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The first major of the New Year kicks off Monday with the 2022 Australian Open. It’s already been an eventful affair with the drama surrounding world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, his vaccination status and whether he should play. Djokovic is still listed as the No. 1 seed of the ATP draw as of Thursday, but a lot can change from now until the start of the tournament. We're assuming Djokovic does play, but we'll lay out some options if he has to withdraw.
Novak Djokovic +135
Daniil Medvev +165
Alexander Zverev +400
Rafael Nadal +800
Jannik Sinner/Stefanos Tsitsipas +2000
Australian Open odds: Top half of the draw
If Djokovic plays he has a solid chance at reaching another Australian Open final, which is his most successful Grand Slam event. Djokovic has won 20 Grand Slam titles and nine at the Australian. He enters as the reigning champ and is on his second three-year winning streak at the event. Djokovic has never won four straight Australian Opens. Djokovic’s path to the final starts with fellow countryman Miomir Kecmanovic, followed by potential matchups against Tommy Paul, Lorenzo Sonego, and fan-favorite Frenchman Gael Monfils in the fourth round. The quarterfinals gets interesting.
A potential longer shot to reach the quarterfinals to face Djokovic — no, I’m not looking at the Italian big server Matteo Berrettini — is the next Spanish phenom Carlos Alcaraz. The potential third-round matchup between Berrettini and Alcaraz should be a good one. I’m looking forward to backing the Spaniard as an underdog in what could be a major breakout match at a major. Alcaraz has already shown the ability to beat the Italian, defeating him in Vienna last year. Ultimately, the first quarter belongs to Djokovic.
The second quarter is full of big names like 2020 U.S. Open finalist Alexander Zverev, clay-court god Rafael Nadal and Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who is perhaps best known for knocking out legend Roger Federer in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year in straight sets. This is Zvererv’s quarter to win. His deepest run here was the semis in 2020, but he’s certainly grown as a player. Zverev’s serve allows him to dictate play, but it’s compounded by his consistently effective baseline game. He can defeat anyone in his quarter if his serve is on.
Australian Open odds: Bottom half of the draw
This is the fun side. The favorite in the third quarter is the Greek God, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who had a chance to defeat Djokovic in last year’s French Open Final — he led two sets to love but ultimately lost in five. Also in this quarter is Casper Ruud, who made four semifinals last year and won five ATP titles.
The player I am most interested in, however, is Andy Murray, who has been clawing his way back up the rankings since hip surgeries dating to 2018. Murray is my dark horse to win the third quarter. Fitness has been his biggest weakness in his comeback, but he’s getting where he needs to be. It shouldn't be forgotten that Murray was part of the Big Four with Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer. His court sense is really sharp against this young crew, he has more variety in his game compared to most, and he knows how to pace himself in these two-week, five-set events. The Australian Open is where he's had the most success with five Aus Open finals and he has a favorable draw, so we could see Murray make some noise.
The fourth quarter belongs to world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and it’s not even close. He draws a favorable path to the final with his toughest tests being a possible fourth-round match against Diego Schwartzman and an in-form Dan Evans in the quarterfinals. The problem for any opponent facing Medvedev is his reach. He’s a taller version of Djokovic who lives on the baseline and doesn't let anything get past him. He’s a tall baseline grinder with a good serve, and the way to defeat him is with variety, pulling him both front and back, and side to side. Players on his side of the draw don’t have this type of game … except for Evans.
Evans is as comparable to Federer as you could get. The only thing Evans is missing is a more offensive backhand. He could make a match against Medvedev competitive, but ultimately Medvedev should get through.
Australian Open betting options
As mentioned above, odds are typically available for players to win each quarter, to reach the final, etc. Those are not available at the moment because of the potential change of Djokovic's status.
Players I would consider for the futures market:
To win first quarter — Novak Djokovic
To win second quarter — Alexander Zverev
To win third quarter— Andy Murray (longer shot that has merit)
To win fourth quarter — Daniil Medvedev
I'll be looking to wager on Carlos Alcaraz and Dan Evans in underdog roles.
Predicting the final
In a non-COVID world, it should be No. 1 Djokovic facing No. 2 Medvedev. Here’s the thing. If you wager on Djokovic, you are taking a risk that he doesn’t get forced out after the event has started or that he does not test positive during the tournament.
Last year for him to win the Australian Open, Djokovic was a +110 favorite. The fact that you are getting more value shows the potential risk that he may not get to the final.
If not Djokovic, then the final could be Zverev (+350) against Medvedev (+175). This is a toss-up match. Who lasts on the baseline longer? Who dictates play more effectively? For Zverev to win, he needs to be consistent with his serve and keep the points short.
You can wager on the futures market up until the quarters so don’t feel the pressure to buy in immediately. You can fade Djokovic entirely and look to just Zverev and Medvedev, or bet that Djokovic will be more determined than ever.
As Australian player Nick Kyrgios said about the situation, “If [Djokovic] plays, he's going to be very determined to play well and stick it to everyone for what's going on, and I don't want any part of that side of Novak. He'll have no problem preparing. This is just all added fuel for him."
One thing I do know, this should be another great Australian Open.