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Australian Open shocks pave way for Ivanovic v Cibulkova final

| 20.01.2014

Serena Williams’ surprise loss to Ana Ivanovic, even if she was injured, caps off a disastrous Australian Open for the USA, with no quarter finalist in the male or women’s singles events and the usually dependable Bryan brothers out in the men’s doubles, their earliest exit in this Grand Slam since 2003.

What Serena’s loss also did was cap off a strange fourth round in the women’s event, which saw four of the top 10 seeds eliminated.

Now only three top-10 seeds remain ahead of the quarter finals, with eight different nationalities represented.

Victoria Azarenka is the obvious favourite, as she chases a third straight Australian Open victory, is the highest seed remaining in the draw, is yet to drop a set in reaching this stage and is the only hard-court Grand Slam champion left in the field.

Azarenka faces fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska next, whom she has beaten in their last seven meetings, with the last five coming in straight sets.

It is 1/2 in the Australian Open odds that Azarenka wins 2-0 again to move into the semi finals.

Simona Halep was mentioned pre-tournament as one to consider each-way at 33/1 here and she has not disappointed thus far in reaching a first Grand Slam quarter final.

She faces another pocket rocket next, with Dominika Cibulkova especially impressive in the first week of action and then taking full advantage of Maria Sharapova’s injury troubles in their clash.

Cibulkova triumphed in her only 2013 encounter with Halep, which also happened to be on a hard court, and has to be favoured as the underdog at 6/4 to come through again.

A semi final would then potentially await with Azarenka and given that Cibulkova has taken at least a set off of the second seed in their last six meetings, she certainly would have a chance in this match.

At 18/1 in the Australian Open betting, Cibulkova looks the value bet from the bottom half of the draw for tournament victory.

Eugenie Bouchard was tipped by Martina Hingis to be the breakout star of 2014 and she has already become the first Canadian in 22 years to reach this stage of a Grand Slam.

However, she faces Ivanovic next, who remains unbeaten in 2014 with a perfect record of nine victories.

Ivanovic lost to Bouchard at Wimbledon last year, but can get revenge for that loss here at 4/11.

The winner of this faces a semi final against either Na Li or Flavia Pennetta and this is a clash for the older guard, with both players surging on in Melbourne despite being in their 30s. Actually, Pennetta is the one-day older of the two.

Both of these are also fairly consistent, having reached the second week of the last three Grand Slams, with Pennetta leading the head-to-head count 2-1. Another Pennetta victory is an overpriced 3/1.

With Ivanovic winning all four career meetings with Pennetta, she can reach the final from the top section and as a result may prove the best bet in the women’s draw for overall victory.

Ivanovic is 13/2 in the Australian Open odds to win a second Grand Slam title, following the 2008 French Open.