Andy Schooler takes a look at the ante-post markets for the 2022 Grand Slam tournaments, including Wimbledon. Where does the early value lie?
Australian Open - January 17-30, Melbourne
Given its position in the calendar, ante-post betting on the Australian Open at this stage is a tad tricky.
Not too many players go off at a vastly different price to the one they are at in December.
At least, that’s usually the case.
This time around, there’s the potential for the men’s market to be ripped apart with the possibility of three of the top five in the betting not even making it to the start line.
There has been much talk about Novak Djokovic and COVID vaccination but we still don’t know if he’ll definitely be allowed into Australia, while Rafael Nadal admitted he’d yet to make a final decision about travelling Down Under following his return to action in Abu Dhabi last week.
Also, Dominic Thiem, who hasn’t played since June due to a wrist injury, has already pulled out of two warm-up events in Australia saying he’s not yet ready to compete so there has to be a major doubt over his presence in Melbourne come January 17. I’d certainly be worried about anyone backing the Austrian at 11/1.
Of course, all three could play but in the here and now there’s clear potential for the other leading fancies in the market to go off a lot shorter than they are now – remember Djokovic is taking up 40% of the book at 6/4.
Looking at the other contenders, Stefanos Tsitsipas has potential at 11/1.
He won’t be a double-figure price if Djokovic or the other two pull out and even if everyone signed up to play does actually compete, the Greek has a strong record in Melbourne where he made the last four in both 2019 and 2021.
Already a Grand Slam finalist (in Paris earlier this year), Tsitsipas clearly enjoys his time in Melbourne where the big Greek community ensures he gets plenty of support.
On the women’s side, the thing that catches the eye is the shortness of Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu’s prices.
Osaka hasn’t played since the US Open so backing her at 11/2 at this stage looks risky business, while Raducanu is still a long way from proving that her shock win in New York was more than a flash in the pan.
Sadly, there’s nothing making big appeal further down the market, although Angelique Kerber, who played very well at both Wimbledon and the US Open last season, is a proven fast starter to the season Down Under.
She’s won in Sydney prior to the Australian Open in the past, also finishing runner-up there as well as in Brisbane.
The German is 25/1 now and could go off shorter if she makes a similar run in the first two weeks of the campaign.
French Open - May 29-June 12, Paris
Claycourt specialists can often be a big price for Roland Garros at this time of year, although sadly this time around the market looks pretty clued up.
Casper Ruud is a player who has really impressed on the red dirt in the past couple of years but his coming of age on hardcourts in the second half of 2021 propelled him into the year-end top eight and his appearance at the ATP Finals has clearly wised up both punters and layers.
Twelve months ago, Ruud was a three-figure price to win the French Open. This time, he’s just 20/1 which isn’t a price to back.
Likewise, the rise of teenager Carlos Alcaraz has very much caught the attention of the odds-makers. The 18-year-old looks every inch a future champion in Paris but I can’t be backing him at 16/1 to win the 2022 event, not while Messrs Nadal and Djokovic are still around.
13-time champion Nadal is the current favourite at 13/8 but he was well beaten by Djokovic in the 2021 final and I’m not sure the Serb will be going off at 9/4. Beat Nadal at one of the warm-up tournaments and it’s hard to see that price being available come the end of May.
Still, I appreciate that’s a short price to be piling into right now.
Instead, there will be some takers of the 8/1 about Dominic Thiem going one better than his finals in 2018 and 2019.
He’d reached the stage where he was more or less an equal of Nadal and Djokovic on this surface but his wrist injury has set him back massively.
You’d hope he’s able to return without any lingering problems in which case he’ll have more than four months to play himself into his best form.
But the early signs aren’t great – Thiem has already withdrawn from his first two scheduled events of 2022 – so I can’t be recommending him at such odds.
Wimbledon - June 27-July 10, London
The third Grand Slam of the season is another for which it’s easy to discount many players who simply don’t have the skillset to deal with the characteristics of the grass surface.
This year will mark 20 years since the tournament was last won by a player not among the Big Four of Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray (it was Lleyton Hewitt by the way) and the former is already just even money to extend that run further.
Djokovic would really have to go some to go off much shorter than that and given he’s already committed to a lighter schedule – one that is unlikely to feature any grasscourt tune-up – it’s hard to see it happening.
So is there value anywhere else?
While nothing stands out, I do see the potential for two old-stagers going off at skinnier prices than they are at present.
Andy Murray, a two-time winner in SW19, has shown some good signs in recent months, including at last week’s exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi where he beat Dan Evans and Nadal.
He may just be approaching a point where he’s able to start winning fairly regularly against high-calibre opponents and if that is indeed the case, then he’s got six months to gain momentum.
If the Scot is able to start challenging for titles again on the regular tour, then the bookies will sit up and take notice when it comes to their Wimbledon market for two main reasons – he’s British and will rack up liabilities but, most importantly, he’s one of few players who is truly at home on the grass.
It’s far from certain to happen but, if all does go well, I can see Murray going off half the 33/1 price he’s currently at.
Another player we know can play on the surface is Marin Cilic, runner-up in 2017, and champion in Stuttgart earlier this year.
The chances are the Croat’s best days are behind him, he is now 33 after all, but there were signs at times during 2021 that he is capable of one last hurrah.
As well as that effort on Stuttgart’s grass, the way he finished the year was certainly encouraging, winning the title in St Petersburg before helping Croatia reach the Davis Cup final.
If Cilic can use that springboard to push himself to further success in early 2022, he won’t be a 50/1 shot come Wimbledon.
US Open - August 29-September 11, New York
Given we’re still nine months out from the final Grand Slam of the season, the US Open gives us the greatest scope for big price swings in the intervening period.
And therefore it makes sense to turn to two of those I’ve picked out as ‘players to watch in 2022’.
On the men’s side, Casper Ruud is a player who improved markedly on hardcourts in 2021 and if that can continue in 2022 then the Norwegian is really going places.
He possesses a strong serve which should work well on what were pretty quick Flushing Meadows courts in 2021 and I can see a scenario where he’s no 66/1 shot come end of the summer.
As for the women, Paula Badosa is someone I expect much of in the forthcoming campaign, the Spaniard having won in Indian Wells towards the end of last season.
As explained in my WTA ‘ones to watch’ article, Badosa has the game to contend on all surfaces.
If the current open nature of the women’s game is to continue – 14 different players have won at the last 19 Grand Slam tournaments – then Badosa looks to be towards the front of the queue for adding her name to that list.
One other player worth a mention here is Serena Williams.
Yes, she’s now 40 and she’s already withdrawn from the Australian Open due to the hamstring injury she suffered at Wimbledon.
But the American does seem determined to return to the court and if she does the chances are one of the all-time greats will at least be competitive. The fact that two of the last three Grand Slams have been won by unseeded players suggests to me that the standard at the top of the game isn’t as high as some like to suggest.
Remember it’s less than 12 months since Williams was playing in the Australian Open semi-finals and she’s got plenty of time to play herself back into form prior to an event at which she has a remarkable record.
Williams has won the US Open on six occasions, while she’s made six of the last 11 finals, winning three. At three of the others she reached the semis, while she was absent from the other two.
Yes, backing her now at 25/1 has its risks but in my book it would only take a strong showing at Wimbledon and, say, Cincinnati, for Williams to be going off at a single-figure price.