The first big Grand Slam event of the tennis season is underway as 128 of the top players in both the men’s and women’s draw compete over two weeks of energy-sapping action to become the first Grand Slam winners of 2019.

The heat at Melbourne Park is just one of the issues that the players will have to contend with over the two weeks with some intriguing matches having already been played and a number of seeds already seeing their hopes of victory dashed. Kyle Edmund, Steve Johnson and John Isner amongst the male seeds, while Jelena Ostapenko, Julia Gorges and Barbora Strycova were amongst the female seeds to exit on Day One.

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The tournament is the first Grand Slam of the season and has already seen headlines written with Britain’s Andy Murray announcing that this may be his final event as a tennis professional due to ongoing injury worries with his hip.

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Australian Open Preview & History

The Australian Open was first contested in 1905 and was for many years a grass court tournament until it switched to hard court in 1988. The prize pool this year is AU$60 Million and the tournament is played at Melbourne Park, which was formerly known as Flinders Park, and this has been home to the tournament since it switched to hard courts in 1988.

Let’s now take a look at some of the recent history of the tournament as well as the top ten seeds in the men’s and women’s draw for this year’s event.

Australian Open Previous Winners – Men’s

  • 2008 – Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
  • 2009 – Rafael Nadal (Spain)
  • 2010 – Roger Federer (Switzerland)
  • 2011 – Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
  • 2012 – Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
  • 2013 – Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
  • 2014 – Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland)
  • 2015 – Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
  • 2016 – Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
  • 2017 – Roger Federer (Switzerland)
  • 2018 – Roger Federer (Switzerland)

Most Victories (Men)

  • 6 Wins – Roy Emerson (Australia), Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Roger Federer (Switzerland)
  • Current Holder – Roger Federer (Switzerland)

Australian Open Previous Winners – Women’s

  • 2008 – Maria Sharapova (Russia)
  • 2009 – Serena Williams (US)
  • 2010 – Serena Williams (US)
  • 2011 – Kim Clijsters (Belgium)
  • 2012 – Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)
  • 2013 – Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)
  • 2014 – Li Na (China)
  • 2015 – Serena Williams (US)
  • 2016 – Angelique Kerber (Germany)
  • 2017 – Serena Williams (US)
  • 2018 – Carolina Wozniacki (Denmark)

Most Victories (Women)

  • 11 Wins – Margaret Court (Australia) – 7 Wins – Serena Williams (United States)
  • Current Holder – Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Men’s Seedings (top 10)

  1. Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
  2. Rafael Nadal (Spain)
  3. Roger Federer (Switzerland)
  4. Alexander Zverev (Germany)
  5. Kevin Anderson (South Africa)
  6. Marin Cilic (Croatia)
  7. Dominic Thiem (Austria)
  8. Kei Nishikori (Japan)
  9. John Isner (United States)
  10. Karen Khachanov (Russia)

The top three seeds in the men’s draw are no real surprise, but there are a number of players outside of the top ten who will be hoping to make an impression in the tournament, not least Andy Murray, who now ranked outside the top 200, faces a tough first round match against 22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. Other players from outside the top 10 seeds to watch include the unsseded Tomas Berdych, Italian Andrea Seppi Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and the talented Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas.

In truth though, it would be a huge surprise if one of the top three seeds didn’t win the Australian Open this year, especially when you consider that since Marat Safin’a win in 2005, the winner of this event has been one of those three players in every year since, bar one (2014, when Stan Wawrinka beat Nadal in the final).

Female Seedings (top 10)

  1. Simona Halep (Romania)
  2. Angelique Kerber (Germany)
  3. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)
  4. Naomi Osaka (Japan)
  5. Sloane Stephens (United States)
  6. Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)
  7. Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
  8. Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
  9. Kiki Bertens (Netherlands)
  10. Daria Kasatkina (Russia)

If the men’s draw seems to be a three-horse race, then the women’s tournament looks much more open. Serena Williams, although ranked 16th this year, is rated as the 9/2 favourite, but in truth there are any number of top female players who could lift the trophy this year if fate and fortune go their way in the tournament.

Angelique Kerber of Germany is rated by many to be the most obvious challenger to Williams, and it is odd to see women’s number 1 Simone Halep rated at a 20/1 shot with some bookmakers and the Romanian may well be worth considering as an each way shot at that price.

It’s going to be an interesting year in womens tennis with some famous established stars such as Kvitova, Williams, Azarenka and Sharapova on their way back, while emerging stars like Osaka, Sabalenka and Barty try to break into the upper echelons of the game and land a Grand Slam victory.

Men’s Tournament Preview and Tips

Odds

  • Novak Djokovic – 6/5
  • Roger Federer – 9/2
  • Rafael Nadal – 8/1
  • Alexander Zverev – 12/1
  • Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Karen Khachanov – 25/1
  • Kevin Anderson – 28/1
  • Nick Kyrgios – 33/1
  • 40/1 bar

It seems the most likely challenge to the top three players in the world will come from the German ace Alexander Zverev. The fourth seed is yet to win a Grand Slam event though and in truth, he hasn’t produced his best in a top level tournament as yet.

As a former finalist last year, I think Marin Cilic at 25/1 may be a decent outside bet once again, but I think he will need a little help from the draw and some players losing out, in order to reach the final once again.

My pick for an each way bet to reach the final is the in form fifth seed Kevin Anderson. The South African has a huge serve that even the top players find hard to deal with, especially on hard court and he has the form in Grand Slam events to suggest another final appearance is not beyond him.

For the winner though, it is a battle between the two favourites and I’m backing Novak Djokovic to claim his record breaking seventh Australian Open title.

Women’s Tournament Preview and Tips

Odds

  • Serena Williams – 9/2
  • Angelique Kerber – 6/1
  • Aryna Sabalenka – 10/1
  • Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina, Ashleigh Barty– 14/1
  • Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova – 16/1
  • Sloane Stephens – 18/1
  • Simona Halep – 20/1
  • Caroline Wozniacki, Kiki Bertens – 22/1
  • 33/1 bar

She may be coming back from having a child, but Serena Williams is still the woman to beat in the ladies tournament. The American has won seven titles here and after having some time to recuperate over the winter, she should be in great shape to make a mockery of her 16th seed position and in truth, I think she is the outstanding selection to win the tournament.

However, if someone is going to reach the final to face her, or indeed knock her our of the tournament, then I think there are some emerging names to watch, Sabalenka has burst onto the scene of late as has Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty is starting to fulfil her undoubted potential.

For me though, if you are World Number 1 and ranked at a 20/1 shot, then you look a very solid each way bet and Simona Halep, despite not having the best record in Australia is my pick as an each way bet here.