Australian Open Men's Outright Tips: Djokovic's off-court issues open up market

Serbian Tennis Player Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic has had to deal with off-court difficulties...

In advance of Friday men's singles draw, Dan Weston returns to discuss the challengers for the title and asks whether Novak Djokovic will be able to put his visa issues behind him...

"Particularly considering the tricky situation the world number one faces currently, I'd be pretty nervous if I held a big position on Djokovic."

Djokovic price volatile given off-court dramas

Ahead of the Australian Open draw, which takes place at 4am UK time tomorrow, there's plenty to discuss for the men's singles competition. Over £4m has already been matched on the Exchange, and there will be plenty more to come in the next couple of weeks too.

Quite incredibly, the participation of world number one, top seed and tournament favourite Novak Djokovic is still not guaranteed with his difficulties with the various Australian authorities still showing little sign of abating.

Over £1.6m has been traded on Djokovic alone, with traders looking to take positions on whether he will actually take to the courts for his first round match.

83% chance of the top three winning the trophy

The Serb has been matched as low as 1.538/15 and as high as 5.004/1 in what is naturally a pretty volatile pre-tournament market and there's been a slight upward price trend in the last day or two, and he currently sits at 2.9215/8. Daniil Medvedev 3.39/4 and Alexander Zverev 5.39/2 are the only other two players in single-digit pricing in what looks a very top-heavy outright market.

In fact, the current Exchange market indicates that there's around an 83% chance of one of Djokovic, Medvedev and Zverev lifting the winners trophy in several weeks time, accurately illustrating quite how top-heavy the market is.

Implications of the last week on Djokovic difficult to predict

While we already know the long-term quality of Djokovic, and the difficulties he's faced over the last week or so in Australia are well documented, it's worth noting that he only ranks fourth for combined service hold percentage + return points won percentage in the top 10 on hard court in the last 12 months. Particularly considering the tricky situation the world number one faces currently, I'd be pretty nervous if I held a big position on Djokovic.

What we don't know is how much the last week has affected Djokovic. Staying in a detention hotel for a few days surely isn't of any benefit to him, and a lack of practice is just one implication of that.

There could well be anger towards the Australian authorities, which may ultimately turn out to be either a positive or a negative to his chances. The problem is, we don't know at this current time!

Medvedev and Zverev clearly the next-best

MedvedevTwoHanded1280.jpg

Second favourite Medvedev looks pretty well-placed to take advantage. The Russian is the number two seed as well as being second favourite in the market at the time of writing, and he possesses the highest combined hard court percentage across the last 12 months, at almost 5% ahead of Djokovic. Both Medvedev and Djokovic also have strong records against top ten opposition in the last year - a critical requirement given the likelihood of needing to face two or three top ten opponents to win the tournament.

Only Alexander Zverev of the other market leaders (anyone priced 150.00149/1 or below) has a positive record against top ten opposition in the last year, and so it's pretty unsurprising to see him chalked up as the third favourite. Both him and Rafa Nadal also have better hard court numbers by the previously discussed combined percentage metric on hard courts in the last 12 months than Djokovic, but neither can match Medvedev, who is around 3% clear of the field for this.

Nadal still with something to prove

As for Nadal, he continues his return from a foot injury and that's probably at least some factor towards his current 13.5 price. A title last week in Melbourne will be a boost to the King of Clay, but it's also worth pointing out that he didn't face a single opponent ranked inside the top 90, didn't dominate any of his opponents and also benefited from only playing three matches due to Tallon Griekspoor's withdrawal from their quarter-final. While Nadal should benefit from last week in Melbourne, seven best of five set matches won't be easy, particularly as seedings could mean he faces all of the top three en route to the final.

All other players in the market are priced in excess of 40.039/1, and have weaker return numbers than the quartet leading the market. This is major factor towards the market pricing, as it's so difficult to win a Slam without markedly above-average return ability. The implications of this are pretty clear - if you can't break opposition regularly, then matches and sets will likely last longer, and then the effect of accumulated fatigue kicks in as well during the second week.

With the outright market so top-heavy, outright options will likely focus on quarter winner markets, and I'll be returning to discuss those over the weekend following tomorrow's draw.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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