Day one of the Australian Open commences overnight, and with 32 men's singles matches taking place on the opening day of the tournament, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns to run through the card...
"Troicki's level has been woeful in the last six months, losing his last five outings and being 9-17 since the start of the grass season in June last year. "
First Grand Slam of 2018 full of intrigue
As mentioned in the outright preview, there is an abundance of intrigue as the first Grand Slam of 2018 commences, with injury doubts over a variety of big names.
World number one Rafa Nadal is among those with injury issues, but the market has seen fit to deem him virtually guaranteed to beat the Dominican altitude specialist, Victor Estrella.
Along with Rafa, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jack Sock are some of the higher profile players with matches on day one, and all but Sock are sub-1.201/5 to get the better of lowly opponents. However, Vasek Pospisil and Dennis Novak - opponents of Cilic and Dimitrov - look to be slightly underestimated by the market.
Conditions likely to be cooler on day one
Those in action on Monday will be grateful - conditions, often brutal in the Australian summer, are going to be much cooler than later on in the week. Temperatures in the low 20s are anticipated tomorrow, compared to the mid-high 30s as the week progresses.
Millman can deliver as underdog against Coric
As is often the case in these early rounds of Slams, value choices frequently come in some of the lower profile matches - with the caveat that stakes should be relatively small in opening round matches - and it wouldn't be a surprise to see John Millman - a slight 2.206/5 underdog against Borna Coric - thrive in front of home support. There doesn't look to be much to choose at all between the duo based on the numbers.
Bolt likely to be able to keep matters close against Troicki
Another home player who looks to be some value is Alex Bolt, who faces Viktor Troicki. The 25-year old Bolt is a little bit of a late developer, breaking the top 200 last season and got a wild card into the event. This year so far, his defeats were as underdog, to form Challenger player Jason Kubler, and a tight three-setter last week in Sydney to Ricardas Berankis.
Troicki's level has been woeful in the last six months, losing his last five outings and being 9-17 since the start of the grass season in June last year.
Troicki with issues covering big handicap lines in Slams
Despite this, the market has seen fit to price him, being the higher-profile player, at 1.3130/100, and looking at his historical records, when priced between 1.21/5 and 1.491/2 in Grand Slams since the start of 2015, he's covered the -5.5 game handicap a mere three times in 12 outings.
We can get 11/10 with the Sportsbook on Bolt with a 5.5 game handicap start, and this is a spot I quite like.
Fitness doubts Jaziri and Karlovic face much worse opposition
Among other players that my model likes include Malek Jaziri in what has been priced as a pick-em match against mediocre Challenger player Salvatore Caruso, although I'm not entirely sure of the Tunisian's condition, and also the same goes for Ivo Karlovic, who faces Laslo Djere. Karlovic has not been in decent shape for a while but Djere is awful away from clay, and if Ivo's level is anywhere remotely competent, he should have too much for the young Serb.
McDonald with a statistical edge over Ymer
The final recommendation today comes in a match between two qualifiers, as Mackenzie McDonald faces Elias Ymer. Both qualified impressively, with McDonald dropping just one set in wins over Noah Rubin, Jozef Kovalik and Stephane Robert, while Ymer did likewise against Kenny De Schepper, Dennis Novikov and Darian King.
Statistically though, it is the American, McDonald, who has a clear edge in this battle of young prospects looking to make their way towards the top 100. He's certainly more comfortable on the surface, mainly plying his trade on hard courts in American Challengers, while Ymer's best surface is clay.
No doubt, this is reflected in their hard court win percentages in the last 12 months, with McDonald's 18-13 record usurping Ymer's 9-9 record. Furthermore, in these matches, McDonald has won 62.7% of service points to Ymer's 59.2%, and 41.1% of return points compared to 40.3%. With this in mind, it's logical to take the 1.981/1 on offer for McDonald to progress.
Veteran Ferrer with a solid chance of edging prospect Rublev
In other matches, I also like David Ferrer's experience to overcome Andrey Rublev's youth in a best of five clash - the market is finding it tough to split them - and there's a fascinating match-up between two high-profile young prospects as Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian, Shapovalov, is a marginal favourite, with my model finding it very difficult to split the duo.
Australian Open 2018 on Betfair
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Back Alex Bolt +5.5 games to beat Viktor Troicki at 11/10 with the Sportsbook
Back Mackenzie McDonald to beat Elias Ymer at 1.981/1