Australian Open contenders: 10 to watch in Melbourne
A look at the Australian Open contenders
The first grand slam of the year is quickly upon us and the Australian Open has already made headline news in a different type of court.
While the matter involving Novak Djokovic still remains in the air, focus is starting to switch on the action at Melbourne Park.
Here, we take a look at 10 players from the men’s and women’s game who could be the leading Australian Open contenders.
Hell hath no fury like a Djokovic scorned – but will he actually make it to the tournament to unleash his rage?
Approaching two days to go until the first ball is hit, the defending champion’s name is in the draw but by Monday he may not be in the country after his visa was cancelled for a second time due to his Covid row.
A further appeal against the decision will follow and with it comes the chance of an even more fired-up Djokovic storming to a 10th Aussie win and a 21st grand slam – but time is running out.
If that appeal proves a success then Djokovic will enter the tournament as the 6/4 joint-favourite as he attempts to surpass Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal to be out on his own in terms of grand slam victories.
However, if the decision to deport the Serbian world number one is upheld then it could be a case of game, set and no vax for Djokovic and many will wonder if this will be the last time the Serb is seen in Melbourne with the deportation order coming with a three-year ban from the country.
The second half of 2020 was a difficult time for the Japanese after she suffered mental health issues which saw her withdraw from the French Open and then miss Wimbledon altogether.
Her return at the US Open was also unhappy as she lost in the third round and then said she was taking a break from the sport.
She is back in Australia, though, which is a happy hunting ground, having won two of the last three events at Melbourne Park, including in 2021.
If Osaka is in a good place, then the 24-year-old is hard to look past and the defending champion is 7/1 to head home with the prize once again.
The Russian made big moves in 2021, winning his first grand slam title by beating Djokovic at the US Open, and is an obvious candidate for our Australian Open contenders list.
He is the world number two and the likeliest to dethrone the Serbian in Melbourne, with the pair on course to meet in the final, which would be a rematch of the 2021 event.
Medvedev lost that final so will have revenge on his mind and the 25-year-old’s ability to stay in points and wear opponents down will suit the conditions in the heat of the Australian summer.
At his best on a hard court, it would be no surprise to see the 6/4 joint-favourite follow up his success at Flushing Meadows and go back-to-back at the grand slams.
Daniil Medvedev takes the US Open crown and his first major win 👑
He defeats Novak Djokovic in straight sets, ending Djoker's chance at the calendar slam.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 12, 2021
All eyes will be on the British star after her fairytale win in New York last summer to see if she can repeat the trick but things are very different for her now.
Raducanu is no longer an underdog and she has to deal with the weight of expectation as one of the leading Australian Open contenders.
Results since her US Open win show how far she has to go to regularly compete at the top of the game but what we do know from Flushing Meadows is how dangerous she can be when she has momentum.
An early defeat in Sydney will have allowed her plenty of time to hit the practice courts and the 2021 BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner could represent plenty of value at 20/1.
Zverev is one of the top talents on the men’s tour but this Australian Open contender has been a nearly man on the grand slam scene so far and is still waiting for a maiden breakthrough.
He was a runner-up at the US Open in 2020 but has never gone past the semi-finals in Australia.
However, he won Olympic gold in Tokyo and ended the year by lifting the ATP Tour Finals for a second time so if he can carry that form over he will be a threat to all in the draw and is 11/4 to lift the trophy.
Barty is the home favourite and she has been chalked up as the 3/1 favourite for a first Australian Open crown, having already won Wimbledon and the French Open.
She is the world number one and on her day is very difficult to stop, with her methodical and practical approach making her highly consistent.
The Queenslander will have the crowd backing her so if she can handle the weight of expectation she has a real shot at glory.
The young Spaniard was one of three teenagers – alongside Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez – to take the US Open by storm last year as he made it to the quarter-finals.
It is not difficult to see who his idol was growing up and the 18-year-old’s game is a mirror image of Nadal and he has all of the weapons.
Whether he yet has the physicality to prevail over a two-week tournament remains to be seen but he could definitely do some damage in the draw.
However, he could face a real test of his place on the Australian Open contenders list when set to face seventh seed Matteo Berrettini in round three.
The Spaniard is back to her best after the former world number one slipped out of the top 30 in 2019.
Having won the French Open and Wimbledon in consecutive years, Muguruza has proved she is capable of going all the way in grand slams.
After winning the WTA Tour Finals at the end of last season, she will be feeling good about her game.
If her big serves and powerful groundstrokes are in good working order she will be hopeful of going one better than the runners-up position she registered in 2020.
Muguruza is 14/1 to lift the trophy in Melbourne for the first time as one of Australian Open contenders.
No men’s player won more than Ruud’s five ATP Tour tournaments last season as he enjoyed a memorable 2021 that saw him gatecrash the end-of-year top 10.
Four of those five titles were on clay, however his win in San Diego shows he knows his way around a hard court as well.
The 23-year-old Norwegian has never made it past the fourth round at a grand slam but he is a good bet to do that Down Under and is 50/1 to go all the way to glory as one of our Australian Open contenders.
He is 1/5 to get his tournament off to the perfect start when he faces Slovakia’s Alex Molcan on Monday.
Fernandez was the beaten finalist in New York but would also have been a fitting winner.
The Canadian turned 19 during the competition and showed she has a very big future in the game.
Her ‘leftie’ serve is a big weapon as well as a fearsome forehand but she also has a great fighting desire.
There was no doubt about her place on our Australian Open contenders list and she could be challenging for grand slam titles for many years to come.
However, for now she will be the one most players will want to avoid in the draw. She has been handed a tie with Aussie wildcard Maddison Inglis in round one.
If she comes through that at odds of 1/9, then she could be on course for a third-round showdown with three-time grand slam-winner Angelique Kerber.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication