Friday, January 12, 2007

Pinnacle Australian Open Tennis Championship 2007 Preview

Can Anyone Derail the Federer Express??
The tennis season gets into full swing this Monday with the start of the first major, the Australian Open in Melbourne. All the talk is about whether this year world No.1, Roger Federer, can finally land the Grand Slam. Defeat in the 2006 final at Roland Garros was the only blot on last season's copybook, which featured victory in this event, at SW19 and Flushing Meadows. Given his near-invincibility on fast-court surfaces, and record of two victories in the last three years, it's no surprise that is offering the Federer Express at 1.398 against the field.

On the opposite side of the draw, no.2 seed Rafael Nadal is the one player with a superior head-to-head record against Federer, unfortunately the Spaniard's strength is clay. However, if you feel that there will be a repeat of last year's French and Wimbledon finals, are offering the pair versus the field at 1.274. Any bettors considering that as buying money should be aware that Nadal pulled out his preparation tournament due to a groin injury, continuing his jinx in this event, as he also pulled out in 2006 due to a foot injury.

Looking beyond Nadal, sixth seed Andy Roddick is a realistic challenger, having been revitalised by his new coach, Jimmy Connors. If Roddick is to improve on his 4th round defeat here last year, he would have to overcome a likely 3rd round match with Marat Safin (2005 winner). Victory over the Russian would set Roddick on course for a semi-final clash with his nemesis, Roger Federer. As he has lost all but one of their 13 meetings, including defeat in last year's US Open, any wager on the American going all the way, would be contingent on him taking his game to a new level. In five appearances in this event, Roddick has never gone beyond the semi-finals, which he reached in 2003 & 2005.

Though it is hard to look beyond Federer, the tournament did turn up a surprise last year in Cypriot, Marcos Baghdatis, who made it all the way to the final despite being ranked only 54th in the world. Though he nicked the first set off Federer in the final, the Swiss Master responded in true style to win 3-1, but Baghdatis returns ranked 11th after a break-through year, and who knows how many similar stars-in-the-making are lurking among the 128 strong field.

Henin-Hardenne Withdrawal Pushes Sharapova to Head of the Market
In contrast to the Men's event, the 2007 Women's Australian competition is much harder to call, despite the mysterious late withdrawal of defending champion, and world no.1, Justin Henin-Hardenne for 'unspecified personal reasons'. The Belgian's absence has pushed Maria Sharapova, reigning US Open winner, into favouritism at 3.35 with The Russians' victory over Amelie Mauresmo at Flushing Meadows, ended a run of five semi-final defeats in Grand Slams, and was seen as a milestone victory, proving her 2004 Wimbledon success wasn't a one-off.

Sharapova has lost at the semi-final stage of the last two Australian Opens, and should she again progress that far, Kim Clijsters could stand in her path. Having been blighted by injury, Clijsters returned with a bang to the women's circuit last season, reaching the last four of Wimbledon, French Open and here in Melbourne, where the Belgian has an excellent record. In her four previous appearances, Clijsters has made three semi's and a final. Should she continue to regain the form that saw her rise to World No.1 in 2003 and brought her the 2005 US Open title, she could be an excellent bet at 5.550 with , particularly in the absence of Henin-Hardenne, who prevented her from reaching the final of two Grand Slams last season.

The other obvious name to mention as a credible title contender is the tall French left-hander, Amelie Mauresmo, the reigning Australian and Wimbledon champion. Those two Grand Slam victories marked a break-through season for Mauresmo, who had previously been branded a 'choker' after failing to deliver at crucial stages of big games. With her new-found confidence, the no.2 seed is a danger to all, and arguably has the easier side of the draw, avoiding Sharapova until the final, should they both progress. Mauresmo can be backed at 5.520 with , but it should be noted that her victory in the event last year was slightly fortuitous, benefiting from retirements in both the semi-final and final.

Over the last two seasons the women's game has been dominated by established players, with all Grand Slam wins coming from top ranked players. There are plenty of emerging talents in the game, one of whom may burst through in Melbourne, or a former power-house may re-emerge. Serena Williams, winner in 2003 and 2005, is available at 19.59 with or Martina Hingis champion for three years running from 1997-99 who can be backed 18.77. If either rediscover their appetite for the game, and have regained the necessary conditioning, they could be dark horses. offers up to 60% better odds on all major Tennis tournaments with fixed odds betting at exchange like pricing - commission-free. With high guaranteed liquidity and super-fast payouts, find a smarter way to bet at


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