Time for a preview of the Australian Open. I am going to do this in draw in order, by quarter, starting with the men’s. Let’s go!
I can’t be tipping up Rafa, though I would never write him off (I’m not a stupid as I look), I think the first quarter is wide open as a result though. Cilic is the obvious beneficiary of this and if focused should come through this section, the Croat has been known to throw in a duff one though. Borna Coric, Damir Dzumhur, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Gilles Simon and Gilles Muller also have chances here if you are looking for a bigger price.
I think Nick Kyrgios will take the second quarter, I have been impressed with what he has been saying of late and I think he feels ready to give this a real crack this time. I have been a big fan of Dimitrov lately but I just think he is susceptible right now. Nick beat him in Brisbane recently. Andrey Rublev and Lucas Pouille are two of his bigger threats and both players have caused upsets in the past. I saw 80/1 Rublev for the quarter though David Ferrer is a tough one first up, the Spaniard finding some form this week in Auckland.
In the third quarter, I think it’s pretty difficult to tip up Stan Wawrinka or Dominic Thiem right now. It is also pretty difficult to tip up Djokovic, though I have to say I am actually tempted to. Out of the big three, I just have this sneaky feeling he is the darkhorse, even though the elbow doesn’t sound great. That ultimately is enough to put me off being fully convinced though. Roberto Bautista Agut has a nasty first rounder against fellow countryman, Fernando Verdasco and trails the head to head 1-3. RBA beat Del Potro in the Auckland final yesterday and though clear favourite here, he will need to be on top form as Verdasco will surely come out firing. Assuming he can get past this, then I think he has a real shot at the quarter. I haven’t quite got enough confidence in Sascha Zverev yet, though this represents a decent chance. This section is a bit of a minefield though in fairness. A section that also includes Hyeon Chung, Mischa Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Thanasi Kokkinakis. So I am going to go with Bautista Agut and Adrian Mannarino for those reasons, Mannarino is a pretty useful operator and could sneak his way through a few rounds here. Though if Djoko can get into this event he will become increasingly dangerous.
Roger Federer is the rightful favourite for this event and it really is difficult to see him getting beat before the quarter-finals, where he should face his first stern test in David Goffin. I am going to go with the with Belgian to make it through here and make the semi-finals. He has impressed me so much that I feel it would be rude not to side with him. Federer has done nothing wrong here though and as I say rightly goes into this as the clear favourite. There is a tough section here with Del Boy, Khachanov, Paire, Berdych and Tiafoe all bunched together. The winner should face Goffin in the last 16.
Which leads me on to who do I fancy for the outright? I really like Kyrgios and Goffin’s chances. Some will probably find it hard to believe me tipping up these two but after looking at the draw and the betting odds, these two look like the bets to me. I will also have what will possibly become a regular throw away bet on Lucas Pouille (150’s) as well but that’s the way I roll on this one. If you want to back players at crazy prices then there are probably enough names above to do so who could cause the upsets. I will go with Nick and David though as I think they are ready to step up here!
With Serena out, this field is wide open again. In the first quarter of the women’s draw, I am really struggling with it, it is so competitive. Led by Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova but also consists of Ash Barty, Jo Konta, Petra Kvitova, Camilla Giorgi and Aryna Sabalenka. Ouch!
The second quarter is a similar case. Muguruza has a thigh strain that isn’t sounding overly positive. Angie Kerber looks to be in good form again, the Hopman Cup performances and her victory in Sydney this week back up her claims. This quarter also includes Maria Sharapova, Anastasija Sevastova, Natalia Vikhlyantseva, Madison Keys and Caroline Garcia. I quite like Garcia’s chances here as she says she feels back to 100% after her thigh injury. She was so impressive towards the back end of last season that like Goffin, I think I have to go with her. On paper Keys is the only one of the above names she would have to face before the quarter’s, which only backs up her chances.
The third quarter opens up with Venus against Bencic, some first round that! Such a tough one to pick a winner. Elina Svitolina is the favourite in this section and has every chance after her latest showing. I feel the Ukranian is making strides forward and improvements are being made to the fourth seeds game, but maybe now just still isn’t the time. I like Julia Goerges chances here though. Possibly the most in form player on tour now, continuing her form from last season straight through to this season and another title in Auckland last week. She won’t be fearing anyone in the draw and she is my fancy in this quarter. Ekaterina Makarova has played well here in the past and will hope to go a few rounds minimum and Denisa Allertova’s results in qualies caught my eye.
Caroline Wozniacki should claim the fourth quarter if she can maintain her form and I think she will. Jelena Ostapenko doesn’t look in great form right now but Coco Vandeweghe can always be a real threat as can Pavlyuchenkova, another player I always keep my eye on is Anett Kontaveit who is in this quarter. Dom Cibulkova plays Kaia Kanepi in an intriguing first-round match. Woz should have too much in this section as right now she looks a class above the opposition.
Off the back of this, I think the winner of the event will come from Wozniacki, Goerges or Garcia and have spread my money accordingly. All of whom will be first-time winners but all have impressed me in the last few months. Controlled aggression is the key for these three. It really is amazing how open this event is and it is going to be a fascinating two weeks.
Hope you all enjoy the action.
Andy Del Potro