2018 Australian Open Picks: Odds and Predictions
Published on January 12, 2018
Though most of us in North America have had to endure a recent cold spell (heck, it even snowed in Florida), it’s warm and sunny in Melbourne as the 2018 professional tennis season unofficially gets underway this weekend with the first major tournament of the year.
Roger Federer enters the men’s draw as the defending champion, beating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a memorable final last year. On the women’s side, we’re guaranteed not to have a repeat winner as 2017 champion Serena Williams, who beat older sister Venus 6-4, 6-4 in the 2017 title game, will miss this year’s Australian Open after giving birth to a child last fall.
Can Federer win his sixth career Aussie Open title? And who will take Serena’s place on the women’s throne? Let’s look at the odds, top contenders and leading darkhorses to find where the best betting value lies.
With Serena out of the picture, the door is wide open for plenty of challengers in the women’s draw. Seven different players pay +1000 or lower, and 19 women pay +2500 or less. None of these players would be a huge stunner if they ended up lifting the trophy at the end of January.
In the interest of brevity, I’ve limited these odds to anyone who pays +2500 or less, but I recommend checking out the entire board at BetOnline to see if there are any other prices that intrigue you.
It’s tough to narrow this list too much, given how wide open the tournament appears to be, but I’m going to limit this list to 3 players at the top of the odds.
Pliskova is a former world #1, but has yet to win a major. She’s also seeded sixth, potentially giving her a tougher road to the final, so I’m a little puzzled to see her listed as the (short) favorite in this tournament. Even though the hard court seems to suit her game, I’m not interested in backing her at this price.
Halep is also without a major title on her resume, but she’s currently the top-ranked player in the world and is the #1 seed in the tournament. She gained some valuable experience in majors last year, including a heartbreaking loss in the French Open final and a quarter-final appearance at Wimbledon. The one concern about backing Halep here is her history in Australia, which includes early exits the past 2 seasons.
Kerber might be flying under the radar here. Her world ranking has plummeted from #1 to #21 over the past 2 years, but that may only take the pressure off her. She warmed up for this tournament nicely with a first-round victory over Serena Williams last week in Sydney.
Again, the women’s draw seems completely up for grabs, so “darkhorse” doesn’t mean “longshot” the way it often does on futures odds.
Kvitova hasn’t been given much respect in the seedings, where she is ranked 27th. But the oddsmakers think a lot higher of her, listing her as the 9th-most likely player to win. When I see something like that, I pay attention, especially when it’s a two-time Grand Slam winner like Kvitova. Unfortunately, she might need to get through world #1 Halep in the third round.
It’d also be silly to count out Venus Williams, especially at +2200 odds. She may be 38 years old, but she was a finalist at last year’s event and also made it to the championship game at Wimbledon.
Want better value than that? Consider Agnieszka Radwanska, who at +4000 odds didn’t crack my list of the top contenders earlier in the article. She’s a two-time Australian Open semifinalist, and she’s also been ranked as highly as #2 in the world.
The start of 2018 is a chance to turn the page on what was a disastrous 2017, and there’s no better way to say “I’m back” than by winning the first major of the year. A two-time Grand Slam winner in 2016, look for Kerber to build momentum and confidence as she progresses through the tournament.
Oddsmakers are favoring the likelihood of a Federer-Nadal rematch in this year’s Australian Open final, listing the 2 popular players at the top of the futures odds. Technically, Nadal (+450) is tied with Novak Djkovic for second on the Australian Open odds, trailing Federer at +190.
From there, there’s a bit of a dropoff, especially once you get past Grigor Dimitrov (+700) and Alexander Zverev (+900). Outside of those players, only 7 others have been given odds shorter than +2500.
Federer is favored to repeat despite the fact that last year was his first appearance in an Australian Open final since 2010. It’s a tournament he used to dominate, winning 4 titles and finishing runner-up another time during the 7-year stretch from 2004-2010. He’s both healthy and confident, lost just 5 matches in all of 2017, and has a favorable-looking draw.
Australia is the major in which Nadal has had the least success in his career (10 of his 16 Grand Slam titles have come on clay at the French Open), and the current world #1 went 0-4 last year against Federer. There are also concerns about how his fitness level, which took a hit with his knee issues last season, will hold up on the fast court at Melbourne. On the plus side, he won’t need to contend with Federer or Djokovic until the final.
Djokovic comes into this tournament with injury concerns of his own, recently feeling pain in a right elbow that has bothered him for years. In fact, this is his first tournament since the elbow injury forced him out of Wimbledon last year, so fitness will be a concern for the Serbian.
Krygios stands out to me as a player who could make a surprising run in this tournament. He is a native Australian who won his first title on home soil last week in Brisbane, so maybe he’ll struggle less with the pressure of being the local favorite. A +1600 price may make it worthwhile to find out.
Raonic (+2500) didn’t get any favors in the draw, with a 23rd seeding meaning a potential matchup with Sam Querrey in the Round of 32 and, if he advances to the quarter-final, having to go through Federer. But the Canadian has beaten Federer in 2 of their last 3 meetings, he says he feels healthy, and that big serve is always a wild card.
I’m generally reluctant to back favorites on futures because they don’t usually offer the greatest value. But I can’t talk myself out of taking Federer here, mostly because of the uncertain injury and fitness statuses of his top threats in the tournament.