This is one of my favourite tournaments of the year as it is the first serious one since the end of last season. Due to the break the players have had and the injury status of many of the top Mens players last year, there are a lot of unknowns here and this is one of the least predicatable tournaments of the season as a result. It may seem like an obvious pick now but who could have predicted a Federer v Nadal final last year? Their dynasties appeared to be over but have been reignited due to their incredible seasons sharing the four slams equally, an amazing feat for two players who had a combined age of over 65!
Who is in form to make a push?
So this year we have a lot to look forward to with many up and coming youngsters making an impact last season outside of the grand slams. In particular Alex Zverev (odds 20.0) who showed he could match the best in best of three sets tennis and may be Grand Slam ready this year.
There was also the fulfilled promise of David Goffin (odds 20.0) and perhaps less so Grigor Dimitrov (odds 13.0), two players with big potential this year. Dimi in particuar was expected to be a future world No. 1 but that has never really materialised but at 26 now is the time, if he is ever going to do it, to really jump into the elite players in grand slams.
A less well documented story was the comeback of Juan Martin Del Potro (odds 22.0), a former US Open Grand Slam champion less we forget. The injury plagued Argentine talent finished the year in great form and comes into Australia as a real dark horse to have a big year if (and it's a big if!) he can stay healthy.
Thinking of Australia, what about Nick Kyrgios(odds 20.0), loaded with talent and playing at home, can the modern day John McEnroe finally get his head together and go close in a Grand Slam?
Well the five players mentioned above would be my dark horses for this tournament and all at fairly big odds too. However, I will narrow it down a bit for those who want to have minimal liabilities for better gains if it does go to plan. Here are my opinions of the main contenders.
Roger Federer (odds 3.0) - I can't back a guy at 3.0 this early in the season, even Sir Roger! He looked tired at the O2 and at 36 I have to think he will slow down at some point. A worthy favourite here but odds like this rarely entice me in such large fields.
Rafa Nadal (odds 6.0) - Pulled out of O2 with a knee problem and after last year I am not sure he is really fit for this.
Novak Djokovic (odds 8.4) - The real wildcard of the draw, not played a competitive match since Wimbledon, looked OK vs Thiem yesterday but a Grand Slam is a very different beast to an exhibition match.
Grigor Dimitrov (odds 13.0) - Definitely a player I like here, I just wonder how much winning the ATP tour finals would have taken out of him emotionally. If he looks strong early on then this price could be great, I was hoping for near 20 though.
Alex Zverev (odds 20.0) - The world number 4 has yet to prove himself in Grand Slams but took Nadal to five sets here last year. I like these odds and would have priced him nearer the Dimitrov odds myself. This is definitely one for me to take here, Djokovic in his quarter is not ideal but there is no reason he cannot win that match and hopefully his odds would have shortened considerably by that point anyway.
Nick Kyrgios (odds 20.0) - Like Zverev the draw has not been kind to him but if there was one player I think could really upset the apple cart over the next two weeks it is Kyrgios. Yes I accept he could get knocked out early because he throws a tantrum. Make no mistake this guy is a great talent and I have it on good authority that he is now working with a close friend, which one can only hope will lead to some mental stability. Playing at home and winning last week (beating the inform Dimitrov in the process) means that all the signs are pointing in the right direction here and at the price he has to be worth a go.
David Goffin (odds 20.0) - Has clearly shown at the O2 that he can match it with the best, again I wonder if he will be tired here and that's why he isn't quite a good enough pick to make my narrowed down list.
Juan Martin Del Potro (odds 22.0) - He has Grand Slam pedigree and finished the year very well. I like this price but his form here over the years is not great, I liked him as part of my five dark horses but on the narrowed down version he doesn't quite make the cut.
So for me Alex Zverev and Nick Kyrgios are the clear value prices for this tournament. Obviously, use sensible stakes if you do follow as this is the first main tournament of the season and as I said before this one can be very unpredictable. Plus at odds of 20+ you don't need to stake a big amount to make a great return. Also, take a good look at Dimitrov, Del Potro and Goffin as the best of the rest of the outsiders.