It’s just over a week since the famous Sydney fireworks were being televised across the world as the first major city to welcome 2014, but as ever in tennis it’s further south in Melbourne that is renowned for starting the new year with a bang.
Temperatures of up to 40 degrees will greet the players for the first major of the season, with Novak Djkovic and Victoria Azarenka arriving as defending champions for the second consecutive year.
But with the first round set to begin on Monday and safe passages expected for most of the main contenders, should you want more value than what is available with single matches, why not go for an accumulator – here’s our 31/1 five-match acca…
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to win a set against Tommy Haas (1/3)
Tommy Haas may be seeded 12th in Melbourne but the 36-year-old German demonstrated signs that his age may be catching up to him when losing in two sets to Jack Sock in New Zealand last week, the American youngster ranked 100 in the world.
Haas has struggled with illness and injury, while his opponent took David Ferrer to three sets at the same tournament in Auckland and has eight wins over top ten players to his name, so can be backed to take a set from the veteran.
Marin Cilic to beat Marcel Granollers 3-0 (5/4)
Cilic won’t remember 2013 too fondly, having fallen to 37 in the world and unseeded in Melbourne, but he’s beaten his Spanish opponent on five of their six previous meetings, three of those in straight sets. His semi-final place here in 2010 remains his best performance at a Grand Slam and other than his first appearance here in 2007, has never gone out in the first round.
Jordan Thompson to beat Jerzy Janowicz (11/4)
If you’re looking for a local player to pull out something of an upset, then Thompson is the man to back. An injury has prevented Janowicz from getting much action on the court so far – a straight sets defeat to Alex Dolgopolov in Sydney being his only match this year – while the 19-year-old from Sydney will still be on a high from a formidable effort against Richard Gasquet in Melbourne last week, which went all the way with the teenager just missing out despite serving for the match at one point.
Laura Robson to win a set against Kirsten Flipkens (4/6)
The signs are not great for the British number one Robson, with her withdrawal from her first-round match in Hobart due to tendinitis last week meaning she hasn’t completed a match this season due to a persistent wrist injury. Flipkens, the 18th seed, represents a tough opening draw with the Belgian making a name for herself last season when she reached the Wimbledon semi-final.
While the gutsy Brit is no stranger to a tough draw, beating an opponent of this calibre if not 100% fit could be one step too far. Robson claims that her wrist is fully recovered however, so backing her to win at least one set represents the best punt.
Heather Watson to beat Daniela Hantuchova (4/6)
Watson is the favourite heading into this first round match having recorded seven wins on hard courts in Australia this season already, while Hantuchova’s preparation has been much less impressive, with two straight set defeats from her only two matches so far.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.