Men’s Aussie Open Preview
By Marty Gitlin
WagerWeb.com Contributing Writer
One might ask why they bother playing out the men’s draw of the Australian Open.
Well, it gives a bunch of guys some exercise. And, hey, second place is nice.
The champion is all but a foregone conclusion. Sensational Swiss Roger Federer will be shooting for his 10th Grand Slam title. WagerWeb.com lists him at -300 (1-3) to achieve that goal – and for good reason. The only time he seems to lose, particularly in Grand Slam events, is to clay court specialist Rafael Nadal in the French Open.
Federer is arguably the most dominant player in history for two reasons. One is his undeniable talent. The other is that compared to other eras, such as the 1970s and ’80s, when Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl graced the courts, there is little premier competition these days.
Federer should breeze through early play, though U.S. Open semifinalist Mikhail Youshny might await in the third round. Federer might also struggle against likely quarterfinal opponent, Marcos Baghdatis, a surprise finalist a year ago.
WagerWeb.com posts the second-seeded Nadal at +600 (6-1). He is not nearly as dominant off clay and is on a collision course with Britain’s tough Andy Murray in the fourth round. James Blake, the top American hope along with Andy Roddick, and two-time Grand Slam winner Lleyton Hewitt also loom in the bottom quarter of the draw.
The inconsistent Roddick might be overrated a bit at +1200 (12-1), especially considering he is seeded sixth. Third-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko could prove a stronger bet at +2000 (20-1). The same holds true for fourth-seeded Croatian Ivan Ljubicic (+2800, 28-1) and the fifth-seeded Blake (+2000, 20-1). Eighth-seeded David Nalbandian (+2000, 20-1) has risen quickly through the ranks.
Last year, Nadal and Murray were the lone players to defeat Federer, who compiled a 92-5 record and appeared in all four Grand Slam finals and won three. He was the first player since Aussie great Rod Laver in 1969 to accomplish that feat.
The toughest first-round matchup among the contenders belongs to Blake, who is slated to meet former top-ranked Carlos Moya. Roddick would be severely tested against likely third-round foe and 26th-seeded Russian Marat Safin, who won the 2005 Australian Open.
Safin, however, must overcome young German sensation Benjamin Becker in the first round. Becker rose a whopping 419 places to No. 58 in the world in 2006.
Federer? Is he more likely to lose to injury or an opponent? Probably an opponent, but it’s close.