World number one clinical in a first week of shocks and scares at the Australian Open
Novak Djokovic has barely broken sweat, never mind drop a set during the first week of the championships, and it is this smooth progress that has separated the 7/10 shot from his exhausted rivals.
It has been the second half of the draw that has provided the week’s major talking points. Andreas Seppi’s shock win over Roger Federer set the scale for a number of upsets, with seeds being swatted away like flies in the sizzling Melbourne heat.
Despite that, five of the top six seeds still remain, with Novak Djokovic taking on Gilles Muller for a place in the quarter finals, whilst Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray face Thomas Berdych and Nick Krygios respectively for a spot in the semis.
Whilst Djokovic should breeze through against Muller, a potential quarter final against Milos Raonic could provide the Serb’s first test of the tournament. With Milos yet to lose serve or drop a set, the Canadian can ace his way out of trouble against Novak, and whilst looking unlikely to win the match, could be well worth backing on the games handicap if the duo do face off.
Another intriguing clash below them in the draw is Nishikori against Ferrer. Kei incredibly beat the Spaniard four times in deciding sets last year, and the tournaments neutral court speed provides the two baseliners a great opportunity to grind out another classic. Nishikori to prevail 3-2 is outstanding value at 5/1.
The winner of the clash will almost certainly play Wawrinka, who is 3/50 to beat surprise 4th rounder Garcia Lopez.
The other half of the draw is just as intriguing. Rafael Nadal is used to enduring days of pain and fatigue, but this week’s events have pushed even the Spaniard to his limit. A four hour clash with qualifier Tim Smyczek resulted in Nadal cramping, throwing up and feeling dizzy, yet still finding a way to scrape to the quarter finals.
He will play Berdych who contrastingly has powered his way uncompromisingly through the draw, without losing a set. Whilst the “the Birdman” doesn’t have a good record against Rafa, he has the tools to finally put the exhausted Spaniard out of his misery and should be backed at 5/4.
Whilst Nick Kyrgios captured the imagination of an adoring Australian public with a five set win over Seppi in the other quarter, he won’t get any sentiment from Andy Murray, who looks far too fit and strong to be worried by the wonder-kid, and is a banker at 9/50.
Berdych and Murray would be a semi-final too close to call, with Berdych leading the head to head 5-4 against the pair. Either will start as huge underdogs against Djokovic in the final however, as the world number one looks a level above the rest, and his odds on price should not put punters off.
Djokovic Outright – 7/10
Kei Nishikori to win 3-2 vs Ferrer – 5/1
Thomas Berdych To Beat Rafael Nadal – 5/4