In the men’s tournament five of the last seven winners have been the number 1 seeds, with Novak Djokovic the only man to buck that trend when winning as seed number 3 in both 2008 and 2011. In the past decade, not one Australian Open winner has been seeded lower than 4 going into the tournament. Djokovic (2.05) is seeded 1, Roger Federer (5.40) 2, Andy Murray (4.00) 3 and David Ferrer (33.00) 4 this year.
The top seeds have also dominated the women’s side of the game over the past ten years. In that timeframe only Serena Williams – whose seedings have fluctuated due to injuries – has won the title when being seeded lower than 5; in 2007 when she was unseeded and in 2005 she was 7th seed. Defending champion Victoria Azarenka (5.00) is the number 1 seed this week, with 2008 champion Maria Sharapova (10.00) number 2, Williams (1.92) number 3, and Agnieszka Radwanska (20.00) and Angelique Kerber (30.00) continuing the list.
Djokovic heads into this week having won the title in 2011 and 2012, but no player in the Open era has ever won three consecutive Australian Open mens titles. Federer, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander are amongst those that have won back-to-back Australian Opens, but all have faltered in their attempts to win three on the bounce.
Only three players in the Open era have recovered from losing a men’s final and then gone on to win the tournament. Fortunately for Murray fans and backers, one of those three was the Scot’s coach Ivan Lendl; Guilermo Vilas and Marat Safin being the other two.
On the women’s side of the game, defending champions have had considerably more success, with seven players successfully defending their title in the 40+ years of the Open era and four of them going on to win three Australian Opens on the bounce. Azarenka is the 5.00 second favourite to emulate some of her illustrious predecessors.
Although coming into the Australian Open in winning form is not essential – no winner of the Brisbane International (or Adelaide International) has gone on to even reach the final of the Australian Open – getting some match practice in is a priority. Not since Agassi in 1995 has a player won the opening Grand Slam of the season without playing in a warm-up tournament. Federer comes to Melbourne Park this week having not played a competitive match this year. Murray can be backed at odds of 1.64 in a match bet with the Swiss legend (2.20).
On the women’s side of proceedings Williams already has a psychological advantage over her rivals, having waltzed her way to the Brisbane International title last week without dropping a set. Azarenka withdrew from the tournament ahead of a semi-final showdown with Williams, citing a “bad pedicure experience” as the reason.
Williams will also have a point to prove in Australia this year, having been eliminated at the fourth round stage when losing to Ekaterina Makarova last year. She then went on to lose in the opening round of the French Open before bouncing back to dominate the women’s game in the second half of the season, winning five of the subsequent six singles tournaments she played – including Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open – and ending the season with an astonishing win-loss record of 58-4. The American is a worthy 1.92 favourite for the title here.