With the Australian Open almost upon us, Andy Schooler picks out four potential first-round upsets, which alternatively could be backed on the game-handicap market.

Steve Darcis v Borna Coric

Coric looks worth opposing in some way in this one.

He has a woeful 0-4 record at the Australian Open, with his struggles with the heat a reason behind that statistic.

It’s due to be hot in the early part of the week and that could play into Darcis’ hands. The Belgian is only just back from a year out with an elbow injury, so some will suggest he could have problems if the match goes long in such conditions.

However, he proved his fitness in a three-hour battle with Michael Mmoh in Pune recently where he made the semi-finals in what was his comeback event.

He reached the third round here on his last appearance in 2017, Diego Schwartzman among his victims, while following his Pune run he withdrew from a planned Challenger appearance which shows how focused he is on the big event rather than simply improving his ailing ranking.

While Darcis was hitting the practice court, Coric was losing twice to Fernando Verdasco at the Adelaide exhibition event. While reading too much into that would be dangerous, it’s hardly ideal.

The pair have never met but pricing one of them at 4/1 looks wrong.

Australian Open Potential First-Round Upsets

Benoit Paire v Dominic Thiem

Any bet on Paire involves a bit of bravery given the state of the Frenchman’s mental game – this is a man who was last seen at the very least pretending to sleep on court in defeat to Cameron Norrie in Auckland.

The reason was jet-lag and a quick turnaround from a tournament in Pune, India, where he lost narrowly to Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals, which represents a decent enough start to the season.

Thiem, on the other hand, has lost all four matches he’s played, three in Abu Dhabi and one in Doha.

He’s not at home on a pacy hardcourt and Paire, if fully focused, has the game to at the very least test him.

Thiem did win their previous meeting – in four sets here in 2017 – but he’s clearly not dialled in yet this year and the underdog is worth considering.

Australian Open Potential First-Round Upsets

Pierre-Hugues Herbert v Sam Querrey

Herbert is the man who defeated Thiem in Doha as he made a strong start to 2019. He also defeated the talented Max Marterer en route to the quarter-finals.

Querrey, meanwhile, headed straight to Australia and played in Sydney where first opponent Malek Jaziri retired hurt, before Gilles Simon toppled him in round two.

This will likely be a serve-dominated contest (last year’s meeting in Madrid was with Querrey edging it in a final se)- with both men far from being among the best returners and if tie-breaks do result, Querrey’s tendency to get tight at key moments could prove costly.

Herbert made the Shenzhen final in fast conditions back in the autumn and so should be well suited to Melbourne’s PlexiCushion courts.

Querrey will also be happy with his big serve but there has been a suggestion among some players that the new balls in use in Melbourne are fluffing up and if that’s the case then he may lose bit of zip from his main weapon.

Herbert holds decent claims here as the outsider.

Alison van Uytvanck () v Caroline Wozniacki

There’s nothing spectacular about the Belgian but she possesses a solid game and is capable of making Wozniacki run.

If that’s the case, we could well find out how painful the defending champion’s rheumatoid arthritis is.

She won only one match in her opening event of the season, in Auckland, before crashing to qualifier Bianca Andreescu.

Yes, this is a bet all about whether Wozniacki is anywhere near her best but the early signs are she is not and Van Uytvanck looks a tad big to capitalise on any below-par performance.

 

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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