The first tennis Grand Slam of the year gets under way Down Under next week, as the sport's biggest stars descend on Melbourne for the 103rd Australian Open.
Swiss number two Stan Wawrinka was the surprise victor in the men’s draw last year, as he saw off Rafael Nadal to win his first Grand Slam title. On the women’s side, Li Na won her second and final Slam, before retiring due to a knee injury in September.
Wawrinka is 14/1 with William Hill Sports to reclaim his crown, although he will of course face stiff competition from some true greats of the men’s game. Roger Federer this week claimed his 1,000th singles win – best priced at 11/2 with Bet365 Sports.
Great Britain’s Andy Murray is widely available at 7/1, having won the Mubadala World Championship earlier this year, after Novak Djokovic withdrew before the final due to illness. Murray comfortably defeated Rafael Nadal in the semi-final in Abu Dhabi; having suffered an injury-plagued 2014, the Spaniard fails to give value at odds of 8/1 with Betfred Sports.
The overwhelming favourite to win is Serbian Novak Djokovic, the current world number one and winner of the season-ending ATP Tour Finals in December. He’s best priced at evens with Coral Sports, while other options include US Open finalist Kei Nishikori (14/1), Queen's Club winner Grigor Dimitrov (25/1) and this week’s Qatar Open champion David Ferrer (80/1).
In the women’s draw, world number one Serena Williams is the bookies favourite to take the title, after winning the US Open and WTA Tour Finals in 2014. The powerful American is 9/4 with Betway Sports to win her sixth Melbourne title. Her biggest challenge could come from the two other Grand Slam winners from last year: Russian superstar Maria Sharapova won the French Open crown and is 11/2 with Bet365 Sports, while big-hitting Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova is 11/1 with Coral Sports.
The surprise package on the women’s tour last year was the success of the young pretenders, with Romanian Simona Halep and Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard leading the way. Runner-up at the French Open and Tour Finals, Halep is widely available at 7/1, while the 20-year-old Wimbledon finalist Bouchard is 15/1 with Betway, having comfortably beaten Serena Williams in straight sets in the Hopman Cup last week.
Elsewhere, 2013 champion Victoria Azarenka is 13/1 with 888 Sports, Dane Caroline Wozniacki is 12/1 with Betway Sports after returning to form last year, while the in-form Venus Williams is a 50/1 long shot with 888 Sports, having won her 46th WTA title at the Auckland Classic on Saturday.
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