One-horse race

While Britain laments the dwindling career of Andy Murray, it is also time to consider the small matter of who will win this year’s men’s Australian Open title.

And, given that Novak Djokovic is such a short-price favourite, we may well be looking at a one-horse race.

Djokovic may have lost in the semi-finals of the Qatar Open a fortnight ago, but we needn’t worry too much about that.

He went out in the quarter-finals of the same event in 2015 before easing to the Australian Open title, and lost at Queen’s in June before going on to win Wimbledon.

The Serb’s monopoly of this competition has weakened in the last couple years, when he has gone out in the second and fourth round.

But having won both of the last two slams of last season – and with doubts over the form and fitness of key competitors Roger Federer , Rafael Nadal and Alex Zverev – the path appears clearer this time.

That suspicion is vindicated further by the draw.

Djokovic has been drawn with Zverev, who may still pull out of the tournament before it begins, Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem in his half, while he is separated from Federer and Nadal until the final.

Novak Djokovic to win the title
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Best of the rest

Defending champion Federer showed glimpses of his best form in the Hopman Cup at the start of this month by winning all four of his singles matches, and he’s the clear favourite to make the final in the other half of the draw.

Alternatives to the Swiss do hold some each-way value, though.

Nadal and Zverev are struggling too much with injury to be considered, opening the door for Karen Khachanov , Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson .

Anderson has reached the final of two of his last five slams, but has a shocking record in this event, only progressing beyond the first round on four of the 10 occasions that he has entered.

Cilic has been extremely consistent at majors in the last couple of years, reaching the quarter-finals in five of his last seven slams, and progressing all the way to the final in two of them.

After beating Anderson at the Kooyong Classic last week, and reporting back positively about a troublesome knee, he could be worth an each-way bet.

Khachanov is perhaps the most enticing prospect of all.

The 22-year-old won his last event of 2018 on the hard court at the Paris Masters, beating Djokovic in the biggest win of his career.

The Russian is yet to make a serious breakthrough at a slam – going out in the fourth round at Roland-Garros and Wimbledon last season – but that win could propel him into the latter stages of this season’s majors.

Unfortunately, he and Cilic are due to meet in the fourth round in Melbourne, but the winner could go all the way to a showdown with Djokovic.

Karen Khachanov each-way
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