The Australian Open is one of the first major sporting events of 2015 and it can pay next year to back Novak Djokovic to win the Grand Slam event for a fifth time at a venue where the world number one has enjoyed a lot of success at in the past.
Djokovic secured his maiden Grand Slam title in the Australian Open in 2008 when beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final in Melbourne. It took him another three years to win another major but it arrived in the same tournament. His victory in 2011 kick-started his career as one of the best players in the game and was his first of three Grand Slams in the same calendar year.
Unfortunately, the Serbian is likely to go off just better than evens at the start of the 2015 Australian Open, something which may not be everyone’s idea of a backable price for an event which lasts just over two weeks. However, sometimes patience can prove to be very wise, as on paper, Djokovic looks a short odds-on shot to wrap up the eighth Grand Slam of his career.
The year of 2014 was not the best season of Djokovic’s career by his high standards as just one Grand Slam came his way, victory at Wimbledon following a five-set mammoth encounter against Roger Federer. At the back end of 2014, he was able to come out on top in the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London. On that occasion, it was a walkover in the final as Federer pulled out through a back injury, but he was a warm favourite to win that tie after playing some good tennis up until that point.
Djokovic can be the first step in many multiple bets in 2015. He will hopefully get your doubles, trebles and accumulators off to a flying start. To keep the Australian theme, add the hosts to win the cricket World Cup in 50 overs cricket, while favourites Hawthorn look worthy 3/1 markets leaders in the Australian Rules’ AFL Grand Final outright market with betfair.
The biggest threat to Djokovic in Melbourne is likely to be Federer. The Swiss played some of the best tennis of his career in 2014. He pushed Djokovic all the way on his favourite grass surface at Wimbledon and played an integral role in Switzerland’s victory in the Davis Cup. The big concern for backers of Federer is the back injury which ruled him out of the final in London. It is OK playing a final of a team competition but in order to win a Grand Slam, you need to be 100 per cent fit so he will have needed to have fully recovered during the off-season to be within a chance of winning the trophy.
Federer is approaching his 34th birthday in 2015 and it is fair to say his best years on a tennis court are behind him. He is defying all the critics who have said he can no longer complete with the very best in the game at his age. However, he is without a major since he landed his seventh Wimbledon title in 2012 and, although he is a four-time winner of the Australian Open, his last success in this tournament was in 2010 when he beat Andy Murray in straight sets for the crown.
Along with Murray and Rafael Nadal, Djokovic is one of only three players who have a double figure number of wins over Federer in his career. Overall, the Swiss star does have a better head-to-head record, but if you judged that figure on recent match ups in the last couple of years, Djokovic would be well ahead.
Both players are likely to be kept apart until the final if they get through their respective halves so Djokovic would not have to worry about the threat of the 17-time Grand Slam and arguably the greatest tennis player in history until the last match of the tournament.
The most interesting player going into the 2015 Australian Open next month has to be Murray. The British number one has struggled with injuries over the past 12 months which has had an impact on his form.
Murray would have appreciated the off-season more than any player on tour as the rest would have done him good as he prepares for the new season ahead.
Although he is a Grand Slam winner himself, Murray has never gone all the way in the Australian Open. He was beaten in the final in 2010, 2011 and 2013. He generally starts the season well Down Under but falls short in the big game.
The Brit is someone who may be worth backing at the latter stages of this season once he does find his old form again but for now there are too many question marks about his game to be going in with confidence.
It is still unclear at this stage about the participation of Rafael Nadal, who won the Australian Open in 2009. The former world number one had to miss the ATP Tour Finals in London as he had an appendix removed.
Nadal has always aimed to be back for the opening Grand Slam of the year, where he will be aiming to go one better than 12 months ago when he lost in the final to Stan Wawrinka. For similar reasons to Murray, it would be a big ask for the Spaniard to go all the way in this tournament after coming back from surgery which has left him without any competitive tennis for over three months.
Best of the Rest
If you are looking for alternative bets to Djokovic winning the tournament, it might be worth backing a Djokovic/Federer final as they look the most likely candidates to play out that match at that stage. In terms of each-way alternatives, Grigor Dimitrov is not too far away from winning a Grand Slam and is probably the most likely of the non-major winners to break his maiden tag at some point in 2015.