Australian OpenTennis

Australian Open Betting: Battle-hardened Bautista Agut can spring a surprise in Melbourne

January 18, 2020

Conditions and trends

 

We’re back at Melbourne Park for the 2020 Australian Open and things are a bit different this year.

We have a new surface – a Greenset – and it couldn’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the air quality so far this week in Melbourne has been a major issue, with smoke from bushfires causing breathing issues aplenty.

It’s guesswork as to whether that particular issue will be a problem or not this coming fortnight, but the forecast suggests a fair bit of rain around for the first four or five days of this year’s event.

What is interesting is to look at the percentage of service holds in this year’s Auckland tournament, which was played on a Greenset for the first time this year, and compare it with previous years of the ASB Classic.

The last three year’s service hold average in Auckland (when it was played on a Plexicushion) was 81%, while this year it actually went up to 84% and they had more tiebreaks than usual (52% compared to a previous average of 42%), so on that admittedly limited evidence it certainly didn’t appear to get any slower in Auckland on Greenset. Quite the opposite.

As far as trends are concerned the men’s singles has been won either by Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer for the last five years and only Stan Wawrinka, who I tipped up back in 2014 at 60-1, has really caused an upset here in recent times.

Federer was 25-1 when he won it in 2017, but only Andy Murray in 2017 has failed to make the last eight as a number one seed since Lleyton Hewitt back in 2003.
 

Quarter one

Rafael Nadal has been a losing finalist in three of the last six years in Melbourne and hasn’t won the title here since 2009, so perhaps one or two will fancy knocking the world number one off before the second week here.

It’s usually not ideal conditions for Nadal, but I’m struggling to find much in the way of viable opposition to the Spaniard in Q1.

Fellow clay-lover Dominic Thiem has certainly been improving fast on the hard courts lately, but it’s a big ask for the Austrian to beat Nadal and got on to make a final here, however could it be set-up for a certain Nicholas Kyrgios to do the job instead?

Motivation is, as ever, the issue with Kyrgios, who seems to only fancy it in team competitions these days and this time he’s been saying that his focus lies away from events at Melbourne Park.

The Aus Open is around the corner but for me my focus has been elsewhere,” he said after beating Dimitrov (who incidentally is struggling with hand blisters and had to sleep wearing a special glove) in Kooyong.

Presumably NK is referring to the bushfires and his efforts to raise money for that cause and maybe that’ll help him a bit – not to have to think about tennis and worry about something else entirely.

If he is on a go week he should relish facing Nadal in a potential round four clash, as he’s beaten Rafa three times in six clashes (2-1 to NK on hard courts) and it’s fair to say this pair aren’t the best of buddies.

Kyrgios has to get there first though and he’s failed to make R4 four times in six years at Melbourne Park, and he’ll probably have to beat Karen Khachanov if he wants to face Nadal.

A peak form Khachanov could be a danger to Nadal in lively conditions and other possible options in Q1 include Kevin Anderson, Gael Monfils, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Thiem.

Anderson’s probably too soon into a comeback from injury, while surely the poor air quality will be a problem for Monfils, who struggles to breathe often enough in good air quality.

Lamonf has only once been past round four here in his entire career (a quarter final in 2016) and he even managed to injure himself in the ATP Cup in his only action so far in 2020.

Unless Kyrgios comes up with something special it looks likely that Nadal will win this quarter.
 

Quarter two

This section of the draw looks to be between two Russians, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, and with perhaps David Goffin, Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev the most likely threats to the Russian pair.

Medvedev’s form in recent times needs little embellishment from me and similarly Rublev has been sweeping all before him lately, too, winning Doha and Adelaide already this season.

Rublev has been tipped for the top by Roger Federer and on current form he could be the one to challenge his compatriot Medvedev in this quarter.

Those two look ahead of the others in this quarter, with Goffin a possibility, but I’m still not convinced by him in either very hot conditions or in really big matches on this sort of stage.

I’m not sure that Wawrinka has another major title in him at 34 and after injury problems in recent years, while Zverev still looks devoid of any real confidence after a poor year in 2019.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Aussie Open specialist Andreas Seppi made it through to the fourth round again here, as he regularly does at this tournament and 100-1 on the Italian to win this quarter is interesting.

What concerns me about Medvedev and Rublev is the heat, with neither man particularly proven in these conditions for me: neither man has bettered round four here yet and we’ll have to wait and see if they’re able to handle what culd be some tough conditions.
 

Quarter three

This quarter looks interesting and I’m going to take a punt on Matteo Berrettini to win it at odds of around the 9.0 mark.

The Italian has had a light campaign so far in 2020 after skipping the ATP Cup due to a mild abdominal problem and he’s been tuning up his game in Kooyong, which is decent preparation for this.

Coming off the back of a US Open semi final and a maiden appearance at the Tour Finals the Italian should be feeling he belongs at the top table of men’s tennis these days and this quarter looks winnable.

Roger Federer is the obvious issue, but now into his 39th year the Swiss veteran may well not be up to the challenge that the conditions will likely present this year and I’m happy to take him on.

Fed hasn’t played competitively this season, skipping ATP Cup, so we know little about his form, but for once he’s got a tricky-looking start, with Steve Johnson, Filip Krajinovic, Ugo Humbert, John Millman (who beat Fed in New York) and Hubert Hurkacz in his immediate section.

Berrettini’s draw looks kind, with wild card Andrew Harris first up followed by perhaps Tennys Sandgren and maybe the out of form Borna Coric or Sam Querrey, whose record here is awful.

Fabio Fognini, Reilly Opelka (who play each other in R1) and maybe Alexander Bublik look the best of the rest in Berrettini’s section, so that looks good compared to Federer, who also has Grigor Dimitrov (who also beat Fed in New York, although Fed was injured) and Denis Shapovalov in it plus Jannik Sinner, so if Fed makes it through that lot he’ll have done well.

I’m happy to take a chance on Berrettini here with this draw and as well as the Italian I’ll risk another quarter winner in the next section.
 

Quarter four

This is Novak Djokovic’s part of the draw and if all things are equal he’ll probably win it, as his record here is superb and he’s looked in decent form so far in 2020, but will the conditions this year play their part?

Nobody knows the answer to that and if it does become virtually unplayable I’d like to have a super fit, tough competitor like Roberto Bautista Agut on my team.

RBA almost made the semis here a year ago, losing out in four tight sets to Stefanos Tsitsipas, but that was after winning Doha and playing two rough five setters in the first two rounds (against Murray and Millman).

He then came out and beat Khachanov in straight sets before falling to Tsitsipas in a match he didn’t take his chances in.

He may have to go through Tsitsipas again, but the Spaniard is in prime form once more, having helped to win the Davis Cup for Spain and winning all his matches in the ATP Cup, too.

RBA also has better stats than Tsitsipas when it comes to holding serve and breaking serve at main level on outdoor hard courts in the past year.

The Spaniard is on a hold/break total of 112.4 compared to the 102.6 of Tsitsipas, who still doesn’t break serve enough (just 15% of the time) and plays far too many tie breaks (0.32 per set).

At these odds Tsitsipas has been favoured too much for me and 12.0 on RBA winning this section looks the best bet if we are taking on Djokovic, which admittedly is a big risk.

The Serb is the clear favourite, but he’s not always been comfortable in these conditions and if it gets brutal out there I’ll take RBA to be one player that possibly could outlast Djokovic.

There are other quality players in this section as well and if Marin Cilic recovers the form that he’s misplaced over the last year the Croat could be dangerous here at 28-1 just to win the quarter (he made the final here only two years ago).

Cilic has looked poor for a fair while now, but it may just have been one bad season, and he can’t be ruled out in this section of the draw.

Diego Schwartzman can’t be discounted either, while the likes of Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund on their best form could go on a run, but this all rests on Djokovic and how he shapes up this fortnight.

He wasn’t in the right shape at the US Open and it cost him and I’m happy to take RBA against him here.

 

Conclusion

 

As ever in Melbourne it’s hard to go against Novak Djokovic, but he’s too short for me in what could be very tough conditions this fortnight and we saw at the US Open and at other times lately that his body perhaps isn’t in as good a condition these days.

The same could be said of 38-year-old Federer, so, I’ll have two single point bets on Berrettini and Bautista Agut against the superstar pair in the bottom half of the draw.

 

Best Bets

 

1 point win Berrettini to win quarter three at 9.0
1 point win Bautista Agut to win quarter four at 12.0