Last Updated: 2018-01-12
The first major of the tennis season is upon us. What better way is there to keep yourself occupied while waiting between football games than throwing some money at some tennis futures? You can stay up all night and be jealous of Aussie’s enjoying summer weather and world class tennis.
Last year’s Aussie Open was bizarre enough with legends like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal coming back from long layoffs to perform spectacularly and the Williams sisters continuing their dominance of the WTA field with another Serena-Venus final (it’s the 12th time they have played in a final). But, this year’s could be even more bizarre. Serena is absent, Maria Sharapova is returning to the site of her (possible?) indiscretion, and the field is literally wide open. There are only 8 former major winners in the field, and only two of those have multiple majors to their names, and yet the top three favorites are players without major titles. It’s truly a weird time on the WTA. Unfortunately, I won’t be touching much on the WTA tournament outlook here, other than to throw out a long shot of two.
The men’s tournament this year is shaping up great though and will provide plenty of fodder for this article. It turns out last years Aussie Open was a harbinger of things to come, as Nadal and Federer not only returned to tennis but, dominated the sport in 2017, splitting the 4 majors between them. Sure enough, they are the two betting favorites at this years tourney. Their dominance will be challenged by some injury riddled stars like Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, trying to return like ‘Fedal’ did last year. And the whole applecart of tennis major winners, the ‘Big Four and Stan’, will be upset alert from rising stars like Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios and David Goffin — is this the year the Big Four finally fade? As much as the women’s field only has 8 active major winners and some fans and media bemoan Serena’s dominance, the mens tour suffers a similar consolidation of power — its just in 4 or 5 players instead of one. The only active players outside of the Big Four and Stan Wawrinka to have won a major are Marian Cilic and Juan Martin Del Potro.
That makes it hard to handicap these affairs. The prices for players with true track records is so low, its hard to justify taking them, while the prices for everyone else, while attractive in size can be looked at as possibly just throwing money away. So, I’ll tackle this two ways. One, who can really win this and is their price worth it? Two, who has a big enough number that there will be value in it after even three rounds and the possibility of hedging it will be presented.
I’ve handicapped the top 50 players and some names outside the top 50 that are interesting (if I could figure out how to make these better/bigger, trust me, I would):
Roger Federer is maybe the greatest tennis player of all time. He won here last year. He has maybe the greatest Aussie Open record of all time, with a win-loss column that reads 87–13. He’s got FIVE Aussie Open titles and get this, in every year since 2004, with the exception of a shocking loss to Andreas Seppi in 2015, Federer has reached the semi-finals or the finals. That is almost indescribable. He’s going deep. Now, he does have a tough draw. His 1/8th is not tough but presuming there are minimal upsets, he’ll have to face Milos Raonic to get out of the 1/8th, then possibly Juan Martin Del Potro or David Goffin in the quarterfinal, then possibly Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev in the semi final and finally Rafa. All of those are on the short list of players who have beaten the GOAT. But, here’s the rub, if you want to be cheering for Federer in the next two weeks, you might as well take the +187 that’s out there. He’s going to be such a prohibitive favorite in his first five matches that I’m not sure a moneyline rollover will outperform that price. You would need the bracket to break perfectly with Federer facing Delpo, then Joker, then Rafa I think.
Rafa is the next favorite and while his draw looks fairly easy there is concerns about his health. I can’t rule out an upset here and he will potentially have a scary semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov, who he narrowly beat here last year or Nick Kyrgios, who has beaten him twice and who has no fear of Rafa. If he can cruise to the semi’s there should be at least a hedging opportunity if the knees look sketchy. But, I’ll pass on 4/1.
The third favorite is Novak Djokovic at 6/1. He is the master of Australia. He has won this title SIX times and should never be counted out. He is on the unfortunate side of the draw and will have to go through possibly Alexander Zverev and one of Delpo or Fed. He hasn’t played competitive tennis since July and it appears he has re-vamped his serve. Markets will always be open in between rounds if he looks great and maybe you can get on him after the first two rounds. But, I can’t support 6/1.
The next two guys on the list are guys I want to back. Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios are part of the so-called “lost generation” of tennis power players. Not part of the 30+ aged Big Four (plus Stan) who have dominated Grand Slam finals and too old to be part of the ‘Next Gen’ of teenagers and early 20’s players that media types are starting to fawn over. But, this could be the year! (Its ok, people say that every year, I had to). Dimitrov looked great on hards last year (deep run at the Aussie and won Cincy, went deep at every tournament post-US Open). Maybe he is ready to break out. Kyrgios is harder to make a case for. He is temperamental, always injured, and doesn’t have a great record at home. But, he’s got the game, he’s beaten all the top players at some point and he came out guns blazing this year, winning Brisbane and beating Dimitrov in the process.
The last three players with moderate prices are Alex Zverev, Delpo, and David Goffin. The easiest case to make might be for Goffin. Zverev is a true superstar but, as I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere he hasn’t produced at majors. Like, his record is laughably bad — he’s only been past the third round once at any major. Delpo is great, he has a major (like Cilic, a rogue US Open) but, his career is so marred by injury. And he just went to the final in Auckland. Will his body hold up through 7 matches? It didn’t last year at the US Open when he upset Federer and then collapsed against Nadal. Goffin on the other hand has been making progress every year at the four majors. Last year he made a QF and a 4th rd. His draw is not that tough, he should easily make the end of his 1/8th vs Delpo and then he’d have to face Fed in the QF, someone he beat just two months ago at the World Tour Finals. It isn’t the best number anymore (some people in Minnesota have 50/1) but, of what’s available it might be worth taking.
Once you get past Goffin at 18/1 we’re getting into the 30/1 and up. I’ve thrown some quick notes into the graphic above. Alot of these guys, while name brands and recognizable, good players, are priced up here for a reason. Thiem isn’t great on hards, Cilic doesn’t perform well at the Aussie, Wawrinka is possibly seriously hurt, Jack Sock has never been past the second round here, lots of clay court dominate players do terribly at the Aussie. Two guys I do like from this batch though, are Kevin Anderson and Gael Monfils. Monfils looked great in Doha. And while he has a horrible draw (and a terrible record against Joker) if Novak is not healthy things could really open up and 80/1 suddenly looks great. So, keep an eye on Novak. Anderson is someone I backed in Pune (what a collapse in that final) and 66/1 here is a price I can really get behind. He has the requisite hard court stats and he has the draw I am looking for. He should get through his 1/8th pretty easily and then there are definite hedging opportunities in the QF depending on who comes out between Kyrgios and Dimitrov.
Who doesn’t like a lottery ticket? Here you’re looking for guys that can win even two rounds. If they get a tasty third round match then you can stretch it but, at the right price you can start looking for hedging or trading opportunities on these after the second or third round.
Alex DeMinaur doesn’t have the stats to be on this list but, he’s been on fire. 125/1 for a guy who can for sure beat Berdych in the first round and then could get by Benoit Paire in the second round? I like it.
Hyeon Chung got a good draw and at 200/1 that should be fun. He has a game that can frustrate on hard courts.
If you’re #tennys than you’re on board with Tennys Sandgren. He hasn’t had the greatest start to the year but, he can beat Jeremy Chardy and if Wawinka is not healthy he could get a lucky loser qualifier in round two. 200/1 is worth a gamble.
I’m not an avid follower of the WTA but, the changing of the guard is upon us and there should be a fresh grand slam winner here. I like Elina Svitolina as the favorite and Belinda Bencic as the long shot.
Kevin Anderson +6600
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