World ranking: 5
Tournament history (most recent 1st): W-W-W-4R-2R-W-W-QF-W-W-W-QF-WF-W-4R-1R-1R
Best Grand Slam performance: 21-time winner
2023 record (upto & inc Jan 8): 5-0
The undoubted King of Melbourne Park; Djokovic will be seeking his 10th Australian Open title this year. And he’ll be doing so doubtless motivated that he was unable to defend his crown last year when, as you may have heard, he was deported after a legal row which resulted from his decision not to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He’s already laid down a marker this season, winning the warm-up event in Adelaide during the opening week of the season, although a chink in the armour did appear when he had to face down match point against Sebastian Korda in the final. The undoubted favourite, the only thing for punters to question is whether there’s any value in backing him at odds-on.
World ranking: 8
Tournament history (most recent 1st): RU-RU-4R-4R-2R-1R
Best Grand Slam performance: Winner, 2021 US Open
2023 record: 3-1
Medvedev has won only two titles since becoming a Grand Slam champion at the 2021 US Open. Some will say that’s far from a disaster but the one-time world no 1 is now down in eighth in the rankings and it’s fair to say he’s failed to live up to expectations over the past 12 months. A pretty convincing opening-week defeat to Novak Djokovic in Adelaide summed up his plight. Still, he’s made the final at four of the last seven hardcourt majors so warrants respect, albeit the Russian does look rather short in the betting.
World ranking: 2
Tournament history (most recent 1st): W-QF-QF-RU-QF-RU-1R-QF-RU-RU-QF-QF-W-SF-QF-4R-3R
Best Grand Slam performance: 22-time winner
2023 record: 0-2
Despite managing to win two Grand Slam titles and reach the semis of another, the defending champion had a host of injury problems during 2022 and that is the primary reason he’s out at 12/1 to successfully retain the trophy. The lack of top-level matchplay has to be a concern to potential backers, although unless the draw is particularly awkward, the top seed should get the chance to play himself into an event at which he’s been very consistent over the years – only once since 2005 has Nadal lost before the quarter-finals. He did lose both of his matches at the season-opening United Cup – to Cam Norrie and Alex de Minaur – but didn’t play badly and we’ve seen before how the Spaniard is capable of raising his level as the size of the challenge increases.
World ranking: 21
Tournament history (most recent 1st): 2R-3R-4R-1R-4R-2R-3R-QF-2R
Best Grand Slam performance: Runner-up, 2022 Wimbledon
2023 record: 0-0
Withdrew from both of his scheduled warm-up events with an ankle injury which doesn’t bode well for those thinking of backing the Aussie maverick. It wouldn’t be the first time Kyrgios has flopped but 2022 did she him finally harness his immense talent and reach the Wimbledon final, as well as the making the last eight of the US Open. He looked more consistent than he’s ever been last season but with no match preparation – his last competitive match was in early October – and having openly spoken about feeling the weight of home expectation, it’s hard to back Kyrgios with much confidence.
World ranking: 7
Tournament history (most recent 1st): QF-4R-1R
Best Grand Slam performance: SF, 2021 US Open
2023 record: 0-1
Yet to really do it in the Slams but the signs towards the end of 2022 were that FAA was approaching the level required. A 16-match win streak brought in three titles, although a group-stage exit at the season-ending ATP Finals probably tells the story – that the Canadian remains a little short when it come to facing the true elite. Lost his opening match of 2023 to Alexei Popyrin in Adelaide last week which is another negative. Still, conditions in Melbourne should suit a player with a strong serve. If he gets on a roll, he will have a chance.
Best of the rest
I’m a little surprised that Stefanos Tsitsipas isn’t among the top five in this market and he could be a spot of value at 16/1.
The Greek made the semi-finals in Melbourne in 2022, 2021 and 2019 so he clearly enjoys the conditions here.
He’s also started the season well with four straight wins at the United Cup with Matteo Berrettini and among his victims.
In many ways, Tsitsipas was picking up where he left off, having enjoyed a strong second half to the 2022 season, notably pushing Novak Djokovic to the limit in the Paris Masters semi-finals.
Berrettini also holds decent claims at 28/1 heading into an event at which he made the semis 12 months ago.
However, preference is for a player of the same ilk, namely Taylor Fritz at 30/1.
The American was another to end 2022 well, qualifying for and then reaching the last four at the ATP Finals where it took eventual champion Djokovic to beat him across two tie-breaks.
His serve is a key shot and it has already clicked into the groove in Australia – Fritz went unbroken during his four wins as he helped USA claim the United Cup (although he did lose one match at the event).
The speedy Greenset courts should help Fritz, while it was certainly interesting to see that John Millman picked out Fritz as someone who should enjoy playing with the Dunlop Australian Open balls, which he described as “light and quick”.
Having hit with the AO 2023 Dunlop balls the last week my general observation is they are light and quick, especially when new. Not the easiest to control initially even in the humid conditions where I am in Brisbane. NK, Hurkacz, Fritz all very dangerous this AO 💥💥
— John Millman (@johnhmillman) December 7, 2022
Finally, the man who did beat Fritz at the United Cup, Cam Norrie, has each-way potential at 45/1 – it’s worth noting at this point that those who avoid Djokovic’s half in Thursday’s draw will doubtless shorten up.
The Briton was in fine form at that season-opening event, going 3-0 and notching wins over Fritz, Rafael Nadal and Alex de Minaur.
That’s a very solid start to the season and while he’ll probably need to beat opponents of an even higher quality if he’s to triumph over the coming fortnight, he’ll take heart from the fact he reached the Wimbledon semis last season to prove he’s capable of challenging at this level.