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Best Bets for the 2017 Australian Open

From Claire Siblot.
December 2016.

The Australian Open is the opening Grand Slam on the new calendar year and is normally one of the toughest tournaments to win given the heat in Melbourne and with the event coming so early into the season.

Back in January Novak Djokovic joined Roy Emerson by winning the men's event for the sixth time when he beat Andy Murray in the final in straight sets. If successful in 2017, he will have won in Melbourne more times than any other player in the history of men's tennis. In the women's competition, Angelique Kerber won her maiden Grand Slam title after beating Serena Williams in the final 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Here is a look at the best bets for the 2017 tournament which begins on January 16 at Melbourne Park with the men's final bringing up the end of the competition on January 29.

Murray Can Win a Final at Sixth Time of Asking

Although Murray has to yet to win the Australian Open, the British number one has done extremely well at the event so far in his career, as he has reached the final Down Under on five different occasions.

Murray first reached the final in Melbourne in 2010 where he beat the second seed Rafael Nadal in the quarter-final before despatching Marin Cilic in the last four to book a showdown against Roger Federer. Sadly for the British number one, he was no match for the Swiss player in the final as he swept away Murray in straight sets.

In 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016 Murray was beaten in the final on each occasion by Djokovic - who has dominated the Australian Grand Slam over the last decade. In those four finals Murray has won just two sets.

Andy Murray, Olympics 2012 (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Marianne Bevis

Murray ended the 2016 as world number one in what was arguably the best season of his career to date. He won his second singles title at Wimbledon, his home Grand Slam, while just weeks later he was successful in Rio at the Olympics where he picked up another gold medal to go with the one he won in London in 2012.

Arguably the most pleasing win of last season for the Scotsman was his victory over Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Finals. Not only did he claim the title at the O2 Arena for the first time, he defended his number-one ranking, which will give him a great deal of confidence going into the new year. In the final against the Serbian, Murray prevailed in straight sets in front of his home crowd, just 24 hours after he saved match point against Milos Raonic in what went into a deciding tie-breaker in their semi-final match-up.

Murray is the favourite in the betting to be crowned the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for his achievements in 2016. He has already won the award twice and comes up against a host of Olympic champions this year. He has also been tipped to receive a knighthood in the Queen's New Year honours list.

One of the reasons as to why Murray has been able to reach five Australian Open finals is because he trains extremely hard in the off-season in order to ensure he is as fit as he can be for the opening Grand Slam of the year. If it wasn't for Djokovic's dominance in this tournament and in men's tennis in recent years, the newly-crowned world number one would probably have four titles to his name in Melbourne.

Although Djokovic won two Grand Slam titles in 2016, there were signs that the Serbian's game was on a decline last season. He was on course for the Calendar Grand Slam after wins at the Australian Open and French Open but then he was surprisingly beaten in the third round of Wimbledon by Sam Querrey. He was able to reach the final of the US Open in September but he lost a four-set match to Stan Wawrinka in New York in another surprise defeat.

At Australian Open odds of 2.63 for the title, Murray looks to be the best bet to come out on top ahead of Djokovic. The top two in the world rankings are likely to win their respective halves of the draw again and meet in the final for a fifth time but the British player can come out on top on this occasion and bring his Grand Slam tally up to four in what could a huge year for the 29-year-old in 2017.

Murray is improving all the time on clay courts. He reached the final of the French Open for the first time in 2016. He will then return to defend his Wimbledon title in the summer. He is a former winner of the US Open. That tournament brought up his maiden Grand Slam success in 2012.

Del Boy Set for Return on Big Stage

If you are looking to back a player at a much higher price, Juan Martin Del Potro stands out at 17.0 in the outright market for the 2017 Australian Open. The Argentine has struggled with injuries since he beat Federer in the final of the US Open in 2009, but there were signs last season that he was starting to find his best game again.

Del Potro reached the final of the men's singles tournament at the Olympics in Rio where he beat the number one seed Djokovic in the opening round. Wins followed over Joao Sousa, Taro Daniel, Roberto Bautista Agut and Nadal before the final. Unfortunstely, Del Boy was unable to win gold for Argentina as he was beaten in four sets by Murray in a closely fought contest.

Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina (CC BY-ND 2.0) by .curt.

The Argentine number one did play a huge part though in helping his country to their first Davis Cup success this year. In their semi-final over Great Britain, Del Potro gained revenge on Murray by beating him in their singles rubber. The pair played for five hours and seven minutes and although Murray led 2-1 in sets, he fell 3-2 to the big serving man from Tandil in what was always going to be the crucial tie of the semi-final.

In the final against Croatia, Del Potro once again played a huge role for his country. He was able to defeat Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3, 7-5 on day one of the tie, while on the final day of the match, he came from two sets down to beat Cilic to keep his side's hopes alive going into the last rubber which was won by Del Potro's teammate Federico Delbonis.

Del Potro should have a bigger impact on the Grand Slams in 2017 if he keeps up the form he showed in spells at the back end of last season and he can start the year with a big run in the Australian Open.

Recommended bets

Andy Murray to win 2017 Men's Australian Open @ 2.63

Juan Martin Del Potro each-way bet for 2017 Men's Australian Open @ 17.0

 

Kerber's Win Last Year Was No Fluke

At the age of 28, Kerber won her first Grand Slam title of her career in 2016 at the Australian Open in what really was a breakthrough year for the German, who is now ranked as the number one player in the women's game.

Kerber went into the 2016 Australian Open at 34.0 in the betting, as she had never previously gone further than the fourth round in Melbourne, while her record in Grand Slam tournaments wasn't great either, Her previous best finish was the semi-final of the US Open in 2011 and Wimbledon in 2012.

In the run-in to the final, Kerber beat Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively before her showdown with Serena Williams. Not many people gave her a chance against arguably the best player in the history of women's tennis. The German was able to win the first set 6-4. Once Williams levelled the match after taking the second set 6-3, the momentum was expected to be with the number one seed, however, Kerber surprised the world by edging the final set 6-4 to claim the trophy.

ANGELIQUE KERBER (CC BY-SA 2.0) by NAPARAZZI

The win in Melbourne clearly did wonders for Kerber's career as she reached the final of Wimbledon later that year with big wins coming over Simona Halep and Venus Williams. Sadly for the Australian Open champion, she was unable to get better of Serena on grass as the American claimed her 7th title in the tournament.

A third Grand Slam final of the year came in the US Open for Kerber where she ended the tournament in style to win at Flushing Meadows. The 28-year-old got the better of Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova in three sets in Queens, New York.

Despite her success in 2016, Kerber has still been underestimated in the betting for the 2017 Australian Open where she is 6.0 to defend her crown in Melbourne. Although she is no longer world number one, Serena has to be the favourite but she looks a little too short at 2.88 to win her seventh Australian Open title. The two players should be the top two seeds in the draw so unless there is an upset early, it would be no surprise to see the best two players in the women's game battling it out again for the trophy. If they do, Kerber won't fear her opponent as she knows she has the game to beat her.

Madison May Have the Keys to a Big Run in Melbourne

Madison Keys is set to appear in her sixth Australian Open next month, despite being only 21 years old. The big-serving American has been tipped to become the number one ranked player in the world one day and next year could be her time to shine by become a Grand Slam winner.

Keys reached the semi-final in Melbourne in 2015 when she was just a teenager. The youngster had wins over the number four seed Petra Kvitova and former winner Venus Williams before losing to Serena in the last four of the tournament 7-6 (7), 6-2.

Madison Keys (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Kulitat

2016 has been a big success for Keys as she broke inside the world's top 10 where she is currently ranked eighth following the WTA Finals in Singapore. She started the season in Melbourne where she could only reach the fourth round of the Australian Open as she was carrying an injury.

In April the American changed her coaching team and is now working with Thomas Hogstedt. She has made a lot of progress under Maria Sharapova's former coach. Not long after the new appointment, she reached the biggest final of her career in Rome. Sadly for Keys she came up against Serena, who was at her best to deny her the title in Italy.

Keys' second career title came on the grass in the Aegon Classic in Birmingham last summer. That success allowed her to break into the world's top 10 for the very first time. She has since been as high as number seven. If she continues to improve in 2017, it won't be long before she is inside the top five.

The 21-year old's season got better at the Rogers' Cup where she also reached the final in Canada, losing in straight sets to Halep. Keys will be very disappointed that she never went further than the fourth round at any of the Grand Slams in 2016. Like all young players, she just needs one big run to the final at either of the major events and she could then be a regular in the latter stages.

At 27.0 she looks to be a little overpriced, therefore she is worth siding with each-way bet for the Melbourne Park event. Unlike 12 months ago, she will have a full off-season where she can prepare for the tournament. Her run in 2015 suggests she can handle the heat in the Australian city and the hard court certainly appear to suit her game.

Recommended bets

Angelique Kerber to win the 2017 Women's Australian Open @ 7.0

Madison Keys each-way bet in the 2017 Women's Australian Open @ 27.0

 

 

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