The Australian Open is on the horizon and after months of speculation, it has finally been confirmed that defending champion Novak Djokovic will, in fact, be participating at Melbourne Park despite the tournament’s organisers making it a requirement that all players must be vaccinated to take part in the Australian Grand Slam.
Given permission to play in the first major competition of the year after being granted a controversial ‘medical exemption’, which it’s fair to say has not gone down well with everybody, before winning a court battle for his entry to the country, the Serbian is now in pole position with betting sites to win the Australian Open for the fourth year in a row and take his overall tally to 10 Grand Slam titles Down Under.
It’s not good news for the professionals who were hoping to benefit from his absence in Melbourne, especially with Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem both on the list of absentees due to injuries. But winning a Grand Slam title that included the presence of World No.1 Djokovic perhaps garners more credibility, so it certainly won’t deflate the confidence of those around the 33-year-old in the Australian Open betting odds.
That said, let’s take a look at three players to watch in the men’s singles at Melbourne Park…
Second in the ATP Rankings for almost a year now, Daniil Medvedev finally got his hands on a long-awaited Grand Slam title last year. After reaching the US Open final in 2019, when he almost came from two sets down to beat Rafael Nadal only to lose the deciding set 6-4, it surprisingly took another two years before he landed that maiden trophy — which just happened to be back at Flushing Meadows as he beat Djokovic in straight sets in New York. Finalist at Melbourne Park for the first time last January, losing 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to the Serb, Medvedev will be hoping to go one better this year and now he has finally broken that duck, there will be less weight on his shoulders.
Climbing back up to third in the world after winning the ATP Finals for a second time at the end of last season, it is had to fathom how a Grand Slam title has managed to elude Alexander Zverev to this point in his career. Having broken onto the scene in the latter half of 2015, the closest the German has come to landing his first major victory was at the US Open in 2020. In the absence of Rafael Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, the 24-year-old reached the final and was two sets up and cruising against Thiem, only for his Austrian counterpart to draw the game level and win the deciding set 7-6(8-6) after a nail-biting tiebreaker. With two ATP Finals titles and a gold medal for winning the men’s singles at last year’s Olympic Games, the quality is there for all to see. Zverev just needs to get over the line and the floodgates could open.
Another young player still on the hunt for his first Grand Slam title, Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas came so close to ending his drought last year as he reached the final of the French Open. The 23-year-old led Djokovic by two sets to nil at Roland Garros, but the World No.1 came back to ensure that there was no upset on the cards in Paris. ATP Finals winner in 2019, beating Thiem 6-7(6-8), 6-2, 7-6(7-4) at the O2 Arena in London, the Australian Open hasn’t been bad to the current World No.4 in recent years. He reached the semi-finals in both 2019 and 2021 and boasts a 71%-win rate on Melbourne’s hard courts, just slightly less than his strike rate on clay. The only concern is that elbow surgery that took place during the off-season seems to be giving him some discomfort.