainian in 2023, it was difficult not to be impressed by her level given she only returned to the tour in April after becoming a mother.

There was a quarter-final run at Roland Garros before an even better effort at Wimbledon where she made the last four, defeating Swiatek along the way.

Even at the US Open, where she only made round three, she played well, losing only to third seed Pegula in a final set.

Svitolina and Swiatek could meet again in the last 16 here and the former’s defensive skills would again likely be problematic for the top seed.

With a full pre-season behind her, she’s already started this year in fine fashion, reaching the final in Auckland and only losing in three sets to the aforementioned Gauff.

The former world number three has twice been to the quarter-finals of this tournament in the past and, at 55/1, looks worth a small punt.

Elina Svitolina features in our best bets from Thursday's action
Elina Svitolina

Finally, I’m tempted to take on Sabalenka in the bottom quarter, for reasons already mentioned.

Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur, former French Open champ Barbora Krejcikova and even youngster Mirra Andreeva are among those who will hope to take advantage of any Sabalenka slip but I like the big price surrounding ANASTASIA PAVLYUCHENKOVA.

The Russian missed most of the 2022 campaign and it took her a while to get going last season.

However, after making the quarter-finals of the French Open, she had some decent results, finishing the year well with a semi-final in Tokyo and a quarter-final in Hong Kong.

This season has started well enough with a run to the last eight in Adelaide, including wins over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Katerina Siniakova before a narrow three-set loss to Pegula.

The hard-hitting Pavlyuchenkova has made the quarter-finals of this event on three of her last seven visits and I feel she’s got potential to win this quarter at a big price – if you can get Betfred’s 50/1 take it but the more widely available 30s is perfectly acceptable.

Of course, it could all go wrong very quickly. She does open against 21st seed Donna Vekic, although she handed out a 6-1 6-1 thrashing to the Croatian in that aforementioned Tokyo tournament, their only previous meeting.

Any way, risk is built into the price so I’m prepared to have a small-stakes play.

Posted at 1230 GMT on 12/01/24

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