2021 Australian Open update: Is Djokovic's injury for real?
It’s been a thrilling opening week in Melbourne on-and-off the court with a major city lockdown, rumors of fake injuries, shock qualifiers, and big seeds set to go head-to-head.
Now with just eight players left in each the men’s and the women’s singles competition, we are at the business end of the first Grand Slam of the year.
Here is what we’ve learned so far from the 2021 Australian Open, and where the value lies in the betting.
Djokovic – Injury or no injury? That is the question…
Eight-time Aussie Open winner and No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic is the favourite (+210) to win yet another Grand Slam title, but his tournament has been marred by controversy. Djokovic claimed he tore an abdominal muscle in a five-set thriller with American Taylor Fritz in the third round.
Djokovic had an MRI and two days of treatment before returning to the court to defeat big-serving Milos Raonic in the fourth round. He dropped just one set in that match and moved well – causing plenty of people to question how serious the injury really was after the Serbian claimed he was contemplating withdrawing due to the pain.
Djokovic now must face Alexander Zverev, who has dropped just one set so far and can be backed at +750.
Qualifier Karatsev steals the show
World No. 114 Aslan Karatsev is the other big talking point of the competition, becoming the first qualifier to reach the quarter-final of the Australian Open in over 30 years.
The Russian shocked World No. 8 Diego Schwartzman in the third round by beating him in straight sets, and then came from two sets down to beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round. Karatsev is the rank outsider of the eight players remaining at +5000, but can he keep the run going in his quarter-final with Grigor Dimitrov?
Value in Rublev
Daniil Medvedev is now on an 18-game unbeaten run and turned 25 last week, but despite the sugar-cravings says he will save the cake until the tournament is over. The ATP Finals Champion is the most likely to put it up to Djokovic here, but there is outright value in his quarter-final opponent and fellow Russian Andrey Rublev.
At odds of +1400, Rublev could be the best value bet at this stage. Rublev has only spent six-and-a-half hours on court through four matches in this tournament and will have plenty in the tank for this second week. He’s hit 135 winners in this tournament and had his serve broken just three times. He is red-hot.
Top seeds collide in the Women’s Singles
In the women’s event all three top seeds have made the quarter-finals – something that didn’t happen in any 2020 Grand Slam – so make yourself some popcorn and get ready for a couple of epic battles.
In the pick of the quarter-finals, World No. 2 Simona Halep faces seven-time Australian Open winner Serena Williams, who has dropped just one set all tournament. Nobody has won more break points than Halep (24) in this tournament, and the Romanian will have to be at her best to defeat Williams. Halep is +650 in the outright betting, with Serena at +550 ahead of their mouth-watering clash.
Barty Party could continue
The best value might be to side with hometown hero Ashleigh Barty, as she looks to be the first Aussie to win the home tournament since 1978. Australians have had to wait 43 years to see one of their own lift the trophy in Melbourne, but Barty is now the only player left on her side of the draw that is in the world’s top 20, and that makes her a great bet at +275.
She hasn’t dropped a set so far in this tournament, and if she can get past Karolina Muchova, she will face the winner of the all-American clash between Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula.
Barty’s run towards the Australian Open final could end with a thrilling battle with World No. 3 and tournament favourite (+160) Naomi Osaka. She is in the tougher half of the draw with either Williams or Halep in a potential semi-final which puts me off backing her at the odds, but there is no doubting Osaka’s quality.
The 23-year-old saved two match points in a thriller with 2020 Aussie Open finalist Gabrine Muguruza, but the tennis prodigy has plenty more difficult tests to come if she is to justify her tag of favourite and win the competition.