Australian Open Could Offer Tennis Betting Surprises

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are expected to renew their heated rivalry in the men's singles competition but the women's bracket is wide open and tennis betting fans could be in a for a couple of surprises when the year's first Major, the Australian Open, is served up in Melbourne, Jan. 17-30.

Nadal, who is ranked No. 1 in the world after capturing three Major titles last year, the French and US Opens, as well as Wimbledon, opened as a 7/4 future book favorite to complete the "Rafa Slam" (all four Grand Slam titles held successively) on the hard courts of Melbourne Park later this month. Nadal captured the Australian Open in 2009 and appears in top form, ushering in the New Year with a double tie-breaker victory over Federer in Abu Dhabi, Jan. 1.

Federer, the narrow 9/4 second choice, is the defending Australian Open champion and, overall, a four-time winner of the event. The Swiss pro held the world's No. 1 ranking for a record 237 consecutive weeks and owns a record 16 Grand Slam singles championships so it wouldn't come as a shock to see him hoisting another Major trophy.

However, should Nadal or Federer stumble, look for Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic to be the most likely to benefit. Murray, 6/1, who was runner-up to Federer at last year's Australian Open, still is looking for his first Major victory. Djokovic, 7/1, is a former Australian Open champion and, at his best, will be anything but an easy out.

Juan Martin del Potro, 12/1, has been nursing a bad wrist for a year and his physical condition is cause for speculation among tennis betting enthusiasts. The Argentinian owns a combined five match winning streak versus Nadal and Federer so, if he's healthy, del Potro certainly is a threat.

Robin Soderling, 18/1, is ranked No. 5 in the world but the Swede excels on clay courts and his prospects appear dimmer in Melbourne, where he was bounced out in the first round last year.

Turning to the ladies, Caroline Wozniacki may be No. 1 in the world but she's not atop the women's future book list. Neither is Vera Zvonareva, who is ranked No. 2. That distinction belongs to Kim Clijsters, the reigning US Open champion and the 9/4 favorite in futures. Clijsters must have impressed sportsbook oddsmakers when the Belgian beat Wozniacki on New Year's day in Thailand.

Wozniacki, just 20 years old, is a 9/2 second choice to win her fist Major. The Dane was runner-up at the '09 US Open and made it to the fourth round of last year's Australian Open. But with no Major wins and only one Major final on her resume, tennis betting fans may look elsewhere.

At odds of 12/1, Zvonareva could be an attractive alternative. The Russian played her best tennis in 2010, making appearances in the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open.

With defending champion Serena Williams on the shelf with a foot injury and Clijsters, Wozniacki and Zvonareva never having won here, bettors may want to expand their betting options to include past Australian Open champions Justin Henin or Maria Sharapova. But both Henin, 5/1, and Sharapova, 11/1, have had health concerns and neither is considered in peak form. Another experienced player with an outside chance is Venus Williams, offered at odds of 14/1. Although she boasts seven Major titles, Williams has only been to one Australian Open final, losing to her sister at the 2003 Melbourne event.

In addition to straight future book betting—as well as individual match betting once the tournament gets underway—several sportsbooks also are offering a series of proposition bets on the 2011 Australian Open. For example, you can bet whether a number of different players will make it as far as the semi-finals.

Nadal is 6/19 to be among the last four men in competition or you can take 11/5 that the Spaniard is eliminated before that point. It's 5/12 that Federer survives to the semis or 7/4 that he does not get that far.

Among the ladies, Clijsters is a 5/11 favorite to be a semi-finalist or you can take 7/4 that she's ousted before that. Wozniacki is odds on either way, 9/10 to make it to the semis and 11/13 to fail to reach the semi-finals.

With Nadal and Federer offering familiarity on the men's side and the field seemingly wide open in the women's bracket, tennis betting fans of all types should find betting opportunities at this year's Australian Open.