The Australian Open kicks off next week and the usual suspects are expected to compete for the title. Three tennis legends are the top contenders to win the tournament, while a fourth will generate the most attention.
Leading the way — to little surprise — is world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. According to Bet365, the Serbian star has 6/5 odds of taking home his sixth Australian Open title. Djokovic, who is coming off a stellar ending to the 2018 season, has won more Australian Open titles than any other Grand Slam. He will face little-known American Mitchell Krueger on Monday.
The clear No. 2 favorite is back-to-back defending champion Roger Federer, who is listed at 9/2 odds. Like Djokovic, Federer has won the tournament six times. In Grand Slam competition, the 37-year-old has only performed better at Wimbledon, where he won eight times. On Monday night, Federer will take on 32-year-old Denis Istomin, who had defeated Djokovic in the second round in 2017.
Rafael Nadal is No. 3 at 8/1 odds but he might be the most interesting competitor in the tournament. The 2009 winner is reportedly set to test out a new and improved serve. He also had pulled out of the Brisbane International due to a thigh strain, raising questions about his fitness in Melbourne.
“I feel good. If I am not feeling good, I would not be here,” the 32-year-old Spaniard said Saturday.
Nadal on Monday will face Sydney-born James Duckworth, a wildcard who in 2015 was ranked as high as No. 82. Nadal might also face 19-year-old Aussie Alex de Minaur in the Round of 32.
However, the big talk of the tournament might be “The Big Four” dwindling down to “The Big Three.”
Former world No. 1 Andy Murray on Friday announced he would retire in the coming months after a long rehabilitation battle from a right hip injury. The three-time Grand Slam winner said he hopes Wimbledon will be his last tournament.
Murray, 31, will certainly be the sentimental favorite at the Australian Open, as it could be his last tournament.
“I spoke to my team and I told them I can’t keep doing this and that I need to have an end point, because I was just playing with no idea when the pain was going to stop,” Murray said in an emotional press conference. “I said, ‘look, I think I can kind of get through this until Wimbledon.’ That is where I would like to stop. I’m also not certain I’m able to do that.
“I can still play to a level, not a level that I’m happy playing at. But it’s not just that. The pain is too much, really. It’s not something I want. I don’t want to continue playing that way. I’ve tried pretty much everything that I could to get it right and that hasn’t worked.”
Murray has reached the Australian Open final five times — most recently in 2016 — but never won.
On Monday he faces No. 22-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut at Melbourne Arena. Oddsmakers list the Scot as a 50/1 longshot to win the tournament.
Prediction: This tournament will once again belong to Djokovic. Don’t expect too many setbacks or struggles for the top-ranked star, as he should mostly cruise to the title.