The first major of the 2016 gets underway on Monday, with 32 men’s matches on a typically busy day one at the Australian Open.
We signed off from week two with a couple of odds-against winners in the Sydney and Auckland finals and there’s certainly plenty of tempting wagers on the opening day to consider.
As ever with Melbourne the wildly varying weather conditions can play a big part in the results and on day one it’s set to be in the mid-30s in the shade, so it could be tough for the players.
Marin Cilic vs Thiemo De Bakker
In theory the ‘sure things’ should be much more reliable in majors than the early season events we’ve seen so far and to kick us off on Monday a 1.28 treble of Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Roberto Bautista-Agut should prove successful.
Cilic faces an opponent in De Bakker, who has never won a match in the main draw of the Australian Open and hasn’t won a completed match at any major since beating Marc Gicquel at the 2010 US Open.
The Dutchman’s last showing at a major was a straight sets loss to Pablo Andujar on a hard court and his most recent match was a 6-1, 6-1 defeat to Fabio Fognini on a hard court.
De Bakker has lost both of his previous meetings with Cilic, who has only lost in the opening round of a hard court major once, and that was his first appearance back in 2007.
Sydney and Auckland finalists Dimitrov and Bautista-Agut shouldn’t have too many problems with fatigue against opponents who shouldn’t be up to beating them.
Dimitrov faces Paulo Lorenzi, who has won only one of his seven matches in Melbourne (and the one win was against an injured Alexandr Dogolopov) and Lorenzi may be fatigued himself after an equally tough week in the heat of Canberra.
The Bulgarian should have too much game for the Italian, while RBA will surely be too solid for Klizan, who hasn’t won a match against a top-150 ranked opponent since last September and struggles in the heat.
RBA has won four of his five against Klizan, who retired last week in Sydney against Jordan Thompson.
Nick Kyrgios vs Pablo Carreno-Busta
One short-priced favourite who could face a much sterner challenge is Kyrgios, who rarely wins without dramas and who was last seen quitting Kooyong due to yet another injury.
NK seems to have a body better suited to office work than pro tennis and with his well documented concentration issues I’d be amazed if he walked away from this clash with PCB with a win in fewer than 35 games.
PCB has improved markedly on hard courts of late and played Rafa Nadal tough in Doha before winning warm-ups against Gilles Simon and Marcos Baghdatis in Kooyong
The Spaniard will be anything but an easy opponent to put away for a player who took five sets to beat Federico Delbonis here a year ago and the Aussie has won only one of his seven matches in Melbourne in straight sets (and he was set point down in that one too).
The only prior match between NK and PCB was a tight battle and I expect something similar again here.
Jiri Vesely vs Renzo Olivo
Young Czech Vesely looks a dismal price in this 02:00 UK time clash with Olivo and worth taking on in one way or another.
Vesely is yet to win a match at the Australian Open and the last time that he won a match against a player ranked inside the top-150 in the world at tour level was against Ivo Karlovic at the US Open last September.
He’s lost six of his last seven in all competitions and against a qualifier who has performed very well so far in Melbourne the Czech looks much too short to win this match.
Olivo has beaten Elias Ymer, Benjamin Mitchell and Vincent Millot in qualies and had to come from a set and a break down against Ymer in searing heat, but came back to win it and he fully deserves his first shot at the main draw of a major.
Vesely is unproven in extreme heat conditions and at 5.10 I’m happy to take a chance on Olivo here.
Sure thing: Back Cilic, Dimitrov and Bautista-Agut at 1.28
Value bet: Back over 34.5 games in Kyrgios/Carreno-Busta at 1.78
Long shot: Back Olivo to beat Vesely at 5.10