IT’S not difficult to predict who the punters’ favourites are to win this month’s 2016 Australian Open tennis titles.
The best tennis players in the world will converge on Melbourne to battle each other – and the sweltering summer heat – for a chance at grand slam glory from January 18-31.
And the men’s and women’s number one players, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are favoured to take out the title again, just as they did 12 months ago.
Djokoic, the odds on favourite for the title at $1.80 with Sportsbet.com.au, will head to Qatar to warm up in his bid for a sixth Australian Open final win.
The 25 year old Serb has become the most dominant player in men’s tennis, collecting a ridiculous $28.7 million in prize money in 2015 on his way to winning three of the four majors, while making the final of the French Open, only to lose to Stanislas Wawrinka.
The world number one is only the third man in history to reach the final of all four grand slams in a year.
You can bet he will be gunning to go one better and win them all in 2016 – the last man to do that was the great Rod Laver in 1969. It will be in the arena that was named for Laver that he will try to begin his emulation of the legend.
“Here we come again to a new season,” Djokovic said in a statement.
“I’m so happy to kick it off in Qatar again where the event is so well organised and I was well treated last year.
“I’m so excited to come back and perform at my best in this season opening tournament, stay tuned.”
Djokovic cut a swathe through the Australian Open draw last season and then cruised to a four set win over Andy Murray in the final, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 – reinforcing the fact that he owns both the Australian Open, and the Scotsman.
Can anyone beat the Djoker?
Murray will go into the tournament as a second favourite, but it’s his comments after the loss to Djokovic last year that just give you the air that he is happy winning plenty of dough and playing second fiddle to the greats, perhaps falling short of fulfilling his prodigious talent.
“Success is being happy,” Murray said.
“It’s not about winning every single tournament you play, because that isn’t possible.
“You want to win every event, that’s for sure.
“That’s what you prepare for.
“But no one in the history of this game has ever done that.
“You prepare as best as you can.
“I would rather lose in the final and be happy than win the final and go home and be miserable.
“So I try to enjoy my tennis more right now than I probably did at the beginning of my career – and everything that goes into it.
“Obviously I would have liked to have won today, but you can’t win all of them, unfortunately.
“I’m happy with everything that I put into the event.
“I couldn’t have done anything more to give myself a better chance to win.
“So I can’t be disappointed with that because I gave my best effort.
“That’s all I think you can ask of any athlete: to give themselves the best chance of winning.
“And I did that. I just wish I could have done a little bit better in the third set.”
Well done, mate, you tried, but we don’t think you’d ever hear words like this coming out of stone cold killer Djokovic’s mouth.
Speaking of a stone cold killer, the ageing Roger Federer is still the most popular player in tennis and he is the only other player apart from the aforementioned pair that is under double figure odds to win the men’s division.
He is a $9 chance with sportsbet.com.au and there will be plenty of Aussie punters backing in the fading star to continue to produce the vintage form that saw him make the final of both Wimbledon and the US Open.
They will at least be hoping he can make it out of the third round, after he was bundled out by Italian Andreas Seppi in four sets, the first time in 11 yearsthat he had not made the semi finals of the tournament.
The Fed Express still the most-loved man in tennis
Federer says he would love to win another major, but if he has to retire with a lazy 17, he will be content – it is hard to believe the 34 year old has not won one since Wimbledon in 2012.
“I’ve come so close, I’ve played very well, but I don’t feel any frustration because of it,” Federer, who will play in the Brisbane International, said.
“I’m still happy with how I’m playing.
“It (2015) was Novak’s year, he played so well and there’s only so much you can do if somebody’s so dominant and he’s got sky high confidence.
“It’s unfortunate, a pity for me, but at the same time I don’t feel sorry for myself.
“I’ve won so much throughout my career, I feel like if I keep pushing forward it might happen.
“If not, it’s OK.
“I’ve been playing really well for over one and a half years, ever since I came back from my back problems in 2013.
“That’s been very encouraging and now I’m just more confident than I was maybe a year ago as well.”
Another man ready to come back bigger and better is Rafael Nadal, who was bundled out of last year’s quarter finals by Tomas Berdych, 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5).
He is coming off a win in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, beating Milos Raonic 7-6, 6-3, and is the $13 fourth favourite.
Of the Aussies, bad boy Nick Kyrgios is at the $51 quote and Bernard Tomic is $101.
But retiring legend Lleyton Hewitt will be the man every one will want to see – he’s a $301 chance to win it with crownbet.com.au, as he enters his last month of competitive tennis.
He plans to give his all in the tournament.
“Even though I’ve only got a month to go on the playing circuit, I still want to get the most out of myself and push myself to the limit,” Hewitt said.
“I’ve always prided myself on going out there and giving it 100 per cent, and I feel like I’ve done that again this year.”
Hewitt says despite the $51 quote, new sensation Kyrgios can win it.
“He can match it with the best guys in the world,” Hewitt said.
“On his day he’s capable of beating anyone.
Can anyone get near Serena?
In the women’s division, Williams already has six Aus Open titles and is the favourite for her seventh.
She defeat this year’s second favourite Maria Sharapova ($7) in last year’s final and is primed to do it again, warming up in the Hopman Cup this week.
She won three of the four majors last year, missing out on the US Open after being beaten in the semi finals.
She lost just three matches all year and won 53 – a remarkable record.
The 34 year old has 21 grand slam titles to her name.
And, even as she enters the twilight of her career – wait, does she have a twilight? – she thinks she can get better.
“I definitely feel there is room for improvement,” Williams said.
“I think everyone here knows there is room for improvement for me and I can do better.
“At least I’m on the right track of going up and not back.”
Sharapova will kick off her season in the Brisbane International and hopes the hot and humid conditions will prepare for the Melbourne scorcher that is sure to come.
“I started this event quite late in my career, but once I did I just felt it was the best preparation I could have going into the first Grand Slam,” Sharapova said.
sportsbet.com.au’s Ben Bulmer said the punters were all over Djokovic and Williams.
“Punters can’t look past Djokovic and Williams to be crowned Australian Open champions, with all the money heading their way,” Bulmer said.
2016 Australian Open Men’s Outright Winner Market
Novak Djokovic ($1.80)
Andy Murray ($6.50)
Roger Federer ($9)
Roger Nadal ($13)
Stanislas Wawrinka ($15)
Nick Kyrgios ($51)
Bernard Tomic ($101)
*Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
2016 Australian Open Women’s Outright Winner Market
Serena Williams ($3.25)
Maria Sharapova ($7)
Simona Halep ($9)
Victoria Azarenka ($9)
Garbine Muguruza ($13)
Petra Kvitova ($13)
Belinda Bencic ($17)
*Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Surfing: Glatzer and Pinkerton take spoils at Pismo Beach Open
Surfing: Pismo Beach Open called on as youngster excels
Hong Kong racing still super competitive post Moreira
Stars Group completes massive purchase of Sky Betting & Gaming
‘Rowdy’ Bec Rawlings confirmed for Bare Knuckle FC in Wyoming
Rawiller gets Easter triple at Sha Tin as Elvstroem son wins
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach underway on Easter Monday
Australia moves to ban Lottoland and Planet Lotto