Djokovic, Serena Favored to Win Australian Open Titles

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams opened as favorites to win respective men's and women's singles titles at the first tennis Major of the year and-importantly to those who enjoy a little gamble with their white socks and Nikes-the first major tennis betting event of 2013, the Australian Open, in Melbourne, Jan. 14-27.

We've become accustomed to a "Big Three" of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dominating the future book betting on the men's side and while there's still a triple threat atop of the betting ledger, an ailing Nadal has been replaced by Andy Murray in the latest elite triumvirate. 

Djokovic, who ended 2012 as he did 2011, ranked as the top male player in the world, opened as a 5/4 favorite to win his third consecutive Australian Open and fourth overall. The 25-year-old Serbian is the youngest player in the open era to have reached the semifinals of all four Grand Slam events both separately and consecutively. Over the past two years, in the eight Major events in tennis (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open) Djokovic has four wins, two runner-up finishes and two semi-final appearances.

After 27 attempts that included four runner-up finishes, Murray finally snared his first Grand Slam title, winning the US Open last year, a victory which helped make the 25-year-old Scotsman the 3/1 second choice in Melbourne. Currently ranked third in the world, Murray also boasts an Olympic Gold Medal from the games in London, last year. Djokovic and Murray have met 17 times with Djokovic holding a 10-7 advantage.

Even giving away six years to both Djokovic and Murray, at odds of 9/2, Federer is a threat to win yet another Major title. Many consider Federer the greatest tennis player of all time: He owns several men's world records of the Open Era, including holding the world No. 1 ranking for 302 weeks overall; a 237-consecutive-week stretch at the top from 2004 to 2008; winning 17 Grand Slam singles titles; reaching the finals of each Grand Slam tournament at least five times (an all-time record); and reaching the Wimbledon final eight times. He is one of seven men, and one of four in the Open Era, to capture the career Grand Slam. Federer has won four Australian Open titles, the last in 2010.

If you're scoring at home, Federer leads Djokovic 16-13 in head-to-head matchups but trails Murray, 9-10.

If you're looking for a plausible alternative to the "Big Three," Juan Martin del Potro probably is your best bet at future book odds of 14/1. Ranked seventh in the world, Delpo, as he is called, won his lone Major, the US Open, in 2009 and the 24-year-old Argentine advanced to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open last year.

Longshot players can rejoice in getting odds of at least 33/1 on anyone else in the men's field, including Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Tomas Berdych.

A winner of 15 Grand Slam singles titles, including last year's Wimbledon and US Open crowns, Serena Williams opened as the solid 3/2 favorite to win the women's championship at the 2013 Australian Open. Ranked third in the world, the 31-year-old American has won 30 Major titles overall and is the most recent player, male or female, to have held all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously ('02–'03).

Defending Australian Open champion and world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka is a 3/1 second choice. The 23-year-old from Belarus also was a finalist at the 2012 US Open and picked up a Bronze Medal at last year's London Olympic Games. Should Azarenka and Williams face off in this tournament, you might not want to have your money on Azarenka because in 12 matchups, including seven confrontations in Major events, Serena leads their head-to-head 11–1 and 7–0 in the Grand Slams.

The always dangerous Maria Sharapova is listed at odds of 7/1. Sharapova is just one of six women in the Open Era to have captured all four Major championships. The 25-year-old Russian, who has lived in the USA since 1994, also earned a Silver Medal at the 2012 Olympics and currently is ranked No. 2 in the world.

Li Na, the first player from China to win a Major (2011 French Open) is offered at odds of 10/1. Currently ranked No. 7 in the world, the 30-year-old also reached the finals at the Australian Open in 2011, was a semifinalist in Melbourne the year before that and made it to the fourth round last year.

Unlike previous years when there were as many as a half-dozen players in single digits, odds escalate sharply from here with Petra Kvitová and Angelique Kerber each listed at odds of 20/1 and Agnieszka Radwanska and Samantha Stosur each offered at odds of 25/1.

Ranked No. 8, Kvitová won the Wimbledon singles title in 2011, becoming the first grand Slam event winner born in the 1990s, and the third player to win the WTA Championships in her first attempt. The 22-year-old Czech also reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2010, as well as the semis at last year's Australian and French opens.

Kerber, a 24-year-old German southpaw, has soared to No. 5 in the world rankings but still is seeking her first Major win. Her best Grand Slam results have come at the 2011 US Open and 2012 Wimbledon Championships she was a semi-finalist, and last year's French Open, where she reached the quarterfinals.

The Polish-born Radwanska also is looking for her first Grand Slam triumph, having been a Wimbledon finalist last year. The 23-year-old, who is ranked No. 4 in the world, also has reached the quarterfinals at the last two Australian Opens.

Known for her powerful serve, Stosur, a 28-year-old Aussie, earned her lone Major singles win at the 2011 US Open.

Venus Williams owns nine Grand Slam singles titles but none have come in the last four years and the 32-year-old American, a former No. 1 who now is ranked 24th in the world, is a 33/1 longshot.

Tennis betting fans looking to "net" some early profits in the first month of the New Year could do worse than invest in what appears to be a contentious 2013 Australian Open.