With the Australian Open just a few days away, players on the ATP Tour are getting some well-needed court time this week. Dan Weston returns to discuss the current men's outright market...
"The world number one appears relatively justified as the market leader despite an unimpressive end to 2020, which included a shock loss to Lorenzo Sonego in Vienna, plus defeats to market rivals Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev at the season-ending Tour Finals in London. "
Preparation and temperature question marks ahead of the Australian Open
In advance of the draw, my view is that the men's Australian Open is very difficult to have a concrete opinion on in advance of the tournament. For a start, there is little to go on in terms on recent performance levels, with there being a stop-start dynamic to this year's tour due to players needing to quarantine for several weeks in Australia in advance of the tournament.
Furthermore, the weather is likely to be considerably cooler in this year's event (played almost a month later than usual) than would generally be the case.
Early forecasts suggest the temperature will be around 20 degrees, which is a notable drop from recent years.
This could, in theory, make life a little easier for the men's players, who usually have to play best of five set matches in absurd heat. Men's Grand Slams are always a real test of fitness, and while I anticipate that this will be the case again here, a lower temperature could be positive for players recovery after winning long matches.
Djokovic leads the market
Novak Djokovic is the pre-tournament favourite, at 2.6413/8 currently. The world number one appears relatively justified as the market leader despite an unimpressive end to 2020, which included a shock loss to Lorenzo Sonego in Vienna, plus defeats to market rivals Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev at the season-ending Tour Finals in London.
Medvedev with edge over Thiem
Some early markets had Thiem ahead of Medvedev which made no sense to me - Medvedev's hard court numbers are much better over the last 12-18 months - and the Russian had a real breakthrough win at the Tour Finals (defeating Thiem in the final) in November. It's not a surprise now to see Medvedev ahead of Thiem in the market, and I think Medvedev has the potential to challenge the remaining two players of the traditional elite quartet - Djokovic and Nadal - this year.
Nadal threat in opposite half of draw to Djokovic
As for Nadal, the King of Clay could be slightly generously priced. He will be seeded to be in a different half to Djokovic, so will not be able to meet the world number one until the final.
A good draw for Nadal could see his price shorten in the run-up to the event.
A number of bettors might be looking towards the next tier of player to try and provide some value, but I'd urge some caution about a number of them in particular. Yes, there isn't as many traditional elite players as there used to be, but these second tier players generally struggle to make finals in Grand Slams - the best of five set format reduces variance and gives an advantage to the 'better' player.
Tsitsipas and Kyrgios look over-rated by the market
Of this bracket, I'd be particularly keen to almost draw a line through several players, including Stefanos Tsitsipas 17.016/1 and Nick Kyrgios 42.041/1. Tsitsipas' return data is relatively unimpressive compared to most of the top 20, which opens himself up to potentially longer sets, longer matches and higher variance, while the same can also be said of Kyrgios. The Australian also missed almost the entire 2020 season, last playing in February, and while he retains a high peak level, he's struggled to replicate this on a consistent basis.
He's struggled past two Challenger-level opponents to make round three of the Murray River Open this week, which at the time of writing isn't a great form line to take into the event either.
I'll be returning to finalise my outright picks after the draw. The likelihood is that I'll be focusing on the quarter winner market, and this will be extremely draw-dependent.
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