Tennis Australian Open
There is a significant discrepancy between the bookmaker’s odds and the price to back Andy Murray to win the Australian Open on the exchanges. He is as low as 5-1 with the traditional layers but still available to be matched at 12.0 on Betfair. That price is more punter driven which suggests that the feeling in the betting community is that Murray cannot win the Australian Open for the first time.
Whatever Murray achieves in his tennis career he will always be remembered as the first British male to win the Wimbledon title for 77 years. He was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and in deciding not to travel to Leeds for the occasion Murray was displaying the single-mindedness required to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
At aged 26 and at his peak there are two achievements that would take his career to an even higher level. He looks determined to reach number one in the world rankings and no doubt would like to join just the seven men who have achieved a career Grand Slam in winning each of the four major titles at least one time.
Despite the lack of confidence on Betfair Murray can finally win the Australian Open and get to three quarters of a career Grand Slam. He won the US Open in 2012 and memorably won at Wimbledon last summer. The intriguing questions now are how many Grand Slam titles will Murray have won when he retires from the sport in about five years time and will that tally include at least one of each?
It would be a surprise if he did not win the Wimbledon title again before retirement. He has a game well suited to hardcourts so he is capable of winning both the US and Australian Opens at least once. In the context of completing the set the French Open could be beyond him. He is about the same age as Rafael Nadal and the Spanish player will always be a contender on clay.
Murray decided to miss last year’s French Open to give himself the best chance to prepare for Wimbledon. Nadal will always make his beloved French Open a priority and he could have won more than ten titles in Paris when he can no longer compete at the highest level. The small window of opportunity to prepare for a different surface between the French Open and Wimbledon will always make it difficult for any player to win both titles in the same year.
Murray’s record in the Australian Open suggests this is a title that can be added to his CV. His old nemesis in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic, has been the best player on hardcourts over the last three years. Murray will have to beat him in addition to either Nadal or Juan Martin Del Potro to win the Australian Open.
The Scottish player, or Brit when he does well, will be competing in the Australian Open for the eighth time this year. He has lost in three finals since 2010 and made the last four in the other year in that spell. Murray has now appeared in seven Grand Slam finals of which he has won two. The French Open is the only Grand Slam at which he has not reached a final.
The Olympic champion has only ever played Djokovic or Roger Federer in the final of one of the four biggest events in tennis. He has never beaten Federer in a Grand Slam final and to date not played against Nadal in a major final. Pending the draw this year’s Australian Open could see him play Nadal in the final match for one of the four biggest prizes in the sport.
That scenario is draw dependent and will require Djokovic to underperform. The Serb is already three-quarters to the career Grand Slam and he requires the French Open to complete the set. He has the same problem as Murray in that he must beat Nadal over five sets in Paris to win that elusive title. He lost in an epic semi-final to Nadal in last year’s French Open, a match that turned on a point that Djokovic won but had to concede when he ran into the net.
Murray has played 25 sets in Grand Slam finals, made up of four three set matches, two that went to four sets and another that went the full distance. He has won eight of those sets but none in his first three finals which were lost in straight sets. He has won just one of ten sets he has contested in finals of the Australian Open.
Djokovic is the defending champion in Australia but he didn’t add to his tally of major titles after beating Murray in four sets a year ago. He lost the Wimbledon and US Open finals and has dropped to second place in the world rankings behind Nadal. The Australian Open is played in extremely high temperatures which make fitness and stamina important attributes. Djokovic excels in these areas and will always be the player to beat in Melbourne.
Assessing the form at this stage of the season can be difficult. The Australian Open is being played earlier than usual this year and will be the first tournament of the season for many players. Murray has already played competitively but a double bagel (6-0,6-0) against a player outside the top 1000 in the world was followed by a defeat to Florian Mayer, currently at 38 in the standings.
Despite the lack of confidence on Betfair Murray has the game and ability to win the Australian Open and if successful would then focus more on the French Open and his attempt to become just the eighth male player to win each of the four grand Slams.