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13 Jan 24 14:45
Date Joined: 10 Nov 10
| Topic/replies: 33,920 | Blogger: mesmerised's blog
Do you come from a Land Down Under ? Where women’s forehands flow and men’s backhands blunder, can’t you see, can’t you see the hunger ? You better watch, as Novak’s not getting younger. No bread-sticks in doubles, 64 64 and full of struggles, I said do you speak my language ? Iga smiled and said I do bagels not sandwich. I come from a Land Down Under, where tears flow at the sound of grunter, can’t you hear, can’t you hear it’s louder than thunder, you better run, your ears better take cover. Playing in heat hotter than Bombay, slowing balls and not much to say, I said to the man are you tiring like me, he laughed and said I’m from the land of zest aplenty.

Ladies, Gentleman, welcome to the Australian Open 2024.

Speaking of Men at Work, Craig Tiley has been busy shoe-horning in an extra day’s play at this years tournament which follows on from the French Open’s lead with the aim to alleviate the pressure on fans and players alike in order to avoid late night finishes, it’s only a matter of time before all slams are 16 day events making full use of the whole weekend where more people on a non working days can watch.

The Australian Open was once the ugly ducking of Grand Slam tennis, a far flung and mysterious place on the other side of the world, too expensive to travel, fewer ranking points on offer, less historical prestige & tradition and a slam suffering from an identity crisis with several different cities and locations used over time including New Zealand, a changing of surfaces and shifting of it’s place on the calender with many players unwilling to play over the Christmas period, it wasn’t even designated as a slam til 1924. 1987 however marked the turn of a new era with a fixed location at Melbourne Park and a year later a new permanent January date along with the switch from grass to hard courts, which much like the US Open 14 years beforehand allowed for lower maintenance costs whilst simultaneously helping to move away from it’s image as a colonial offshoot of Wimbledon. Soon after the tournament began to achieve parity with the other 3 slams by offering more prize money and equal ranking points by the mid 90’s. Today it’s one of the highlights of the Tennis season. 2024 will be the first Aussie Open since 1999 without either Federer or Nadal, incidentally Federer was the last player to win in Oz without dropping a single set way back in 2007.


The Four Front-Runners
Djokovic heads into this years Aussie Open as the favourite with the bookies at evens with his Wimbledon conqueror Alcatrash (not trash, just like the name) as second fave at 4.33 or 10/3 in old money, Saint or Sinner in third at 7’s and MedHead at 10’s.

Novak has dragged Tennis into a new dimension, a realm where a 36 year old going on 37, is not only dominating world Tennis but showing no considering signs of slowing down, if the Djoker le is on the final 100 metre stretch in his long and illustrious career then Father time is still on the other side of the track yet to even cast a shadow over a player who looks set to cross the finish line in on his own terms and no doubt in glorious fashion, a player who is already statistically the greatest of all time, he heads into this years opening slam looking to break, equal or extend his own mind boggling records. A victory here would see his claim his 25th Major and 99th career title, currently on a win run in Australia of 28 in a row and aiming to make it 35, which would still be 6 match wins off of Bjorn Borgs’ 41 match winning run at a single slam event at Wimbledon between 76-81, there’s every chance it could already have been 35 wins if not for a brief interlude in 2022 where he attempted to break into the country waving a Covid Medical exemption note in the air, but we wont talk about that. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to some reports of a wrist concern, we’ve been here too many times before with Djokovic and phantom aches and pains before a tournament and each time he invariably goes onto win. Projected draw is Prizmic > Popyrin > Murray > Shelton > Tsitsipas/Berrettini > Sinner > Alcaraz

Sixteen years his junior yet his biggest rival is Alcaraz who having never been past the 3rd round in Melbourne, is probably the most meaningless Stat you’ll here over the next two weeks considering he’s only made two appearances, in 2021 he lost to Ymer as 17 year old, in 22 he lost a 5 set epic against Berrettini, he was absent in 2023. Carlos has clearly demonstrated in his short career he is simply a man for all surfaces and a bone fide contender to be the very next male player to win 20+ slams, if he stays fit and hungry over the next decade or two, then 30 is a possibility, which may sound laughable but without any rivals on the horizon to contend with a la the big 3, it’s plausible. It’s said the way he plays he’ll burn out by 30 but they said about Nadal and he won 8 slams into his 3rd decade. The young Spaniard like both Sinner and Medvedev have all chosen not to play any warm up tournaments before the start of the first slam of the year which Corretja described as ‘unusual’, I would describe it as practical, no point busting a gut in Brisbane or Adelaide in the sweltering heat, flying a few hundred or thousand miles to Melbourne and risking injury in the process, their warm up will be the cannon fodder they all face in the first few rounds of their draw anyway.
He will attempt Down Under to become only the 8th member of an exclusive club in the 21st century if ge makes the last 4,  seven other male players have  reached the semi-finals of all four majors -  the others being, Djokovic,Federer, Nadal, Murray, Safin, Berdych and Cilic. His projected draw is Gasquet > Sonego > Bublik > Paul > Zverev > Medvedev/Rune > Djokovic

Sinner played Nole four times in 2023 and was the only man to have beaten him twice, the problem with Sinner is whilst being capable of big wins he doesn’t do it when it actually matters, the two matches he did win against ND was in a round robin match at the tour finals and the Davis Cup, the two he lost were the Wimbledon Semi final and the final of the Masters cup, and the only Masters event he’s won a was a pretty weak field. He reminds me of a more enhanced version of Berdych, same crisp and powerful ball striking but a better mover, that bit quicker with a less heavier build and better defensively.. For the sake of balance, Sinner reached 7 ATP finals last season, saved 3 match points in the Davis Cup against Novak who was on a 21 win streak in the competition in singles and has won 35 of his last 40 matches, but you see Sinner, and the first word that comes to mind is, ceiling.
His projected draw is Van de Zandschulp > De Jong > Kubler > Tiafoe/Khachanov > De Minaur/Rublev > Shelton/Djokovic > Alcaraz

There’s no reason why Medvedev can’t win this year’s Australian Open, twice runner up, comes in fresh after a long break and is every inch the hard court specialist he’s perceived to be, in fact I remember him telling the umpire at a changeover that’s what he was in an amusing moment from Indian Wells last year. Nobody had played more matches in the top 10 last season than him, 49 of his 66 wins from the 84 matches he played were on hard courts, four of the 5 titles he won were also on hard and all 5 Grand Slam finals he’s played have all been on, wait for it, hard courts.
Speaking of the potential of being undercooked going into Australia having played no warm up events he said “"There is a risk always, but otherwise I would be 35-years-old and I would be like, 'I actually never spent a New Year at home'. So I decided this is a year to try. Finished late. Had vacation at the end of the season for the first time in maybe four years. If I had come here for a warm-up tournament, I would have two weeks of pre-season. Then you go non-stop.
"Last year, after the U.S. Open I felt that mentally and physically I was not what I wanted to be. I decided it's going to be good thing to try it like this." His projected draw is Atmane > Ruusuvuori > Auger-Aliassime > Dmitrov  > Rune/Hurkacz > Zverev/Alcaraz > Djokovic

Selected others
Rune is 28/1 to win his first slam and he means business, he brought Becker into his coaching team back in October and has recently added Federer’s long term mentor Luthi into the set up, he could not be better mentally prepared or equipped in pursuit of his maiden slam, this after the wise decision to dump glorified super coach, Mouratoglu, he who rode the coattails of Serena’s trophy laden career before destroying Halep’s.  Speaking of Boris he said, "I believe I can be a multiple Grand Slam champion. I know it's going to take a lot of work and I've been doing my work in the pre-season so far, and been really, really willing to improve. With Boris, It's more mental and tactical than technical, I would say. Sometimes he says 'Take your time between points, no rush'. Of course, he has a few tips, especially on the serve. He had a great serve himself but it's a lot psychological’
Rune is a genuine talent who offers much more than the likes of Sinner as he’s far more dynamic with a more all game court style, his stamina has been questioned which is odd considering the true test of stamina is 5 set matches, in which he’s only played four, winning 2 and losing 2. When he says he can be a multi slam champion, he is right. Though like Sinner and Shelton they all seem to have either faces or personalities only a mother could warm to, but I shall not let that cloud my judgement.
Zverev at 25/1, the former Australian Open Junior champion from 10 years ago in 2013 had the chance to become World Number 1 back in May 2022 at the French Open semi final if he had beaten Nadal before a serious injury forced him to retire, missed the next two slams and the rest of the season, it’s been a long road but he’s finally back inside the top 10. He is for my money the best player on tour not to have won a Slam, even achieving the rare feat of losing a slam final when 2 sets up against Thiem at the US Open final in 2020 inside an empty stadium. Once the future of Tennis, at nearly 27 years old now his career has reached a crossroads where it’s now or never, given his natural ability, every chance it could be now, he doesn’t  face any real test til Ruud in the 4th round, unfortunately for him Alcaraz awaits in the quarters, it’s not an insurmountable task to over come however as the German can take solace in his victory over Carlos at the recent tour finals as well as his slight lead in the head to head albeit most coming before his rise to prominence. Whilst he has not been at the level he was pre injury, the trajectory since has only generally gone in one direction since, upwards. The general impression Alexander has left on the tennis world thus far is that he is all fur coat and no knickers.

There seems to be a lot of hope and hype for Australia’s top men’s player, De Minaur currently 33/1 with most book has only this week reached the Top 10 for the very first time. Alex is the sort of player who at school would be given the ‘what he lacks in achievement he makes up for in effort’ report, often passed off as a ‘speed demon’ or in my own words, a Weapon-less wonder, it did seems for a long while he was all puff and no panache, he now has a slightly more powerful serve and second serve in particular as highlighted by Zverev in their recent United Cup meeting. Whilst he has never had glaring weaknesses he’s lack of physicality has always felt like he’s punching above his weight competing against stronger players with more power in their shots - it’s this criticism that De Minaur has spoken off recently on social media which he says  will be “gasoline to this engine that’s ready to do everything in its power to prove people wrong”. His physique has filled out a bit, the reality is that Alex is basically just a faster version of David Ferrer, solid but with a better backhand, he poses no real threat to the top dogs in a best of 5 match, looking at his projected draw, I can’t see Raonic being much of a problem in round 1, there will probably be a tie break or 2 but Milos’s best days are long since over, Clayers Arnaldi and Jarry in R2 and R3 respectively, Rublev the first challenge in Round 4, Sinner Quarters, Novak then the final, which he wont make. Would be of no great surprise to see him out before the last 8 starts and that would be in-keeping with his slam career stats.
Dimitrov at 40/1 is one of the form players coming into the 2024 Australian Open having won the warm up tournament in Brisbane, dropping one set along the way and beating Rune in the final, this off of the back of a fairly strong ending to the 2023 season where he reached his first Masters 1000 final in 6 years before losing to Novak, the resurgence has been brought about after a change in mentality where he states he’s no longer waiting for his opponent to miss or make mistakes and is instead being more proactive. 32 going on 33 it’s all a little too late for Grigor after a succession of injuries and inconsistent form over the years, I remember when he came onto the scene and was packaged as ‘Baby Fed’ with his one handed backhand whilst everyone as waiting anxiously for their first meeting which eventually happened in Basel in 2013, Federer retired with a 7-1 h2h record over Dimi who in reality was never going to get anywhere close to that level. He can enjoy his Indian summer but unlikely to make any ripples in this tournament, Medvedev awaits in his quarter of the draw and even before that they’re some dangerous floaters in Kokkinakis, Auger-Aliassime and Davidovich-Fokina to overcome.

Last years Runner Up Tsitsipas is a massive 50/1 to win the Australian Open in which is by far his best slam in terms of last 4 appearances having made 4 of the last 5 semi finals here from the 6 total slam semi’s throughout his career, suffice to say it’ll come as no surprise to know he has described the curtain raiser to the new season as ‘his home slam’ with such a big support from the local Greek community’. Similar to some of the unwanted feats in Zverev’s career, Tsitsipas was also one match away frome becoming World Number 1 had he of beaten Djokovic in last years final match as well as throwing away a 2 set lead in the final of the French Open almost 3 years ago. Despite his shoulder injury last year which he described as the worst injury in his career, he still finished the season ranked 3rd for most tie breaks won with 24, six behind Hurkacz and 1 more behind the Serbinator.
A tricky path awaits him after being given the short straw to face chicken legs Berrettini in Round 1, who whilst not having reached the same heights since his 2021 Wimbledon final, is still a Top 10 calibre player if not for injuries. Home hope Thompson in Round 2 who has never ventured past that stage and then Musetti in Round 3 who he has a 5-0 h2h record against, Fritz, Djokovic/Shelton, Sinner, final.

Musetti is 500/1 on a hard court, if this was clay that price would  be interesting, but whilst he has definitely improved upon his physicality (remember him fading badly at the French Open a few years ago against Novak after going 2 sets to the good), he is very much a dirtballer, a talented flair player who unlike the likes of Kyrgios, none of his trick shots are superfluous and for the camera, I can’t however see him making any kind of inroads at this tournament, he should make round 3 comfortably but unless Tsitsipas is in absolute Mug mode, then that’s where his journey will end. He will however draw confidence from beating Novak last year albeit on a different surface. 

The two Canadians Shapovalov at 450/1 and Felix the cat at 200/1, if you want wild punts then you could worse than these two who are both genuinely talented players, or put more accurately, wasted talent who you hope will still come good given their ages. The Shap missed the second half of last season with an injury sustained at Wimbledon and enters the tournament using his protected ranking, he’s opponent in round 1 is 18 year old Czech, Mensik, who I’ve never even seen play, once the next best hope for men’s tennis to take over the golden generation as they faded away, Shapovalov’s career has lumbered from one disappointment to another and has never come close to reaching the heights most pundits thought he would. Felix for my money was always the more talented player and less mentally unstable of the two however after his breakthrough season in 2022 winning a succession of indoor events and beating many a top player along the way as well as taking Nadal to 5 sets at Roland Garros which is a feat in itself, the follow up year was a car crash once the clay season started, losing in Round 1 on 10 occasions before managing to pull himself together and defend his Basel title beating  Hurkacz in the final.  He meets Thiem in the first round in Australia who has never been the same player since returning from injury and can be safely filed under ‘busted flush’, Muller in the second round, Medvedev in the 3rd, Dimitrov, Rune, Alcaraz, Novak.

Hurkacz is 80/1, I struggle to get excited about the smiling assassin, a solid and established top 10 player over the last 3 years trading a lot off of his serve, he will be most remembered for being the last player to beat Federer at Wimbledon with a bagel in the 3rd and final set, he also has a very poor slam record only ever making the last 8 on one occasion. I don’t think anyone played more tie-breaks than him in 2023 with 58 in total and barely had a winning edge in that, 30 to 28. He should make the 4th round before losing to Rune. Ben Shelton is 75/1, his projected draw is, Bautista-Agut > O’Connell > Mannarino > Djokovic > Tstisipas > Sinner > Final. Big game, big serve, big attitude, he has  the arrogance of youth to really take it to Djokovic as from what I’ve seen so far, he will undoubtedly make it that far and if he did the near impossible and somehow managed to beat Novak he’d stand as good a chance as anyone to win the tournament. Most people would have a mental block backing a player as soon as they saw Djokovic’s name in their way, but having seen enough of Shelton at the US Open the foresight 4 months later is not as difficult to overcome here as it would have been otherwise, I would not be surprised to see this shock happen as long as he remains Dialled In. A nod to his celebration over Tiafoe.

I almost can’t be bothered to mention Ruud at 60/1, his game and personality is so unremarkable you forget he’s in the draw but I’d take Zverev to beat him round 4 anyway. Rublev is 60/1, he’s made 9 slam quarter finals now and still waiting for his first Semi at the age of 26, I would not be surprised to seem him lose in Round 2 to Eubanks, he has a great engine but that alone just wont cut the mustard as he does not have enough in his tool box to challenge any of the business players. Speaking of Eubanks, he bombed hard after his epic QF Wimbledon run last year on a surface in which is tailor-made for his game, 500/1 is poor value, I’d want 5000/1. Brief mention for King Athur Fils @ 500/1 with slybet, won his first ever ATP tour level tournament in Lyon last season and has also claimed some big scalps in Sinner, Ruud, Tsitsipas. The French over the years have been accused of being mental midgets, time will tell if he’s one of them or not. Rune awaits him in Round 3. He looks like a typical French player with flair and dynamism but will reserve judgement til I see more of him. A last mention for Korda at 125/1 who I actually have in my draw as a  shock semi finalist who won 7 and lost matches against top 20 players last year including beating Medvedev twice and Sinner whilst pushing Novak and Alcaraz close.


The Four Front-Runners
Swiatek is the favourite yet again to win her 5th Slam at 3.2 followed by last years finalists here - the two Eastern European ballbashers Rybakina and Sabalabalenka at 4/1 and 5/1 respectively, with Coco pops 6/1. As always, trying to consistently back winners in WTA slams is like trying to catch lightening in a bottle.

These four players are not only the front-runners for this years Australian Open they are also the same small band of  merry players who emerged from 2023 as a new ‘big four’ in women’s tennis after mopping up 10 of the 13 WTA tournaments worth winning, 3 of the 4 slams, six of the eight 1000’s events and the end of season Masters Cup, not to mention 5 Runner up spots. They are also the only four players bar Pegula who finished the season winning more than 75% of their matches (not including Tomljanovic and Yafan Wang who barely played 15 between them). The pole won 10 of 15 tie breaks, Ryba led with 16 tie break wins and 5 losses, Saba 13-6 and Gauff 8-1. All pretty clutch.
They’ve all started the season where they left of last year with Rybakina beating Sabalenka in the Brisbane final and Gauff winning in Auckland along with Swiatek helping Polska to the United Cup final.

Having said all of that it’s hard to point toward this being the future even given their ages (19-25) bearing in mind the volatile nature of the women game and how many different first time Major winners we’ve had in recent years, in the last 33 slams they’ve have been 18 new first time champions in contrast to the men’s where they’ve only been 3. PR people will tell you that is depth, realists will tell you it’s much of a muchness and rivalries sell sport, many of the top names in WTA would still be largely unrecognisable to the public at large, unwilling to be a star, unwilling to risk sponsorship deals by saying anything remotely controversial. Consistent slam winners and finalists is the only way forward to put bums on seats, increase column inches and draw in the audiences at home as well displaying some kind of marketable personality, it happened during the William’s sisters and Sharapova days, it can happen again.  The ATP has dined out on their big 4 for the best part of 20 years and with any luck it’ll now be the WTA’s turn but  I wouldn’t count on it, looking at the list of entrants this year I would estimate and say without exaggeration that there are around 30 different player whom if any one of them won this slam, I wouldn’t be surprised and probably neither would you.

Some trivia, only on 4 occasions has the title here been won by a player outside the top 8 seeds with Kenin being the last 4 years ago. Osaka, Svitolina and Kerber will all be aiming to become the first new mum to win a slam since Clijsters here in 2011 and Azarenka was the last player to win back to back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013.

Whilst Iga is the rightful favourite, in simple terms clay is still her best surface and hard courts will always favour the games of Ryba and saba which means she is by no means a foregone conclusion to win here, not forgetting it was Elena who knocked her out of this competition in straights in Round 4 twelve months ago. Her projected route is Kenin > Collins > Bouzkova/Noskova > Svitolina/Kudermetova > Ostapenko/Vondrousova > Rybakina/Pegula > Sabalenka / A.another. That is a pretty tough draw on paper despite being 1.05 to beat Kenin in Round 1. Sofia has been on a long road to recovery in the last few years after a series of injuries including a grade-three ankle tear and an emergency appendectomy whilst also parting ways with her coach, her dad, she is a genuine top 10 player at her best, a former winner here in 2020 and French Open runner up, last year saw her pick up some top 20 wins over Gauff, Saba, Kuds, Ostapenko and Samsonova whilst also running Ryba close in Indian Wells losing two narrow tie breakers, if the real Kenin shows up it’d be a really close match.  Swiatek is a good bet to win her first Aussie open but she is not a safe bet, we are not in Paris. Iga hit 23 bagels in 2023,  14 more than the next nearest players, Maria and Jessica on 9. Nobody on the men’s tour won more than 5 individual sets 6-0 over the course of the season. You’d have to go back to the Halcyon days of Serena in 2013 to see numbers that high, in a year in which she dished out 25, though memorable she was bagelled herself by Medina-Garrigues in Madrid. Honourable mention to squatter Aga Radwanska in 2014 with 14 bagels.

Rybakina chose to play both Brisbane and Adelaide in the build up the this years tournament, it’s rare that any player in contention to win this slam plays two warm up events back to back before the slam begins. Clocking up almost 1,700 air miles in the process before tanking to Alexandrova in the quarters. She will have a burning desire to win here after the lingering and sore memories of losing last years final to Sabalenka in a close 3 set match, recently demolished Ayrna in the Brisbane final 60 63 in a tournament in which she dropped just 15 games in 9 sets. She is not only a pure ball striker imo she is a better ball striker than Saba, a more aesthetically pleasing power bot.  Her projected route is KaPlis > Busker/Blin182ova > Osorio > Kasatkina > Zheng/Pegula > Vondorsova/ Swiatek > Sabalenka.

Sabalenka  has probably the softest quarter the the big 4, like Rybakina, she stands a better chance of beating Iga than Coco as we’ve seen with time, the most effective and most simple tactic needed to stand a chance to beat her is brute force and aggression to help drag her into a swamp of unforced errors given her high margin game. Saba is not pretty to watch, is allergic to rallying and is not the greatest of movers but she does have is enough to overcome the majority of pushers and road runners on tour. She recently said of herself ““I’m working a lot on my serve. I still think there is a lot of things to improve on my serve,” she added.
“I’m also trying to step in a little bit more on court, recognise the short approach shots, try to move forward instead of staying on the baseline.”
She appears to be slightly overlooked coming into this slam with some citing others coming in with more motivation such as Ryba avenging last years loss, Iga winning her first Aussie Open or even Jabeur at 40/1 still reeling from the pain of major final loss after major final loss, yet no mention of the fact Ayrna is not only defending her title, defending 2000 ranking points, the huge prize money on offer and the chance to become World Number 1 again, just by not winning this event and finishing runner up, she would stand to lose 700 points. She also has the chance to replicate her fellow Belorussian (Azarenka) achievements of winning back to back titles here just over 10 years ago, it hasn’t been done since by any player. Her projected route Seidel > Fruhvirtova > Sasnovich > Samsonova/Pavs > Jabeur/Krejcikova > Gauff > Ryba/Swiatek

Gauff’s breezed past the field in Auckland dropping only one set in a tie breaker en-route to winning her first tournament of the year in emphatic fashion, starting every match sub 1.2 and doing the odds justice, she’s now playing with the confidence of a slam winner and has eventually lived up to the unfair hype that surrounded her after being shoved into the limelight with a Wimbledon qualies Wildcard aged 15 and a centre court Round 1 match against Venus.
Truth is however she’s had been better of practising voodoo at home to put a spell on Swiatek who has her number, she has an awful 1-9 h2h record against Iga with the only crumb of comfort coming from the 1 solitary win against her fairly recently at the back end of last summer en-route to winning Cincinatti, other than that it’s a wash out, quite simply the 22 year old Pole’s ability to mix things up when needed along with the money shot - the topsin forehand she deploys using an extreme western grip, is too much for Coco leaving her with no real chances to develop rhythm nor dictate points in rallying situations, Gauff’s biggest assets are less technical, speed, power and will are her biggest assets which will only take you so far against skilful players. While the majority of the few players that do have western grips typically prefer to hit loopier shots, Swiatek generates so much spin and power added with the acceleration, her shots become much more offensive and counter attacking, then you factoring in her court speed which is why Jabeur’s drop shots and changing of pace is not a problem for Iga as we saw in the Rome final a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t fancy Gauff to win this match up should they meet again. Her projected draw Schmiedlova > Dolehide > Fernandez > Garcia/Osaka > Haddad Maia/Woz > Sabalenka > Swiatke/Ryba

Apart from the big four and along with maybe the absent Muchova, Pegula was the other stand out player in 2023 winning 2 of 5 finals, she mostly spent her younger days playing on the ITF tour before making inroads on the WTA tour past the age of 22, now 29 her record at slams is 6 quarter final appearances including 3 straight quarters in Australia alone. At the recent tour finals she beat Sabalenka whilst generating even greater ground-stroke speed on average than than her opponent, she is like Sorana,  hard hitting player who’s hard hitting goes largely unnoticed maybe due to optics, lack of grunting, less heavy shots, less of a physical game, it’s one of the reasons why she is in the small group of players that can upset the current World Number 1, backed up by two wins against Iga from the last 4 meetings. Having said that, she was also bagelled twice during that period, including being absolutely annihilated in the final of the Masters cup, a bagel and breadstick, to which Jessica replied post match on insta “Ended the year through the Iga bakery factory lol” which whilst amusing, doesn’t exactly exude a winning mentality, you’d never see Serena doing that. Tommy Haas once said of Billionaire Gulbis “he would be Number 1 if he could buy ranking points”, I’ve often thought of players who have only ever known luxury and comfort such as Pegula, daughter of a  billionaire oil magnate, as having a subconscious lack of motivation or fight to really push through the ceiling and self mocking quotes as above does lean towards that thinking. I would fancy a fully fit Zheng to beat her in round 4 Her projected route Marino > Burel > Zhu > Zheng > Rybakina > Swiatek > Sabalenka

Selected Others
Far far too many other players to mention who could quite feasibly win this slam from Zheng at 33/1 who I seem to back to finally come good at every Major, to Haddad Maia at 80/1 who despite having a poor hard court slam record is actually a very good hard court player, to old timer Wizard of Woz at 150/1 to forgotten Wonder girl Anisimova at 220/1 and right down to Romanian Warrior Princess at 500/1, a shocking and insulting price, Baldfreds should be shut down for that offer.  Not to mention several other non seeded or former slam winners or finalists such as Osaka @ 33/1, Kenin at 200,  Badosa at 300/1 and Stephens at 600. The key word here being conceivable rather than likely. I’m also a believer in Andreeva at 40/1, apparently she fancies Andy Murray, to which Murray replied “imagine how good she’ll be when she gets her eyes fixed”. Quite aptly there is also forgotten Sakkari at 50/1 who’d I had forgotten myself, she reached a couple of finals last year and has started the season well with 3 wins from 3 albeit the opposition wasn’t up to much. If Novak is the archetypal immovable object she is the archetypal confidence player, everything is on a knife edge depending upon how she’s feeling on the day

Ostapancake at 50/1 has definitely started to peak my interest again, although she had a poor showing at the slams last year in general it was probably her best season since she inexplicably won the French open in 2017, she has a 4-0 h2h record against Iga which does help the narrative that to beat Swiatek you need to be ultra aggressive and go for winners at every opportunity to throw her out of sync, she has started the season in great form winning in Adelaide beating soft hands Kasatkina in the final 63 62, she still looks weighty to me, maybe she’s just big boned and has simply filled out, stamina doesn’t appear to be an issue, winning 19 three setters in 2023 and losing 11. Projected draw is Birrell > Martic > Azarenka > Vondrousova > Swiatek > Rybakina > Sabalenka

A favourite of mine is Ons, the Tunisian Munchkin and minister of happiness deserves a slam win on ability alone, she has called winning a slam ‘her mission in life’ and even confessed to put off having  a baby in order to achieve that goal, if that’s not dedication I don’t know what is, she has a more than tricky route but for her it is also a final that is more than makable.  Her projected route is ITF vulture Starodubtseva > Andreeva > X Wang > Krejcikova > Sabalenka > Gauff > Swiatek/Ryba

Zheng is 33/1, she was crownd Most Improved Player Award in 2023 by the WTA after winning her first and second tour level titles, beating 3 Top 10 players along with making her first Slam quarter final, she has also recently parted ways with glorified super coach Wim Fissette, who’s now jumped ship to Osaka. There were not many players who finished the second half of the season stronger after Wimbledon winning 17 out 22 matches. 2024 will also be 10 years since fellow China woman Li Na won here.  She generates so much spin on her shots and is one of the quicker player out there whilst completely unafraid to go for winners, top 10 is destiny.

I could go on all day as there are so many capable players who can go on a run, there’s also the issue of knowing some of those players who are capable but not knowing really where they are with their fitness and their game, players who’ve been out for long while such as new Mum’s Osaka (tricky R1 match v Garcia) and Kerber, Woz still feeling her way back in, Anisimova who took a long break after 2022 for mental health reasons, one last mention for Haddad Maia who has a farily kind section of the draw and is priced at 80/1 to win the tournament, worth considering for anyone’s money.

The Brits
Boulter won her first WTA title last year and broke into the top 50, Burrage has a first ever direct entry into the Australian Open  and currently ranked just outside the top 100m the cut off point for direct entry was originally 99th but a succession of players pulling out has allowed her in through the back door including new mum to be Petra. In fairness to Barrage she was only knocked out of the last 2 slams early doors by Sabalenka and Kasatkina respectively and recently peaked as high as 85th so it’s deserved.
Emma is currently ranked 299th a long succession of injuries, illnesses, coaching changes and Covid interruptions but like Burrage, she gains automatic entry here due to her protected ranking of 103rd, she was initially denied a wildcard and put into qualies but thanks to Lauren Davis pulling out she plays as first alternative. She would have been better off going through qualifying.
Norrie reached 3 finals last year but was no where near the level of 2022 and 2021, made his breakthrough on tour aged 22 and has 1 Semi Final showing at Wimbledon, that was one of only 2 occasion he’s reached the 2nd week of a slam, the other being the 4th round of the US Open in 2022.
Dan Evans is 33 going on 34 with a career high rank in 21st which he will not better bar a late burst of form. Draper pushed Nadal to 4 sets at the Aussie open last year, took a set off of Novak at Wimbledon, reached his first maiden final in Sofia and has made it to the Adelaide final, he’s is Britain’s only real male hope of making an impression in the slams in the next few years unless someone else emerges from the LTA’s academy of no hopers, his projected run is Giron > Paul > Kecmanovic > Alcaraz > Zverev > Medvedev/Rune > Final, he has every chance of reaching the 4th round. Going forward I would even predict he could make the top 10 in the future with his big game in what is still essentially a power era, highest peak is 38th, he has an boderline-elite level serve but overall is probably not dynamic enough to reach the very top, I.e win a slam which he says he can, he also needs to learn to stay fit, he’s already had several retirements in his short career. Finally and unfortunately, Murray is a footnote in slams these days, Cilic recently talked about the clear difference in the limitations he has with his movement which is obviously understandable after major hip surgery,  “just feel that Andy’s movement is a touch more limited than it was. He was so, so explosive in the past.
"He could get some balls back that, like, one per cent of the guys on the tour would get.
"The game is there but he’s having a little bit limitations. He had also quite a good season last year, so hats off to him for for battling it out." A third round meeting with Djokovic for old times sake would be the best outcome.


    1/4 WINNERS        ODDS        ALT / VALUE        ODDS        1/4 WINNERS        ODDS        ALT / VALUE        ODDS   
    DJOKOVIC        1.25        TSITSIPAS        10        OSTAPENKO        17        VONDROUSOVA        17   
    KORDA        13        TABILO        300        RYBAKINA        2.25        ZHENG        7   
    MEDVEDEV        2.7        FELIX        36        GAUFF        2.1        HADDAD MAIA        15   
    ALCARAZ        1.5        ZVEREV        4.5        JABEUR        7.5        ANISIMOVS        34   

    REACH FINAL        ODDS        ALT / VALUE        ODDS        REACH  FINAL        ODDS        ALT / VALUE        ODDS   
    DJOKOVIC        1.62        SHELTON        41        RYBAKINA        4.5        OSTAPENKO        26   
    MEDVEDEV        6        RUNE        15        GAUFF        3.75        JABEUR        23   

    FINALISTS        ODDS        ALT / VALUE        ODDS        FINALISTS        ODDS        ALT / VALUE        ODDS   
    DJOKOVIC/MEDVEDEV        9        DJKOVIC/ZVEREV        21        RYBAKINA/GAUFF        17        RYBAKINA/JABEUR        90   

    WINNER        ODDS        ALTERNATIVE        ODDS        WINNER        ODDS        ALTERNATIVE        ODDS   
    DJOKOVIC        2.1        TSITSIPAS        50        RYBAKINA        6        JABEUR        40   

All prices were correct at time of going to print.

Tennisdrawchallenge stuff, I am the defending champions here in the womens draw after finishing 1st from 1384 brackets entered last year, previous record in the slams is in the spoiler below, finished 149th overall in the grand slam race in ATP and 49th overall in WTA, you can follow my full Pre-tournament picks here, click on the Australian Open 2024 link.
Spoiler: Show
    ROUND 1        COR.        INC.        DRAW/POS.        ROUND 1        COR.        INC.        DRAW/POS.   
    FRENCH 22        43        21        298/1765        FRENCH 22        45        19        909 / 1078   
    WIMBLEDON22        46        18        829 / 2158        WIMBLEDON22        45        19        745 / 1255   
    US OPEN 22         43        21        1177 / 1939        US OPEN 22         40        24        411 / 1155   
    AUS OPEN 23        47        17        818 / 2312        AUS OPEN 23        47        17        1 / 1384   
    FRENCH 23        42        22        67/1662        FRENCH 23        47        17        303 / 1003   
    WIMBLEDON 23        39        25        826/2061        WIMBLEDON 23        38        26        825/1138   
    US OPEN 23        40        24        763/1743        US OPEN 23        43        21        467/1024   

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Report Journeyman January 13, 2024 6:09 PM GMT
Welcome back, I've linked here from my unofficial WTA thread so that any further preview related posts are in the same place. You've softened a bit on Demon which is nice to see. Novak pretended to forget Alex's name when he lost to him recently in the United Cup so there's still ill feeling there. I'll keep my ATP selections simple. Novak has done well in the past the few times that he's won the US Open in setting himself up to win in Melbourne, so I'm not opposing him as such. But the pirhanas are beginning to bite at his toes and I do think Sinner is probably going to come out the champion. Grigor can't be discounted at 50s.

Tournament winner

J.Sinner   (nap) 8.8
G.Dimitrov (nb)  50

Value bets

A.Zverev 30 Minaur 48
A.Fils  710

Long shots

A.Shevchenko 1000
A.Bublik 1000
L.Van Assche 1000

Quarter winners and alternatives

Q1 Schevchenko or LVA
Q2 Sinner or Demon
Q3 Dimitrov or Fils
Q4 Zverev or Bublik
Report brain dead jockeys January 13, 2024 6:44 PM GMT
swiatek is in a totally different class to other women on hardcourts. she has won 6 of the last 13 Hardcourt WTA masters and masters series finals she has played in. her dominance in the 2023 WTA finals was crazy.
she lost 18 games in 5 matches v gauff (6-0.7-5), jabeur (6-1,6-2), Vondrousova (7-6,6-0), gauff (6-2,6-1) and Pegula (6-1,6-0).........
her dominance reminded me of roger federer's performance in the 2023 ATP finals when he beat agassi 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 in the final.......we all know what he did over the next few years.

she played all the top women in that WTA finals event and simply murdered them. it is surely only a matter of time before she wins the aus open and US open on a regular basis, maybe not like federer did but something close.
Report snowynoon January 13, 2024 10:33 PM GMT
Great write up Mesmerised ,appreciate it.
Report Wesdag January 15, 2024 8:28 PM GMT
Mes, you should get a gig with the Racing Post at the very least. Cool
Report Journeyman January 21, 2024 2:15 PM GMT
Unusually quiet on the prediction thread. Maybe mes would prefer if in future there's a separate general preview/prediction thread to his thread? 

Anyway it's the halfway point and what a wild event it has been in the womens.  Woz will be kicking herself at her second round muggery as the top half has collapsed even further around her head after going out. The tiebreak between Rybakina and Blinkova will live on long past this slam I suspect (that Rybakina miss at 12-11 in the tb!!) but Blinkova crashing out in the next round was the most inevitable IJBABP ever. I hope she takes a lot away from the event though because she pulled out some incredible gets.

Of the nine players I put up pre tournament in my linked WTA preview, Noskova (210 pre) and Azarenka (140 pre) are still going strong in that crazy top half. I'm concerened that Linda N (who worked on her prep with her coach to take down Iga) underestimates the threat of Svitolina, a player who unusually has changed her game style late in her career introducing far more variation and aggression. If she can avoid that potential landmine then she can win the whole thing. She makes fast decisions and good reads and most importantly has a game that can play through pushers and aggressive players alike. Edy has frequently picked up on her achilles heel (her tendency to seriously sulk aka Prague which was laid out on a plate for her) but there's less of that so far here.

On that thread I predicted categorically that Noskova would beat Iga. I'll put up another two 'massive shock' selections.

Krejcikova to beat Sabalenka at a huge 6.4. Barbora has pulled out of the mixed to focus on her singles form which was one of the high points of Czechia's BJK cup run. Her h2h isn't great but of the three matches she played with Saba on hard in 2023 she took her to three sets in two and won one. She's come back from a set down in three of her four matches here and Saba having only dropped 11 games in four matches (!) hasn't really been tested but looked a bit iffy the last time she was (the Brisbane final). Too short at 1.18.

Kostyuk to beat Gauff at an enormous 7.6. Marta has quietly put together a mazy run through the draw. Surviving that nailbiter against Mertens has freed her up to take down some good scalps, particularly a straight sets annihilation of Timofeeva who had put out Woz. She's only played Coco once, a tight three setter in Adelaide last year. I think she's value here. She won her first 250 in 2023 and seems to be more focussed on her tennis so far this year but we all know what will be driving her motivation in her mind (and in Elina's mind ofc). Gauff too short at 1.14.

In the event that both Krejcikova and Kostyuk win there would be no Iga, Rybakina, Saba or Coco in the semi finals of the first slam of the year which would be a healthy reality check imo.

Listening to Laura Robson act like Noskova beating Iga was a massive shock was toecurling.

Why is it so hard to accept that there are no elite womens players currently on the tour.

None of these players are fit to lace the shoes of a pre-stabbing Seles, Graf, Serena, Navratilova or Evert and that's okay! Not every era has to have a superstar. If only commentators and the wider media could accept that and chart the progress of a tour that is still 'building the map' that would be just as interesting in its own way.
Report SamuelMertensBertens January 22, 2024 12:47 AM GMT
Currently no superstar I would agree with, but Iga had won 4 Slams the week after she turned 22. Gauff has been improving year by year and just won her first Slam. Not there yet, but she definitely has Superstar potential if she keeps progressing. Very marketable too, unlike Iga. With women's tennis being more physically demanding these days, it might be harder to dominate all year like players in the past have done.
Interesting shout on Krej. She's the Undertaker of the WTA, just when you think she's out she comes back and does something big.
Report SamuelMertensBertens January 22, 2024 12:48 AM GMT
and no hating on Laura, please!
Report Journeyman January 22, 2024 11:29 AM GMT
Yes I wondered if you'd push back on that as her occasional soc media buddy! Slight asterisk against the selection on Kostyuk after her two controversies since reaching QF. These are just my calls anyway, not suggesting what anyone else does.
Report brain dead jockeys January 22, 2024 7:46 PM GMT
after swiatek fails at another slam, i will never bet on womens tennis again.
Report mesmerised January 26, 2024 2:55 PM GMT
Looks like I was a year too earlyCry at the Aussie Open last year I had a Sabalenka v Zheng final @ 150/1, after being on the Zheng bandwagon for a while backing her at a few slams to win her quarter or make a final, I decided to relent for this slam and lo and behold, she makes the final, though did pick her as alternative quarter winner, she had every chance last year but retired with injury, I'm taking aback by the odds, there is a market that deserves to be punished, Zheng has every chance of winning this imo.

The second Rybakina inexplicable lost to Blink182ova, the first thing I thought was I absolutely guarantee she will lose the next round, with the enormity of the win too big for her, classic 'I Just Beat a Big Player Syndrome', same as Burel beating Pegula then losing to Dodin in straightseven when odds on.

Looks like I was wrong suggesting Novak had a phantom wrist injury, the writing was on the wall early on dropping sets to the likes of Prizmic and Popyrin, this was the first time in over 400 slam matches he's never had a single break point, my flabber is gasted. Said in the first post Sinner had a ceiling, looks like he's got a lucky break and again, can't believe he's favourite. I at least had Danill reaching the final but overall it's a loss with the predictions.

For those that didn't understand the first paragraph, it was a play on the famous Australian song 'Land Down Under', before my time but I'm sure the oldies have heard of it, only recently seen the video, one of the worst music videos I've seen,

I'll be happy for Sabalenka to win but now it's down to Medvedev to save TennisGrin

Kind Regards.
Report Journeyman January 28, 2024 1:02 PM GMT
Journeyman • January 13, 2024 6:09 PM GMT

Tournament winner

J.Sinner   (nap) 8.8
G.Dimitrov (nb)  50

As my record picking outright winners pre-event is decidedly patchy I'm bumping this one.
Especially as nobody else picked Sinner pre.
The sun does shine on a dog's backside sometimes!
Report mesmerised January 28, 2024 1:08 PM GMT
yeah well done, I'm off to lick my wounds and to keep telling myself Sinner's unworthy, call it a coping mechanism, should be over it by the time the French Open starts in Sunny MayGrin
Report Journeyman January 28, 2024 1:13 PM GMT
Cheers. Both your 'finalists' and 'alt finalists' picks were live right up till the semis so a frustrating one for you. Zverev really mugged a fantastic opportunity.
Report Angela Rebecchi January 28, 2024 2:13 PM GMT
Great shout journey. I really don't get how you call Sinner unworthy! He's an unreal generational talent imho. The only thing I would say is he never faced a real, or even close to that, Novak. I think he would have likely fallen had he. But given his outright price, he was a nice value pick and well selected by journey.
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