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Australian Open Tips & Preview – Men’s Draw

WILL EVANS serves up tennis tips as he casts his eye over the men’s section of the 2023 Australian Open draw. With the world No.1 sidelined, can ‘King’ Kyrgios, defending champ Rafa, or anyone else stop Novak Djokovic from saluting for the 10th time?

 

THE TOP CONTENDERS

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic is a raging-hot favourite to pen a satisfying redemption story, striving to put his vaccination-related absence from the 2022 Australian Open and US Open in the rearview mirror with his 10th triumph at Melbourne Park. The Australian Open champ for three straight years prior to his deportation 12 months ago, Djokovic is already revelling in being Down Under again, powering to victory in the Adelaide International 1 and dropping just one set. That followed on from finishing 2022 by winning the Tel Aviv Open, Astana Open and ATP Finals, and reaching the Paris Masters final. The 35-year-old winner of 21 grand slams may only be the fourth seed, but he’s miles in front of the field form- and confidence-wise – especially with world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz Garfia missing through injury.

Odds: $1.83

Daniil Medvedev

The runner-up in the past two Australian Opens (losing to Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, respectively), Medvedev is as well-credentialled as any rival to halt Djokovic, who he upset in a calendar slam-denying US Open final in 2021 for his maiden major title. Medvedev looked good in the early rounds of the Adelaide International but it remains to be seen what effect a convincing semi-final loss to Djokovic will have. The 26-year-old Russian has his work cut out with the likes of Hubert Hurkacz and Sebastian Korda in his section ahead of a potential quarter-final showdown with Nadal, but he’s a momentum player with a 5-1 record in grand slam quarters and a 4-1 record in semis.

Odds: $6.50

Stefanos Tsitsipas

World No.4 Tsitsipas reached the Australian Open semis in 2019 and 2021-22. He was otherwise disappointing on the grand slam stage last year but made eight ATP-level finals, winning two. The Greek gun was in blistering touch during a December exhibition event and throughout the United Cup. He consequently arrives in Melbourne on a seven-match winning streak and has a fairly favourable draw ahead of him if he can successfully negotiate a first-up clash with Quentin Halys.

Odds: $14

Nick Kyrgios

The scrutiny on Kyrgios as he aims to become the first homegrown male to win the Australian Open since 1976 will be suffocating – but the 27-year-old showed with his charge to the Wimbledon final (and to a lesser extent his quarter-final run at the US Open) that he finally has the temperament to capitalise on his freakish talent. Kyrgios’ biggest obstacle is an ankle injury and a limited build-up; his last competitive outings were in early-October and he pulled out of the United Cup and Adelaide International 2. A first-round date with 98th-ranked Roman Safiullin should allow Kyrgios to blow out the cobwebs but top-10 seeds Holger Rune and Andrey Rublev are in his section, while Djokovic looms as a likely quarter-final opponent. Alex de Minaur is next lowest-priced Aussie in the men’s draw at $101, while Thanasi Kokkinakis is a $376 longshot despite producing some outstanding results in Adelaide this week.

Odds: $15

Rafael Nadal

It’s rare to see Rafa as long as $17 to win a major – more so when he’s the top seed and defending champion. Nadal won his first Australian Open in 13 years in 2022 before racking up a 14th French Open title. But the Spanish icon was hampered by injuries for the remainder of the season, was disappointing in the ATP Finals and looked a shadow of himself during the United Cup last week. A tricky first-up assignment against rising Briton Jack Draper has some experts tipping just the third opening-round slam exit of Nadal’s extraordinary career – but most know writing off the lionhearted veteran is a one-way ticket to embarrassment.

Odds: $17

Taylor Fritz

Offensive baseliner Fritz reached the fourth round of a slam for the first time at last year’s Australian Open and earned a maiden quarter-final appearance at the US Open. In between he won the prestigious Indian Wells Masters by beating Nadal, before adding the Eastbourne International and Japan Open trophies to his cabinet. Currently ranked ninth, the 25-year-old warmed up for this tilt with four wins from five United Cup fixtures and appears to have an armchair ride out of his section and into a possible quarter-final with Casper Ruud or Matteo Berrettini, one of his United Cup victims. A definite semi-final smoky.

Odds: $101

BEST ROUGHIE

Sebastian Korda

Korda’s Australian Open path may have to go Medvedev (third round), Hubert Hurkacz (fourth round) and Nadal (quarter-final), but there’s few players who can afford to go into a clash with the 22-year-old with a shred of complacency. He hasn’t been to the last eight of a grand slam yet but big-serving Korda is undoubtedly a rising force to be reckoned with. After making the Gijon Open and European Open finals in October, the son of 1998 Australian Open champ Petr Korda got his 2023 campaign underway with a sizzling run to Adelaide International 1 final. He beat Andy Murray, Roberto Bautista Agut and Jannik Sinner on the way to the decider, where he took Djokovic to the brink. Don’t be surprised to see the tyro face Djokovic again in the Australian Open semis.

Odds: $41

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