He started the year with a bang after landing a 9/2 tip in Doha and now Derek Bilton is ready to fill your pockets again with his Australian Open betting preview.
The first Grand Slam of the year is upon us and surely the New Year’s resolution for every Next Gen star must be to ‘win more majors’.
Remember you have to go back to 2016 to find the last time a major wasn’t won by one of the Big Three, but at some point that streak is going to come to an end, right?
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have robbed an entire generation of Grand Slam titles. They have held a virtual monopoly on the majors but as Bob Dylan once crooned ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’.
The bookies are not convinced however, and by making Djokovic a general 6/5 favourite they are clearly of the opinion the men’s event could be a one-horse race. Djokovic won two Grand Slams last year, including Wimbledon, to bring his career total to 16.
However, his record in Melbourne is truly remarkable. The Serb has dominated this event over the past decade, winning six times since 2011. He is a seven-time champion Down Under and the obvious favourite going in. He started his 2020 campaign ominously too by going 8-0 in the recent ATP Cup.
Yet while he is the logical call he has already been troubled by an arm injury this year, a problem that forced him to pull out of the US Open. With this in mind and with a tricky draw to negotiate I wouldn’t be entirely confident sticking the mortgage money on him at such a skinny price.
This has never been a profitable tournament for backers of Rafael Nadal either. The Spaniard has only won here once – 11 long years ago – and even if he managed to reach the final there’s the small matter of him losing his last 19 sets in a row to Djokovic on hardcourt to consider.
Nadal is world No 1 for a reason and should enjoy the new Greenset surface (which has replaced the old Plexicushion terrain) which should definitely slow conditions down despite what the organisers are saying. However, Nadal’s whole season revolves around the clay swing and Roland Garros and you can bet your life he would gladly trade an early exit here if it meant another French Open title.
Roger Federer – the grand old man of the ATP Tour – has a fine record Down Under but was last seen losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in London way back in November at the ATP Finals. He’s not played any competitive tennis since then so there’s a question mark around how fit and just as importantly how sharp he is.
However, he should certainly be fresh and he has been handed a cracking draw. It’s also worth remembering that before losing a thriller to Tsitsipas here last year, Fed had lost only one of his previous 23 matches at the Australian Open. For this reason I wouldn’t put punters off backing him at 10/1 but won’t be having a go myself on the grounds he has yet to be seen in competitive action and he’s in the same half as Djokovic meaning a potential semi-final match up.
The narrative of the latter half of 2019 was the Next Gen threatening to break this stranglehold Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have on the men’s game. Tsitsipas winning the ATP Finals was hugely significant but a bigger story for me was Daniil Medvedev’s crazy winning streak after Wimbledon.
The Russian won matches galore on hardcourt and came within a whisker of a first Grand Slam in New York, losing a titanic tussle to Nadal over five. As an athlete he’s not the most aesthetically pleasing on the eye, but the baseliner has the game to grind it out with the best and is far tougher mentally than peers such as Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios.
His form line in Melbourne is decent too. Medvedev has improved every year in his three appearances at the event and running on a full tank he can go all the way this year at 8/1.
In the other half Tsitsipas looks worth a bet at 14s. He is the youngest player ranked in the world’s top 10 and that ATP Finals win should have given him a massive confidence boost. If he can play with the same intensity he showed in London he could go all the way.
The Greek is scheduled to meet Djokovic in the last eight but won’t be fazed, having won both matches the pair have contested so far on hard outdoors in a career that could end up being very special indeed.
On the women’s side, the indomitable Serena Williams is 4/1 to win a 24th Grand Slam title, which would tie the record of Aussie legend Margaret Court. Serena has triumphed here seven times, with her last victory coming in 2017.
That was the last Grand Slam title for the American idol but she will be full of confidence after recently taking down the ASB Classic in Auckland, her first singles title since giving birth nearly three years ago.
French Open champion Ash Barty has never looked comfortable here for some strange reason so Serena looks a worthy favourite and can claim an emotional win in the winter of an illustrious career.
Bilko’s Banker: Daniil Medvedev to win the Australian Open at 8/1 (Paddy Power)
Best of the Rest #1: Stefanos Tsitsipas to win the Australian Open at 14/1 (Paddy Power)
Best of the Rest #2: Serena Williams to win the Australian Open at 4/1 (bet365)
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