As ever the tennis world heads Down Under for the first major of the season, and, as ever it would seem, Novak Djokovic is the favourite to triumph.
The world number one enjoyed his most stunning season yet in 2015, reaching all four Grand Slams finals and only failing to win the French Open.
The Australian Open begun the sequence, as he dispatched Andy Murray in four sets to claim a record fifth Aussie title in the Open Era. A sixth win will see him tie with Roy Emerson in the overall record books, but as his 2014 quarter-final defeat demonstrated, despite his 4/5 odds on success there does remain some reason for his opponents to turn up. Here are five who could cause an upset:
Andy Murray @ 11/2
The British Number One will be fully intent on breaking his streak of four Australian Open finals without a win. Murray has been on record saying how important the losses have been in forging a winning mentality and a ruthless streak, but even so he’ll not be looking to add to the heartbreak. You have to go all the way back to 2009 to find the last Aussie Open where he didn’t at least make the quarters, and no doubt spurred on by the historic Davis Cup success at the end of last year, the Scot should be confident he can finally go one further here. One thing to note before placing any bet on the Murray though, with his wife Kim due in mid-February, an early arrival could see him head home early.
Stanislas Wawrinka @ 12/1
The “fifth Beatle” of tennis has thrived on his underdog status behind the big four in recent seasons, shocking Djokovic here in the quarters in 2014 before seeing off Rafael Nadal in the final, while he proved the only man capable of beating the world number one in a Grand Slam final when he defeated the Serb in four sets at Roland Garros last season, clinching his second major win in the process. The Swiss number two has saved his best career form for the Melbourne Park courts, but of course the more he wins the less he is underestimated, which could prove his eventual downfall.
Kei Nishikori @ 20/1
A genuine outside shout for the title, the States-based Japanese player looks set for a breakthrough 2016 and Australia would be the perfect setting for him to make a definitive mark. A quarter-finalist here last year and in 2012, his 73 per cent win rate in Australia is significantly better than his performances in other Slams and the world number eight’s showing at the Brisbane International – where he is seeded second behind Roger Federer – will give further indication as to his early season form on the hard courts.
Bernard Tomic @ 66/1
There’ll be significant interest in the performance of Australia’s renowned youngsters, particularly Tomic – who has just broken into the top 20 – and Nick Kyrgios (50/1), who haven’t always made headlines for the right reasons. But with Tomic in particular showing significant improvement last season, climbing from 78th in the world to 18th by the end of 2015, with strong home support the 23-year-old could be one to back for a shock win or two.
Lleyton Hewitt @ 500/1
While Hewitt, at 34 years old, is unlikely to get too far in Melbourne, the mere fact that he’ll have the raucous backing of the home crowd in his final Australian Open before retirement means that, depending on the draw, he could be a tempting punt for making one final mark on tennis by unseating one of the favourites. His best run here was as runner-up in 2005, but the player making a record 20th appearance shouldn’t be underestimated by any opposition player should he get one final chance to perform at the Rod Laver Arena.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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