Barely have the world’s elite tennis stars finished off their Christmas puds and made their New Year’s resolutions when they are getting ready to start the battle for the first Grand Slam of the 2015 tennis season.
Taking place at the famous Melbourne Park, in the city of the same name in Victoria, the Australian Open has kicked off with one of 2014 winners, Men’s defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka readying himself for a defence of the title he won last year; his first tennis major.
Last year’s women’s champion, Chinese ace Li Na, won’t be defending her title after announcing her retirement from the sport back in September 2014, due to persistent and chronic knee conditions.
The 2015 Australian Open is the 103rd tournament bearing that name and with a purse of $40,000,000 AUD, it is one of the most prestigious events in the tennis calendar. Win here and you can be the only player capable of winning the Grand Slam in 2015.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the players who are likely to feature for the title in both the women’s and men’s singles events, before deciding which bets we like the look of for the tournament’s overall winner.
In the final section we’ll preview our top picks on Bet365 Sports, where new members can qualify for free sports bets from Bet365 for joining the premier UK sports betting site.
With Li Na now retired, a different name will be on the trophy for the 2015 championship and the highly competitive nature of the women’s game at the moment means that there are a large number of players who could conceivably lift the trophy.
Bookmakers have Serena Williams as the 5/2 favourite for the event and it isn’t difficult to see why. The American has been the dominant player on tour over the past ten years or so and while she hasn’t won every event, she nearly always puts up a strong showing. The American has won 5 Australian Open titles, but her last win came in 2010 and she is certainly overdue a win in Melbourne.
Her biggest opposition will likely come in the form of several players. The tall and elegant Maria Sharapova, the current French Open holder, won in Australia in 2008 and was a losing finalist in 2012 to Victoria Azarenka. She certainly has the talent to win here, but fitness issues have plagued her at times and the taxing Melbourne heat could be a problem.
Other players who stand a chance of making a breakthrough in Australia include the talented youngsters Simona Halep (6/1) and Eugenie Bouchard (12/1) both of whom have the talent to become Grand Slam champions.
Petra Kvitova, the current Wimbledon Champion is an 8/1 shot with Bet365, and she is certainly due a good championships in Australia. The talented Czech ace has bowed out in the last two tournaments in the end round in 2013 and the first round in 2014. Her best performance in Australia was in 2012 where she reached the semi finals and she will be hoping for at least that this time around.
Such is the strength and competitiveness in the women’s game at present, don’t be surprised if an outsider reaches at least the semi finals. Li Na wasn’t fancied much last year and the Chinese ace lifted the title. There is always the potential for a surprise at the Australian Open.
Last season, the men’s game saw something of a sea of change. Two new first-time Grand Slam winners were crowned in Stanislas Wawrinka at the Australian Open and Marin Cilic at the US Open, while two famous names, Novak Djokovic (Wimbledon) and Rafael Nadal (French Open) won the other two big events.
Injury keeps Cilic out of the first slam event of the 2015 season, but all other slam winners from last season are involved, as are other stalwarts such as Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishokori.
It is Djokovic however who is the big favourite in the men’s singles, at an almost unbackable price of 10/11. He is the clear favourite ahead of the resurgent Roger Federer who is an 11/2 second favourite with both Nadal and Murray 8/1 shots. Of that quartet, only Murray has not won in Australia and it would be a real boost for the Scot if he can improve on his three finals appearances of 2010, 2011 and 2013, where he has lost in the final each time.
Federer has shown real grit and determination to claw back his best form after critics wrote him off early last season, while Nadal is still in the process of recovering from a lengthy injury which kept him out of tennis for a large part of the 2014 season.
Outside of this quartet, the biggest challenge to Djokovic could come from Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Czech ace Tomas Berdych and defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka. The current holder of the title may have a better chance than most after being handed a favourable draw while his main opposition face the prospect of a much tougher route into the latter stages of the tournament.
If you fancy an outsider then Aussie duo Lleyton Hewitt is a 300/1 shot, although you may be better advised to back Bernard Tomic each way as the young, often controversial Aussie is currently an 80/1 shot with Bet365 Sport.
So who are we going to back for the Australian Open singles titles for men and women? Last year, we were pretty good with our tips for Tennis and Golf in particular, so let’s hope that we can continue this in 2015.
For the men’s singles event, I can’t see past a Djokovic victory but at 10/11 for the win, the Serbian is way too short to make an effective bet. Instead, I’m backing Rafael Nadal to go far here.
Federer, Wawrinka and Murray have the tougher side of the draw in the bottom half and I think Nadal can coast through to the last eight, where he can turn up the pressure and power into the final.
Backing him each way at 8/1 looks a better option than taking Djokovic at odds on.
The women’s event is more difficult to predict. I am not convinced by Serena Williams in Australia, nor do I think Sharapova has the stamina in the Aussie summer heat to last all the way through to the final.
I think youth could be key here and as such, I think Simona Halep (6/1) looks an excellent bet here. She’s talented, plays a strong baseline game and has all the tools, plus youth on her side, to cope in what can be a searing heat.
A good outside bet, for similar reasons to Halep is Eugenie Bouchard. The Canadian youngster has already reached one Grand Slam final (Wimbledon in 2014) and I think she has the skills to progress deep in this tournament. An each way punt on her looks a solid option.