It is tradition that no sooner is the Australian Open over that tennis pundits discuss the possibility of a man and/or a woman completing a calendar Grand Slam of singles titles.
Bookmakers love to get in the act as well so it should come as no surprise to read that there are several markets out there regarding the number of Grand Slam singles titles that Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka each win in 2013.
Two Grand Slam singles titles this year is the Djokovic favourites at odds of around 5-4, while one Grand Slam singles title is the Azarenka favourite, odds on in many places but a shade of odds against with one bold firm.
No men’s singles player has completed a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969. Indeed, no men’s singles player since Rocket has held all four major titles – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open – concurrently, which goes to show the odds that Djokovic has to beat in order to achieve a feat that proved beyond, among others, modern greats Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras.
Federer has won three of the four Grand Slam men’s singles titles in the same year three times – 2004, 2006 and 2007 – Nadal won everything in 2010 except the Australian Open and Djokovic’s only 2011 failure came in the French Open.
No women’s singles player has completed a calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1998. The feat proved too tough for Martina Navratilova, although she did win six major titles in a row from Wimbledon in 1983 to the US Open in 1984. And Serena Williams pulled off the Serena Slam from the French Open in 2002 to the Australian Open in 2003.
Azarenka made the most of her luck to win the Australian Open for the second year in a row, capitalising on the unexpected exits of Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams – the former was brought down by a bad performance, whereas the latter came unstuck because of a bad ankle.
Will either of these two tennis stars be able to complete an unlikely Grand Slam in 2013?
Bookmakers are not giving anything away even with their 50-1 quotes about Azarenka completing the calendar Grand Slam in 2013. The Belarusian has not made it past the French Open quarter-finals in seven Roland Garros appearances and she has yet to take part in a Wimbledon championship match.
If Serena Williams can get and stay fit for the six weeks of the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open, one would have to say that Azarenka will struggle to win another major title this year. Remember the head-to-head between the American and the Belarusian stands at 11-1 in favour of the former.
Basically, anyone who backs Azarenka to add to her 2013 Grand Slam women’s singles title tally is betting that Serena Williams will break down again because, on the American’s day, she is very close to unbeatable.
So what about Djokovic’s chances of becoming only the third men’s singles player after Don Budge (1938) and Laver (1962 and 1969) to complete calendar Grand Slam? Bookmakers are quoting four titles for the Serbian at odds as low as 8-1 and as high as 16-1. The 16-1 odds are fair enough based on the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open markets that have Djokovic at 7-4, 9-4 and 15-8 respectively. The multiple works out at about 25-1 but one has to account for the shrinkage to the Serbian’s Wimbledon odds if he wins the French Open and his US Open odds if he arrives in New York having gone three from three between January and July.
With Nadal scheduled to play his first tournament in seven months next week, there could be some major changes to the ante-post Grand Slam men’s singles markets in the coming days, particularly if the Spaniard either breaks down or does not look a patch on his old self. Nadal has been so hard on his body throughout his career that one would not collapse in shock if he did not regain full fitness ever again. If Nadal is not 100 per cent, Djokovic could put himself alongside Budge and Laver in the history books.
The French Open shapes as a battle between Djokovic and Nadal. Andy Murray and Federer will be Wimbledon threats, although one cannot underestimate the amount of pressure that will be on the Briton’s shoulders and the Swiss is yesterday’s man. The US Open will be competitive but it takes place on the Serbian’s favourite surface, hard.
Grand Slam bets, whether they are in tennis or golf, have had a reputation of being for mug punters. This year, though, the 16-1 about Djokovic is worth a close look.