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Bet on the Australian Open
Serena Williams is one Grand Slam victory away from breaking the Open Era record she currently holds alongside Steffi Graf.
The 2017 Australian Open is the first opportunity Williams has this year to make it 23 Grand Slam titles.
But can she do it? The American won one of her three Grand Slam finals last year (Wimbledon) and has returned to form in Melbourne after a barren spell.
Williams is favourite in the tennis betting odds to win the Australian Open but she is not top seed. Let’s see who could oust the 35-year-old with the best bets this January.
Serena Williams favourite to win
Williams won her sixth Australian Open crown in 2015 but lost in the final to Angelique Kerber when defending it last year. She recovered to reach the final of the French Open and won Wimbledon in 2016 — but it is on the hard court that Williams needs form heading into this tournament.
Williams lost in a shock defeat to Karolina Pliskova in the US Open semi-finals in 2016. It was a surprise exit considering she had contested seven of the previous eight Grand Slam finals. Williams’s hard-court form has wavered over the years. We expect her to win tournaments, so even when she loses in finals (such as Melbourne, Indian Wells and the French Open) we are surprised.
Williams has already crashed out of the Auckland Open — in three sets to Madison Brengle. There has been no explanation for the loss other than it was a bad day for Williams and a potentially career-changing moment for Brengle. In a way that is good news. There are no reports that Williams is injured, meaning she is a good bet at 3.75 to win the Australian Open.
Angelique Kerber the main threat
Kerber had a break-through year in 2016. The German rose to the status of World Number One off the back of Grand Slam victories in Australia and America, while she also reached the Wimbledon final. Kerber has all the power and aggression of Williams matched with the wiry technique of Viktoria Azarenka and the base-line durability of Agnieszka Radwanska.
She also won the Stuttgart title last year and was runner up in five other tournaments, including winning silver in Rio. Kerber is a hard-court expert but, like Williams, has already suffered a shock defeat this season. Her quarter-final loss to Elina Svitolina in Brisbane was quite alarming — and she required three sets to get past wildcard Ashleigh Barty in the previous round.
Kerber is top seed at the Australian Open and 4.50 to win. Those are great odds for someone who won’t been Williams until the final. And Kerber appears to be an expert in hard-court Grand Slam finals.
Simona Halep worth a shout
While Kerber was sweeping up in the Grand Slams last year, Simona Halep was working hard on boosting her ranking. The Romanian took a backwards step in terms of Slam progress, reaching the quarters of Wimbledon and the US Open in 2016 after clinching a semi-final spot in the latter tournament the year before.
But the 2014 French Open finalist did impress on the WTA tour, with tournament victories in Madrid, Bucharest and Montreal. Two of those wins were on clay, which is maturing into Halep’s favoured surface. Five of her 14 titles have come on clay, which considering the short period of the season when the tour swings to that surface is impressive.
Fourth seed Halep, like Williams and Kerber, crashed out early in her first tournament of the year. That was in Shenzhen, when she lost to Katerina Siniakova, ranked 52 in the world. Halep is 8.00 to win the Australian Open but 1.90 to reach the semi-finals is a better bet.
Australian Open outside bets
Considering the form of the very top seeds, this could be the year of the underdog in Australia. Garbine Muguruza is one Grand Slam win away from really making her name known on the tour, having won the French Open last year. The Spaniard has been tipped as the next big thing in women’s tennis and at 8.00 is a good shout to win in Melbourne.
Looking at form, last year’s semi-finalist in Australia and at Wimbledon, Karolina Pliskova, is a decent shout at 8.00 to win the tournament. Expect her odds to change closer to the start of the tournament. And Katerina Siniakova enjoyed victory at the Shenzhen Open after fending off Halep in the earlier rounds. If she qualifies for Melbourne then a quarter-final finish is not out of the question.