Australian Open: Murray on the handicap headlines first day bets

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The world’s best tennis players all descend on the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne hoping to be crowned the year’s first Grand Slam winners, but only a handful of them actually have realistic chances of turning those dreams into a reality.

As the Australian Open’s first day of action gets underway, we plot the path of a tiny section of the field with our best bets for the opening stanza:

Andy Murray (-9.5) to beat Yuki Bhambri @ 4/6

The apple of Great Britain’s tennis eye is an overwhelming favourite to progress in his first round match, being priced at 1/100 to beat his opponent, a qualifier from India ranked 314th in the world.

Giving Murray a handicap of 9.5 games brings the odds down into a much more backable sphere, and it’s a handicap he should have no trouble overcoming against Bhambri, who has never played in a Grand Slam before and only has 19 professional matches to his name.

Exactly 5 sets in Andreas Seppi v Denis Istomin @ 12/5

This is slated to be a much more even opening-round contest, with the Italian a marginal favourite at 8/15.

Howver it’s in the set betting where there is real money to be made, thanks to a quirky trend when the two meet in Grand Slams.

Of the pair’s eight career meetings, four of them have been in major tournaments and on every single occasion the game has gone to five sets.

Saisai Zheng to beat Daniela Hantuchova @ 11/10

Hantuchova has had a remarkable fall from grace since being ranked the fifth best player on the women’s circuit in 2003. She heads to Melbourne ranked 60th in the world, the lowest mark of her career.

Although she is favoured to best world number 78 Zheng, the Chinese is more than capable of causing an upset, with form of five wins in her last eight matches easily bettering Hantuchova’s tally of two in that same time frame.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.