Following Friday's draw, the Australian Open gets started on Monday. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, is back to discuss the draw for the contenders in the men's tournament and to look at outright options...
"Sinner is now 10 unbeaten on the main tour, with two titles in Sofia and also this week in Melbourne, and while there’s a slight concern about overplaying this week and a fairly tough opening draw, the price differential between the duo makes that gamble potentially worth taking."
Market shortens Djokovic as favourite
The main beneficiaries of Friday's draw are clear from looking at the outright market. Novak Djokovic has firmed into 2.3811/8 favourite, from around 2.608/5 earlier in the week, while market confidence on Daniil Medvedev has also been in evidence, with the Russian now a clear 5.509/2 second favourite. Conversely, both Dominic Thiem 9.809/1 and Rafa Nadal 10.519/2 are friendless in the market, for various reasons which we will discuss shortly.
Top four in the market likely to dominate
Dominance of the major players in the men's market is certainly not a new phenomenon, but it's also worth making the point that the top four in the market have around an 80% implied chance of winning this tournament, based on current outright prices on the Exchange. Given the statistical dominance of three of these players over the field on hard courts, this isn't entirely a surprise and regular followers of men's Grand Slam tennis will only be too aware that underdogs rarely make even the finals of these tournaments, let alone winning them.
Rublev and Sinner pick of second tier players
It's easy to be seduced by a number of second tier players in the draw, but in many cases that looks to be a mistake. The likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas 16.5 and Nick Kyrgios 50.049/1 have mediocre return data, and in Kyrgios' case, he hardly inspired this week in his first tournament since February 2020.
Unfortunately for this duo, and to some extent Denis Shapovalov 150.0149/1, strong return data is a key driver to Grand Slam success over the last decade or so.
This is absolutely logical too, given the obvious benefits of avoiding long sets and long matches plus high variance spots in the biggest test of fitness in the sport. Big-servers tend to be drawn into long battles, which is a big problem for the accumulated fatigue for those players.
Of those second tier players, I think Andrey Rublev 27.026/1 and Jannik Sinner 70.069/1 have more current and probably long-term upside than the likes of Tsitsipas and Kyrgios. They have better return data, are on an obvious upward curve in terms of converting potential into results - Rublev won five tournaments last year - and have both shown almost an 80% winrate since the tour in August 2020. Rublev is running at almost 109% combined serve/return points won in this time period, which is not far from elite level, while the younger Sinner is at around 106% - magnificent numbers for a 19-year-old.
Rublev has a nice few rounds to get his tournament underway, with Yannick Hanfmann, Thiago Monteiro and the current version of Sam Querrey unlikely to provide much resistance, but he's also got a huge negative in terms of being drawn in the same quarter as Medvedev, who is a player I am not keen to look at taking on right now - he's 14 unbeaten and exhibited a strong level this week in four matches at the ATP Cup. I wouldn't be surprised if Medvedev really pushed Djokovic and Nadal throughout this year, and realistically, beyond it as well.
Sinner can come through tricky early draw
Given this, Sinner looks worth a look in quarter two - Thiem's quarter. Despite strong results including the US Open title for Thiem in 2020, I'm still unconvinced about him on hard courts, and also particularly on quicker hard courts.
Since the tour resumed, the duo have a similar winrate, and while Thiem has a slight edge on serve data, it is the Italian prospect who has better return data. Thiem has overperformed on key points and that type of data tends to mean-revert in time.
Sinner is now 10 unbeaten on the main tour, with two titles in Sofia and also this week in Melbourne, and while there's a slight concern about overplaying this week and a fairly tough opening draw, the price differential between the duo makes that gamble potentially worth taking. Sinner is around 9.008/1 to win quarter two, much bigger than the 2.407/5 about Thiem, and he looks the value in the second quarter in my view even with a tricky early draw which includes the Canadian duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Djokovic heavy odds-on to win his quarter
Djokovic and Nadal dominate the top and bottom quarters, respectively - Djokovic is strong odds-on to come through the bracket - and only really Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev are likely to provide realistic tests for the world number one. Nadal is joined by Matteo Berrettini, Alex De Minaur and the aforementioned Tsitsipas in the fourth quarter, and if it wasn't for a lack of game time this year (he's not played since the ATP Tour Finals last season), the price on Nadal to win the title, and also quarter four at around 2.305/4 would be quite generous.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings