Tennis players do not get a great deal of down time and the Australian Open, one of the four most important events on the sport’s annual calendar, gets under way not very long after they have finished eating their Christmas dinners.
Just a few years ago there were serious discussions at the top level of tennis about moving what is known as the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific not only away from January to either February or March but also away from Australia to another country in the region both closer to Europe for broadcast convenience and larger for commercial considerations.
The Australian Open’s early start is the major reason put forward by tennis experts to explain why the tournament produces so many unexpected finalists, especially in the men’s singles event. Recently the likes of Marcos Baghdatis (2006 runner-up) Fernando Gonzalez (2007 runner-up) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2008 runner-up) have made their names with deep runs on the Melbourne Park hard courts.
Baghdatis, whose Cypriot heritage meant that he enjoyed huge support from the Australian Open crowds – more Greeks live in Melbourne than in any city except Athens – had a dream early draw but the unseeded showman had to beat Andy Roddick, Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian in the fourth round, quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively to face Roger Federer in the final. Baghdatis stunned Federer by winning the first set but the Swiss superstar rallied to triumph 5-7 7-5 6-0 6-2 in the 166-minute title decider.
Gonzalez was the number 10 seed but he did incredibly well to beat Juan Martin del Potro, Lleyton Hewitt, James Blake, Nadal and Tommy Haas from the second rounds onwards before losing 6-7 4-6 4-6 to Federer in the championship match.
And Tsonga was unseeded in 2008 but that did not prevent the Frenchman eliminating Andy Murray in the first round, accounting for countryman Richard Gasquet in the fourth round, thrashing Mikhail Youzhny in the quarter-finals and crushing Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. Like Baghdatis two years earlier, Tsonga won the first set of his final but Djokovic bounced back to prevail 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6.
But while there have been several surprise finalists since the turn of the century – one could add Arnaud Clement (2001 runner-up), Thomas Johansson (2002 winner), Rainer Schuttler (2003 runner-up) and, in the women’s singles, Li Na (2011 runner-up) to the list of impressive underdogs – the cream usually rises to the top and wins the Australian Open.
As always it’s hard to look past the big four when picking a winner for this years Australian Open
Williams the pick of the hot singles favourites
Talking of the cream, Djokovic and Serena Williams will start the 2013 Australian Open men’s singles and women’s singles respectively as hot favourites. It is possible to build a case against Djokovic even though he has a superb draw – Murray is in the form of his life and now has the belief required to win major tournaments regularly – but there is no argument to be made against Williams.
Quite simply, if Williams, who has won 15 Grand Slam singles titles and another 15 Grand Slam doubles crowns, produces anything approaching her best form then she will cruise to her fifth Australian Open women’s singles success.
Williams has been almost unbeatable since she crashed out of the 2011 French Open women’s singles in the first round, the first time that she had not won a match in a major ever and she has been competing in them for 15 years. Williams has won 36 of her last 37 women’s singles matches, winning the London 2012 Olympic Games and US Open championships and warming up for the 2013 Australian Open by winning the Brisbane International without dropping a set. Indeed, Williams dropped only 17 games in her five matches.
Note: You can check all the results from past ATP tour events here.
So superior is Williams to the other 2013 Australian Open women’s singles participants that the draw really does not matter. According to the pre-tournament betting, bookmakers rate only Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova as serious threats and Williams has the wood on both of them. Williams leads Azarenka 11-1 and she is up 10-2 on Sharapova. The only woman who can beat Williams is herself and that does not seem likely to happen given her recent performances.
Bet on men’s singles matches with Paddy Power
One will go a long way to find a better betting offer than the one available at top bookmaker Paddy Power (www.paddypower.com). It is a cracker and means that one should consider placing all one’s 2013 Australian Open men’s singles match bets with either of the betting firms.
Paddy Power will refund losing pre-match bets if the 2013 Australian Open men’s singles competitor whom you back loses in the fifth set. Of course, there are terms and conditions attached to the offer but the majority of punters will not breach the maximum refund limits.
Exactly how good is the offer? Well, there are 127 men’s singles matches in a Grand Slam tournament. No fewer than 27 of the 2012 Australian Open men’s singles matches went to five sets, with the breakdown being 13 in the first round, eight in the second round, three in the third round, one in the fourth round, none in the quarter-finals, one in the semi-finals and the epic final between Djokovic and Nadal that the Serb won 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5 in nearly six hours.
Twenty-seven out of 127 equates to a percentage of 21.3 and, with the 2011 Australian Open men’s singles and the 2010 Australian Open men’s singles featuring 21 and 25 five-set matches respectively, the medium-term average is 19.2%. And it would be fair to say that most smart punters could weed out quite a few matches, particularly in the first round, that are incredibly unlikely to go the full distance.
If one is backing anyone except British hero Murray to win the 2013 Australian Open men’s singles then BetVictor is the bookmaker to visit because it will refund all losing winner bets placed before the start of the second round, up to a maximum of 50 British pounds or currency equivalent per household, if Murray makes it two Grand Slam titles in a row. Unfortunately, BetVictor’s Murray Mint offer is restricted to punters resident in Australia, Austria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.