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  • Chris sobey


This year’s Australian Open was without a doubt the most unpredictable, exciting and emotional in its history as the men’s and women’s finals were contested by four of the all-time greats of the game, three of whom were the oldest ever players to contest a Grand Slam final.

On Saturday Serena Williams overpowered her sister Venus to win a record 23rd Grand Slam title and cement her place as the greatest female player in the history of the game. It was a fairy-tale ending to the women’s tournament as the sisters became the two oldest players ever to contest a Grand Slam final and their ages, longevity and remarkable life stories add further weight to their sheer brilliance and greatness.

On Sunday the men’s final was contested by two of the greatest players in the history of the men’s game Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and their sheer greatness and brilliance was amplified even further at this year’s championships, as neither was expected to make the final or win after numerous health and injury struggles over the last couple of seasons. Both players defied these odds, and their ageing bodies, to overpower their younger foes over the last fortnight.

The final on Sunday was another classic and scintillating encounter on par with some of their past Grand Slam final battles, and it fittingly went to a deciding fifth set. Nadal looked on for his 15th Grand Slam title when he went up an early break and not many would have bet against him closing the match out given his notorious ability to produce his best tennis when he is at the limit of his physical and mental reserves. However, Federer defied his age; many crushing memories of fifth set Slam final defeats against his old foe and produced one of the most memorable comebacks in Grand Slam finals history, breaking Nadal twice and winning the last four games to land surely the most sweetest and unexpected of his 18 Grand Slam titles.

From a betting perspective it was so close but no cigar for my outright advice at the Australian Open with semi-finalists Dimitrov (advised 66/1) and Wawrinka (advised 16/1), who both lost agonisingly close five setters against Nadal and Federer respectively.

On to this week and there is no ATP tennis action as the 2017 Davis Cup gets underway this week on Friday. Not surprisingly there have bene some high profile withdrawals from this year’s competition and this week’s action namely Berdych for the Czechs, Wawrinka for Switzerland, Nishikori for Japan, Cilic for Croatia, Andy Murray for team GB and Canada’s Milos Raonic. However, World number two Djokovic and Australian Open losing finalist Nadal are both named in Serbia’s and Spain’s teams this year, but its unlikely Nadal will feature against Croatia this week after his run to the final in Melbourne yesterday.

2015 winners team GB get their campaign underway against Canada in Ottawa on Friday and team GB featuring Kyle Edmunds, Dan Evans and doubles specialist Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot, should progress to the quarter-finals as they are much stronger in the singles rubbers. Competition favourites Serbia get their campaign underway in Nis against Russia, and should progress against a young unexperienced Russian team.

Defending champions Argentina are without talisman Del Potro who is injured and Del Bonis, and they face a tricky opener against the experienced clay court specialists of Italy in Buenos Aires. 2016 finalists Belgium face a tough opener against Germany in Frankfurt, whose team is headed by the Zverev brothers and the experienced Kohlschreiber, and talisman Goffin may not be enough to get the Belgium’s through on this occasion.

With the addition of the in-form Zverev brothers this could be a good year for Germany if they get the majority of their ties on home soil and at 40/1 they looked over priced to me in the top-half of the draw as Argentina, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Australia’s teams are weakened by the omission of some of their star players, like Del Potro, Berdych, Federer and Wawrinka and Tomic. Their main challenge may come from the USA who have a very winnable opener against a weak Suisse team and they are drawn to meet German in the semi-finals, which they should do as potential quarter-final opponents the Czech Republic and Australia have little strength in depth.

In the bottom half of the draw an experienced France team should get off to a winning start against a young and inexperienced Japanese team in Tokyo, that is missing Nishikori. I’ve already mentioned Great Britain and Serbia above, who are both in a competitive bottom half of the draw that includes Spain and 2016 finalists Croatia, who are without star players Cilic and Coric. Spain have a strong team this year with Nadal, Bautista Agut, Carreno-Busta and doubles specialist Lopez, and they should progress comfortably against Croatia this weekend and look overpriced for the competition at 14/1, especially if they get to play the majority of their ties on clay at home.

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