Australian Open

Australian Open Men's Singles: Who can topple ten time champ Djokovic?

Novak Djokovic
Who can topple Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open?

Gavin Mair previews the men's draw at the Australian Open, where Novak Djokovic rules the roost. A new generation is biting at his heels, but will he shake them off?

  • Djokovic 10/111.91 to make it 11 Aussie Open wins

  • Well balanced draw sets champion on course for young guns

  • Sinner strongest case to upset the odds

Dominant Djokovic

Novak Djokovic starting the year by claiming the first tennis Grand Slam tournament is as ingrained into the calendar as your own birthday or Christmas.

The Serbian great has made it a habit of leaving Australia each January carrying the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, doing so in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023!

I imagine by now Melbourne Airport is generous and understanding that the passenger Mr Djokovic is allowed an extra piece of baggage on his return flight at the end of the month.

In the years where he didn't win you wouldn't be able to trigger a Pointless answer by guessing the other champions with fellow legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal claiming all but one of the alternate titles since 2006 - the other won by a peak performing Stan Wawrinka in 2014.

The weight of history is therefore huge and it goes without saying it will take something special to loosen Djokovic's stanglehold. One generation after the other has tried and fallen short, with the Andy Murray's and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's of the world replaced by contemporaries such as Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

A fearless generation

Despite Djokovic's spectacular longevity there are new kids on the block that have shown they are not only capable of giving Novak a bloody nose, they quite enjoy doing it too.

Carlos Alcaraz stopped Novak from claiming the coveted calendar Grand Slam last year by triumphing in a classic Wimbledon final. It is no surprise that Carlitos is second favourite in the market at 10/34.33. There is no player in the sport with a higher upside, as he blends together the physical profile of Nadal with the flair and creativity of Federer.

Time will tell if he comes close to matching the careers of either of those sporting Gods but he has all the tools and plenty of years ahead of him to try.

For now though he is still piecing everything together. His best and most consistent work is done on the natural surfaces of clay and grass, but the 2022 US Open champion is no mug on the hard courts either.

Alcaraz has however had his wings clipped in recent important encounters against Djokovic and while the sky is the limit for the Spaniard it feels like Novak would find a way (for now) to survive that challenge should they, as the top two seeds, meet in the final.

In my opinion the more interesting alternative to Djokovic is from Italian upstart Jannik Sinner. The 22 year old ended 2022 in impressive fashion winning a string of titles, including leading his nation's charge to Davis Cup glory.

Significantly, Sinner defeated Djokovic not once, but twice towards the end of the year. The first in the group stage of the Tour Championships, and the second in the semifinal of that Davis Cup run. It should be noted however that Djokovic did handily dispatch an evidently fatigued Sinner in the final of the Tour Championships.

Nevertheless, Sinner is a serious player that does his best work on hard courts. According to the ELO ratings he actually holds a higher score than Djokovic on the surface - the only player that can claim this.

Sinner has snagged a top four seeding, allowing the skiing enthusiast a smooth track towards the finishing line. He will need to slalom past either Aussie home hope Alex de Minaur or top 10 staple Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals but he would be a clear favourite in either of those meetings.

Come through that and he has Djokovic in the semis. I think it is fair to say that you would rather play Djokovic at that stage than in the final as the chance of fatigue is less (important given their history) and of course Novak has yet to lose a final in Melbourne.

Sinner at 13/27.50 is the bet for me.

Back Jannik Sinner to Win the Australian Open @ 13/27.50

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Top 4 Happy?

The highest four seeds should all be pretty satisfied with their draw. If Djokovic looks down his quarter he'll read names from triumphs-past such as Murray, Wawrinka and Monfils, and in the quarters he's scheduled to play Stefanos Tsitsipas - who he has beaten in each of their last 9 meetings including a straight sets win in the 2023 final.

Before the aforementioned quarter-final Sinner potentially has 2023 semi-finalist Karen Khachanov to contend with in the round of 16, but he should hurdle him without too much bother.

There are a batch of names that may bother 2021 and 2022 Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev in the third quarter but he is a justified favourite to come through.

Holger Rune, Grigor Dimitrov, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Felix Auger-Aliassime all have the talent to cause the Russian a hard time and it wouldn't surprise me to see one of these guys upset the apple cart.

Of these players there is value with Davidovich Fokina who is priced at 1000.0999/1 on the exchange. The Spaniard has an attractive playing style, but is prone to volatility and taking the circuitous route in getting the job done.

He is a top 20 player on hard court, has sparkled in his early season showings and is not someone you want to face on a good day. Given the scramble that may emerge in this quarter why not consider him as either a back to lay option, or as quarter winner once the Sportsbook go live with that particular market.

The fourth quarter isn't laden with jeopardy for Alcaraz but he will have to be sharp focussed to dispatch one of Alexander Zverev, Jiri Lehecka or Tommy Paul - all of whom have course form.

Toppling Djokovic won't be easy but there are a few bright sparks who will fancy their chances. The rule of Djokovic might be ended by a young Sinner.

Now read more Aussie Open tips and previews here.

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