Andy Murray has been on an incredible run of form stretching back to last summer and will be determined to lift the trophy at Melbourne Park for the first time after five previous defeats in the final. Great rival Novak Djokovic has got the better of him on four of those occasions and served notice that he was back to form in a high-quality three-set victory over Murray at the Qatar Open.
A six-time winner in Australia, Djokovic is the slight favourite ahead of Murray with bookies. The draw has thrown up tricky obstacles for both men - Djokovic’s first-round opponent is the hard-hitting Fernando Verdasco, who had match points to beat the Serb in Qatar, while Stan Wawrinka and the fit-again Roger Federer are both in Murray’s half of the draw - but Murray and Djokovic are currently so superior to the rest of the field that odds of 7/4 on the pair meeting in the final still look generous.
Elsewhere in the draw, it is probably unfair to expect too much of Federer after he missed most of 2016 due to injury, and with Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori in his section he may not even make it through to a potential quarter-final against Murray. The most open quarter is probably the third, which contains world No.3 Milos Raonic and flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils as the highest ranked players, along with Rafael Nadal. German teenager Alexander Zverev may be the one to watch, though, with an opportunity to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Andy Murray to play Novak Djokovic in the final - 7/4
Serena Williams is still the player to beat at the age of 35, and victory in Australia would see her eclipse Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam titles. However, she struggled with injuries towards the end of 2016 and started the new year with a second-round loss to Madison Brengle in Auckland.
Williams is also in what looks to be the tougher half of the draw, with Karolina Pliskova the main threat. The big-serving Czech player won the Brisbane International at the start of 2017, having also reached the US Open final last year. Britain’s Johanna Konta is also in the bottom half of the draw, and even her path to a potential quarter-final with Serena is fraught with danger.
However, Konta has good memories of the Australian Open after making the semi-finals last year and warming up for this year’s title with a hugely impressive victory at the Sydney International. The advantage of having a difficult draw in betting terms is that the odds can be more favourable, and Konta - who was born in Sydney - can be backed at 25/1. If Konta is too much of a punt, however, Garbine Muguruza has the power and big-match temperament to come through the top half and may be worth an Each Way flutter.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Each Way on Garbine Muguruza to win the Australian Open - 10/1
A British Double?
Konta is in such good form and her odds are so enticing that it is an attractive option to combine a bet on the two top British players, even if she faces a mighty challenge and Murray will probably have to get past Djokovic for the first time in Australia.
- A Double on Andy Murray (7/4) and Johanna Konta (25/1) - 70.5/1