Andy Murray will be a notable absentee after undergoing hip surgery, but Rafael Nadal has recovered from the knee injury which forced him out of the ATP World Tour Finals and Novak Djokovic is finally back in action after six months out with an elbow problem. Djokovic looked particularly impressive on his return to the court at the Kooyong Classic and will interest a lot of bettors at around 11/2, but there is a danger at this stage that he might be a bit undercooked and he will also face a much tougher draw than usual in Melbourne, after his world ranking slipped to 14.
Roger Federer, a five-time winner and champion last year, is the clear favourite and if he reproduces his remarkable level of performance from 2017 could perhaps only be stopped by Djokovic at his best, with Nadal a little less suited to the Australian Open. However, there are a number of other intriguing names in the mix who could be ready to emerge from the shadows.
Rising star Alexander Zverev has flattered to deceive at Grand Slams so far and did not finish last year too strongly, but Grigor Dimitrov finally seems to have come of age after winning the World Tour Finals in November. A semi-finalist in Melbourne last year, the Bulgarian will fancy his chances if he gets a kind draw.
David Goffin, runner-up to Dimitrov at the O2 Arena and brilliant in the Davis Cup, can be found at 20/1, while the explosive Nick Kyrgios warmed up for his home Grand Slam with a title at the Brisbane International and looks good value at around 16/1. However, Kyrgios is still too inconsistent to back with any confidence and a better bet might be on Juan Martin del Potro. The lovable Argentine finished last year with a flourish, beating Roger Federer on his way to the US Open semi-finals, winning in Stockholm and rising from 47th in the world to 11th in the space of a couple of months. Now seemingly free of the wrist worries which have plagued him for years, an Each Way flutter on Delpo at 16/1 could pay dividends.
Sports.net’s Top Tip:
Juan Martin del Potro
Predicting the winner of a women’s Grand Slam singles title can appear as tricky as trying to land a lottery jackpot, such has been the state of flux at the top of the game over the past 12 months. With Serena Williams not quite able to take her place in the draw after having a baby in September, Simona Halep will start as the No.1 seed and one of several players who the bookies don’t seem to be able to split.
Romanian counterpuncher Halep, the consistent Elina Svitolina, the big-serving Karolina Pliskova and the powerful Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza are all serious contenders, along with the in-form Caroline Wozniacki, veteran American Venus Williams and the returning Maria Sharapova. Julia Goerges and Caroline Garcia have also posted some fantastic results recently, while anyone looking for even more of a dark horse may wish to consider Belinda Bencic or Aryna Sabalenka. Bencic is back to fitness after a string of injury problems, while hard-hitting teenager Sabalenka’s odds are as long as 80/1.
Taking into account the odds, recent form and their overall record, the player who perhaps stands out above the rest is Germany’s Angelique Kerber. Ranked No.1 in the world this time last year, Kerber had a poor start to 2017 but appears reinvigorated this season after hiring Wim Fissette as her new coach in November. She was unbeaten in the Hopman Cup and carried on her good form with a win over Venus Williams at the Sydney International. An Australian Open champion as recently as 2016, Kerber has the athleticism and all-court game to come through for another title from a price of 12/1.
Sports.net’s Top Tip
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.