The semifinals of the 2018 Australian Open Men’s Singles tournament were marred by injuries and fatigue. Roger Federer cruised to the final after South Korean Hyeon Chung was sidelined in the 2nd set due to a foot blister. The other semi-final witnessed an injured Kyle Edmund who had to withdraw due to a hip injury. In the end, Federer beat Marin Čilić in a classic battle.
While there was no such attrition or inevitability on the Women’s Singles side, Caroline Wozniacki’s win over Simona Halep had its own little touch of destiny. Wozniacki simply refused to quit after facing several quality opponents playing at their peak form.
But Serena Williams, who was not in Melbourne last year, is the futures betting favorite to win the tournament this time around.
2019 Australian Open: Summary of Vegas Odds and My Outright Winner Picks
- The first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year begins on January 14th (late January 13th in the United States) and lasts, as Melbourne journalists say, “a fortnight”
- Defending champion Roger Federer is a 5-to-1 futures pick to lift the trophy after the final. Novak Djokovic is an almost even-odds favorite in pre-draw Men’s Singles at (+125)
- Serena Williams is the favorite to win the Women’s Singles event at (+400) above the popular Naomi Osaka at (+1200)
- Thursday’s draw sent some players’ lines changing rapidly, while others remain steady such as the favorites Joker and Serena
- Betting futures following the draw is straightforward but still filled with questions. Who can stay healthy in a bracket of broken bodies?
- Serena Williams (+400) and Nick Kyrgios (+3300) could be the most-sensible picks from either side relative to their odds, but media hype is always a factor in the betting action
Nadal Makes 1st Shot an Early One?
Somebody is already playing tennis well before the Australian Open begins, and that’s veteran Rafael Nadal. I mean that either literally or figuratively, and I can’t figure out which.
Nadal enjoyed a Tuesday headline in Britain, “Nadal Warns Federer and Djokovic Ahead of Australian Open.” But it’s drummed-up, Fake News, a pile of poppycock, because when you read the Express story his interview answers are no kind of shot across the bow at the other favorites.
We can surmise that the author got some type of fiery vibe from the Spaniard and was encouraged to blow it out of proportion in a headline. But surely, such an experienced Tour pro would know not to frown at the wrong reporter and wind-up portrayed in a headline that his rivals can make into a background on their mobile training devices.
Nadal is at 7-to-1 payoff odds to win a tournament he hasn’t prevailed in since 2009. Here’s a look at several familiar threats on the Men’s Singles side.
Novak Djokovic (+125)
Outside of the Roger Federer, no man has had more success in Melbourne than Novak Djokovic. The Joker will be going for his 7th win at the Aussie Open, and has won back-to-back titles as recently as 2015 and 2016. Djokovic won every Men’s Singles title from 2011-2013.
The short futures line on a competitor who hasn’t won in 2 years is thanks in-part to Djokovic’s obvious and lasting talent. The Serbian is fierce on the baseline and can move across the court with ease. His groundstrokes are precise, and he can defeat opponents with a crisp backhand. Joker’s serve is difficult to defend, but his return game is spectacular. Djokovic is a hardcourt legend and his success in Melbourne shouldn’t be overlooked.
But it’s not as if he’s hot. I was shocked to see Djokovic’s odds in early January since he hasn’t been tearing up every tournament. Joker is coming off a defeat in the final of the ATP World Finals to Alexander Zverev and an upset loss to Roberto Bautista Agut at the Qatar Open.
Roger Federer (+450)
The Swiss maestro has made his mark as one of the greatest attackers in his generation. His scorching forehand and precisive serve have led him to 20 Grand Slams over an illustrious career. Finding a weakness in Federer’s skillset is like finding a needle in a haystack, but his backhand has been suspect to opponents who hit the ball with authority. That didn’t seem to matter last year…again.
Grass courts have been Federer’s calling card, but he has found success on the hardcourt of the Australian Open. The 6-time Aussie Open winner will go for his 3rd consecutive crown in Melbourne.
Federer was also ousted by Alexander Zverev in the ATP World Finals. How much longer before we start wondering what Zverev’s odds to win are?
Rafael Nadal (+750)
The King of Clay has one of the meanest backhands on the men’s circuit and it allows him direct opponents from the baseline. Often utilizing crazy daredevil moves, he has been described as a relentless player who is left vulnerable to injuries.
That’s why it’s strange to see his line where it is. Nadal claims to be healthy, but recently withdrew from the Brisbane International due to a thigh strain. Nadal also withdrew from the Paris Masters with an abdominal injury and the U.S. Open with a knee injury.
Alexander Zverev (+1000)
Widely regarded as the future of men’s tennis, a 21-year old German will look to ride the momentum from 2018 to capture his maiden Grand slam. Zverev captured the ATP Finals championship in November. But last season, he was upset in the Round of 32 at the Australian Open.
I’d be primed to disregard his recent wins over big-time opponents in non-Grand Slam competition, except the player is fundamentally sound in rallies and has a dynamic skill-set.
Zverev is ferocious on the baseline and seeks to overpower opponents with forceful groundstrokes. His size allows him to put incredible velocity behind his backhand. His serve is one of the weaker components, but has vastly improved since joining the men’s tour. Although Zverev claims to be suited for all courts there’s no question hardcourt is his home.
A hamstring injury forced Zverev’s withdrawal at the World Tennis Challenge. He’s not in the papers shouting about how it’s all better now, which means there’s a greater chance he will actually be fine.
Andy Murray (+5000)
The Scot returns to the Aussie Open after being forced to withdraw last year due to hip surgery. Murray will attempt to finally break through, never having won the hardcourt Grand Slam title. He’s lost 5 of them in the final match.
Over his career, Murray has wowed spectators with his defensive ability and charmed analysts by lulling opponents to sleep with precise groundstrokes. He can return with the best in the game and is superb at defending lightning-fast serves.
Only a problem – Murray has been at his most efficient on grass courts. His health in Melbourne is a riddle – if he’s fully healed, well, he’s only 31 and has fresh legs without having played much on Tour last season. If he’s not, then good luck getting through to another final…let alone winning it.
Murray’s betting line is now lengthening by the day after his retirement announcement on Thursday. While an aging, worn athlete making life changes isn’t necessarily a precursor of losing (see: Roger Federer) it must also be noted that Muzza does not sound optimistic at all about his prospects of playing healthy.
Nick Kyrgios (+3300)
The 23-year old Australian will seek to capture the Grand slam title in front of fans from his home country. The brash youngster has burst onto the scene with his vicious serve and a thunderous forehand and a self-proclaimed aggressive style.
In the 2018 Aussie Open, Kyrgios advanced to the Round of 16 before falling to Grigor Dimitrov. His best performance in Melbourne to date was his quarterfinal finish in 2015. The Aussie was eliminated in the Round of 16 of this year’s Brisbane International tune-up effort.
Thanks to a slump on hardcourt and clay courts last season, Kyrgios is numerically well into the pack on the World pecking order and faces an arduous draw that pits him against 16th-seeded Milos Raonic in the opening round. The increased chances of an early upset have driven the Aussie’s outright-winner futures market to 33-to-1 from 20-to-1. But (all together now) to win a Grand Slam you have to be better than everyone in your side bracket and get some good luck in the end. That principle doesn’t change regardless of the draw.
Marin Čilić (+2500)
Čilić is a stout Croatian player who can be a brutalizing opponent for any odds-on favorite. His net play is stellar, but he can vulnerable to attacking opponents due to shaky groundstrokes. Čilić has found his most prominent successes on grass and hardcourt surfaces which include a 2014 championship at the U.S. Open.
The 31 year-old lost a hard-fought contest to Roger Federer in the 2018 Australian Open and had never been closer to the trophy. Novak Djokovic has scored recent wins over Čilić at the ATP Finals and Paris Masters. Oh, and wouldn’t you know – a knee injury is hampering his training.
2019 Australian Open: Home Away from Home for Serena?
Champion athletes need the right kind of self-generated atmosphere to survive. During his hey-day Tiger Woods remarked (quietly to friends) that when people told him he “sees everything” around the world, he wanted to laugh. “I see airports, golf courses, and hotels” Tiger said.
If Serena has been plagued by anything late in her fantastic career, it’s for not seeing quite enough airports, tennis courts, and hotels. But if there’s anywhere in the world where singleness-of-purpose could overtake her again it’s Melbourne and the Australian Open.
The Women’s Singles tournament could prove to be quite dramatic in the closing stages. Osaka beat Williams for the 2018 U.S. Open title, but surely Wozniacki doesn’t want to be left out as the athlete who actually won the Aussie Open a year ago.
Serena Williams (+400)
Mika remains a slightly-controversial figure following a heated dispute with umpire Carlos Ramos at Flushing Meadows but should be focused and ready to go as she tries for an unprecedented 8th Australian Open championship.
Williams controls the baseline and has one of the most vicious serves the women’s game has ever seen. She is not afraid to take chances on the court, and her forehand and backhand are nearly impossible to guard. Williams has captured every Grand slam title multiple times.
It sounds like a broken record at this point, but she may also be nursing a slight injury. Spectators will keep a close eye on an ankle issue that seemed to hamper her at the Hopman Cup.
Simona Halep (+2000)
The 27-year old Romanian is currently the WTA #1 ranked player in the world but is still seeking her maiden Aussie Open title. She lost a hard-fought duel to Wozniacki in the 2018 final.
Halep is an athletic player who thrives moving across the court and can turn her defense into offense. Her specialty is clay, but her enthusiasm for hardcourt play is evident.
No, this isn’t a practical joke – a back injury has been a big problem for Halep lately. Is the Australian Open going to feature nothing but hobbled athletes over-using the spa?
Not only is Halep hobbled, she suffered an unlucky draw that pushed her futures line into the 20-fold payoff realm all the way from 9-to-1 on Wednesday.
Angelique Kerber (+750)
Ah, here’s a player who won’t show up in a cast. Kerber aims to capture her 2nd Aussie Open championship after knocking off Serena Williams in 2016.
The elite defender is one of the best returners in the game. She has won Grand slam titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in addition to her title in Melbourne. But wait – just because she’s not limping around doesn’t mean there’s no mystery.
Kerber was upset in the Round of 16 of the China Open by Shuai Zhang and suffered defeat to Sloane Stephens at the WTA Finals. That sounds like a player who’s changing coaches, and she is, having gone separate ways with former tutor Wim Fissette.
Naomi Osaka (+1200)
Osaka lost in the Round of 16 last season. The youngster remains a force to be reckoned with, a ferocious player who patrols the baseline who tremendous strength on the serve and forehand. Her serve is one of the fastest and most intimidating in the women’s game.
She’s taking enough action to be 2nd behind Serena on the futures board, and for good reason – hardcourt is where Osaka has made remarkable strides highlighted by a U.S. Open championship.
Caroline Wozniacki (+2500)
A defending Australian Open champion is ready to defend her title and capture another Grand slam title at Melbourne. The former World #1 has crafty footwork and utilizes fantastic agility to turn her opponent’s offense against them. Her backhand is one of the best in the women’s game. She prefers to compete on the hardcourt, obvious to anyone who saw last year’s final.
This player’s ailment (we’re not even bothering to say “this player has an ailment” anymore) is arthritis, which Wozniacki was diagnosed with in 2018. But her playing schedule remains healthy.
Karolina Pliskova (+1600)
Pliskova has suffered defeat in the quarterfinals of the last 2 tournaments in Melbourne. But she feels most comfortable on the hardcourt, and her tenacious serve could come in very handy depending on the return-strength of whoever Thursday’s draw pits her against.
The Czech professional captured the Brisbane International in preparation for the Aussie Open. Despite withdrawing from the Sydney International, she looks in better condition since suffering calf and wrist injuries in the WTA Finals.
Elina Svitolina (+1400)
The still-young Ukrainian is looking to improve from a quarterfinal appearance in last year’s Aussie Open and win her maiden Grand slam title.
The rising star specializes in backhand shots and has excellent all-around precision. She has utilized her speed on the volley and can track down shots close to the net. She prefers grass and clay over the hardcourt, but she has had notable success hard surfaces, including her 2018 WTA Finals title.
Svitolina was upset in the Round of 16 at the Brisbane International by Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Shaking things up, she also replaced her head coach.
Final Thoughts and Best Futures Bets
On the men’s side, my advice is to pick a (reasonably) healthy player who is not in the headlines, whose stock could improve by next week. Nick Kyrgios fits the mold perfectly at 20-to-1 though I’m also liking a long-shot gamble on Andy Murray to train well and stay upright for every match.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams is oddly (excuse the pun) the player whose odds could grow shorter following the draw. Her vibe is perfect for the event, full of feel-good headlines and focus headed into the combat. When Tiger Woods dominated the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, his name was barely uttered in the clubhouse but the shadow of his presence loomed large every day.
Serena and the pair of Murray-Kyrgios are my recommendations for now. Check back as we update this page after Thursday’s draw.
Kyrgios’ value has gone up at (+3300) despite the hurdles that await him. Murray, no matter how his line may move toward more-and-more lucrative payoff, is no longer a clever pick as it appears he is suffering far worse injury problems than fans wanted to believe.