Here's a wee preview I did for http://selectabet.net/ :
The Australian Open 2013
It's finally here, the first grand slam of the 2013 season is upon us, starting at midnight on Sunday the stars of the ATP and WTA do battle at Melbourne Park in Melbourne. So what do we need to know? Who's on form? Who suits the conditions? And most importantly who's going to win?
To start with, as it is a tour Grand Slam event the men will be competing on a best of 5 set basis unlike regular tour events where they only compete over best of 3. This makes a massive difference as with the heat, stamina and conditioning will play their part. A tiebreak is played in the first four sets at six games-all. There is no tie breaker in the fifth set if we go beyound 6-6 with the winner needing a two-game margin. The women as normal play best of three sets. A tiebreak is played in the first two sets at six games-all. Slightly different from normal tour events though, the third set also has no tie breaker at 6-6 again with the winner requiring a two-game margin.
In tennis, probably more than any other sport the surface that the players play on makes a HUGE difference, as put simply certain types of surfaces particularly suit and advantage certain players. The type of court they use at Melbourne is the Hard Court but more importantly it is the Plexicushion surface which is officially rated as medium to medium-fast paced. However, if you ask the players they will describe it as slow, epecially Federer. To add to the slow pace of the courts, the material they are made of tends to fluff up the balls more which makes them heavier and thus they travel through the air slower. This will mean that there will be longer rallies and big servers will have less of an advantage. This plays into the hands of players like Djokovic, Murray and Ferrer who are happy to grind away at points. Federer often complains about the pace of the courts getting slower and slower nowadays and this is because his chances of success here lie with keeping the points as short as possible. Any drawn out baseline rallies that he gets involved in normally end up in an error from him as he finds it harder to hit through the good defensive players.
Novak Djokovic - Evens (William Hill)
Andy Murray - 7/4 (betway)
Roger Federer - 6/1 (Boylesports)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 22/1 (Boylesports)
David Ferrer - 30/1 (Bet Victor)
NB : Note that Rafa Nadal is out injured
In the mens event there is a notable gap between the big 4 or 5 from the rest of the field and to be honest it has been that way for a good few years and in my opinion will continue for the foreseeable future. Previously I would have just said the big 4 but now I include David Ferrer in the mix purely for his dogged and consistant game and the fact he goes into the tournament on the back of a win at Auckland. For me though the most important thing when the draw was made was that Murray and defending champion Djokovic were drawn on different sides of the draw so they can't meet till the final. To be honest I really can't see anybody stopping Djokovic getting to the final so I shall just take that as a given. He is a master on the Plexicushion surface and it suits his game perfectly. Since they changed to this surface he’s won 3 of the last 5 Australian Opens, he’s only dropped 16 sets since 2008 (winning 88 sets) and he only dropped 1 set en route to his first win in 08 and then again on his win in 2011. These are truely frightening stats for his opponents and I have it down to only Andy Murray that is truely capable of stopping him claiming his third Australian Open in a row. On paper Murray's route to the final is quite tricky but certainly achievable: R1: Haase, R2: Sousa, R3: Mayer, R4: Dolgopolov/Simon, QF: Del Potro, SF: Federer, F: Djokovic.
So there it is I have it down to a Djokovic V Murray final and unfortuanately will have to go against my countryman being able to topple Djokovic's dominance on this surface.
The Verdict : Djokovic to win
Serena Williams - 10/11 (William Hill)
Victoria Azarenka - 5/1 (Bwin)
Maria Sharapova - 10/1 (William Hill)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 16/1 (William Hill)
Li Na - 25/1 (Betfair)
The women's game is slightly different to the mens game in that there are a pack of players all chasing Serena Williams who is clearly head and shoulders above the rest and seems to be able to beat the field at will whether she's coming back from injury/illness or finger picking what events she chooses to play in. When the draw was made the big news was that Serena Williams and defending champ Azarenka were both drawn on the same side of the draw. Maria Sharapova will probably be the happiest about that although she will have a few possible tough opponents in the early rounds with the chance of facing Serena's sister Venus, the "Pocket Rocket" Cibulkova and Angelique Kerber. Sharapova has actually not played this year yet as she has been nursing a shoulder injury but with her fighting qualities I see her reaching at least the quarters. A player that I like and the conditions should suit is Radwanska who has had a great start to 2013, she is 9-0 so far and won the titles at Auckland and Sydney. Another notable player is Li Na who won the title here in 2011, when she is on form her powerful flat hitting can be very dangerous.
It is the obvious choice and at ridiculously short odd's but I really can't see anybody stopping Serena Williams claiming the title. Her serve and devestating ground strokes are simply to much for anybody in the women's game to handle. She is on a mission to claim her 2nd non calander Grand Slam, she did this previously when she won the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in 2002, and Australian Open in 2003, and who would bet against her?
Verdict : Serena Williams to Win
Novak Djokovic to win at Evens
Serena Williams to win at 10/11
1st Round bets:
Julien Benneteau v Grigor Dimitrov match to go OVER 3.5 sets @ 8/15 (bet365)
David Goffin v Fernando Verdasco match to go OVER 3.5 sets @8/15 (bet365)
Place as singles and double