Djokovic dominance to continue in Melbourne

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Does anyone fancy Novak Djokovic to better his incredible 2011 season? The Serbian won three Grand Slams, a record-breaking five Masters 1000 titles and 10 tournaments overall. He earned over $12 million last year alone, the same as fifth-ranked David Ferrer’s career earnings.

Djoko’s achievements are no less impressive when you remember that he has managed to outshine both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, two of the greatest players to have ever stepped onto a court.

With the exception of Juan Martin del Potro’s US Open win in 2009, the last time one of this trio failed to win one of the four majors was at the Australian Open in 2005. Together with world number four Andy Murray, they have a stranglehold on men’s tennis at the moment and it’s worth backing all of them to feature in the Australian Open semi-finals at 7/2 with Bet Victor.

Of course, Murray is the only one of the top four yet to win a Grand Slam, but the Australian Open perhaps offers him his best chance. He has been a beaten finalist at Melbourne Park the last two years and, if you think now is his time, it makes sense to back him at 9/2 with Coral, who are offering to refund stakes up to the value of £100 should he not reach the quarter finals.

However, even among this illustrious group, I cannot see past Djokovic. His form did decline towards the end of last year, but that can be put down to tiredness and a slight back injury. Now, rested and on arguably his favourite surface, he must be backed at 11/10 with Coral.

In contrast to the men’s, the women’s draw is wide open. World number one Caroline Wozniacki will struggle to secure her maiden Grand Slam at Melbourne after injuring her wrist at the Sydney International while Serena Williams plays despite spraining her ankle at the Brisbane International. Her powers seem to be on the wane and in the circumstances she’s too short at 4/1.

Looking further down the list, winner of the last Grand Slam event, the US Open, Australian Sam Stosur could be considered the best value among the contenders at around 12/1. However, she seems unable to produce her best in front of a home crowd; as top seed at Brisbane she reached only the second round, while her previous Aussie Open best is only the fourth round.

So, this leads me to return to the head of the betting and recommend favourite Petra Kvitova, a 5/2 shot with Blue Square to follow up her maiden major title at Wimbledon. She has previously failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park, but is a much more confident player since SW19 and has the added motivation of potentially usurping Wozniacki at the top of the rankings.

POINTERS...
Novak Djokovic at 11/10 with Coral

Top four seeds to make men’s semi-finals at 7/2 with Bet Victor

Petra Kvitova at 5/2 with Blue Square

SWANSEA vs ARSENAL
SUNDAY – 4.00PM SKY SPORTS

ARSENAL fans must have felt like they had been teleported back five years when Thierry Henry came off the bench and deftly dispatched the winner in the FA Cup tie against Leeds on Monday night. It was vintage Henry and his presence has undoubtedly given everyone at the club a massive boost.

Arsene Wenger will be hoping it can inspire his team to go on a run in the league after what has been a sluggish period for the Gunners. They lost a game they should have won at Fulham a couple of weeks ago and were held by Wolves at the Emirates just after Christmas. With Tottenham continuing to impress, the battle for the final Champions League spot is looking increasingly like a fight between Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

A trip to Swansea probably wouldn’t be Wenger’s preferred option this weekend. Brendan Rodgers’ side play some excellent attacking football, but they are also very difficult to beat at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans have lost just one of their 10 home games this season and they were unlucky not to take a point in that game against Manchester United. They have also only conceded four goals on home turf, which is the joint-lowest in the league.

The visitors are understandably favourites, but they don’t represent any value at around 8/13. I can see the points being shared in this one and that is worth backing at 11/4 with Coral. Both Swansea’s last two home games have ended in 1-1 draws and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a repeat of that scoreline, available at 13/2 with William Hill.

Goals have been at a premium at the Liberty this season with just 16 scored in 10 games. There have been no more than three in any of Arsenal’s last six league matches and three of those produced just a solitary goal. The obvious spread betting strategy therefore is to sell goals at 2.6 with Sporting Index.

POINTERS...

Draw at 11/4 with Coral

1-1 correct score at 13/2 with William Hill

Sell total match goals at 2.6 with Sporting Index

NEWCASTLE vs QPR
SUNDAY – 1.30PM SKY SPORTS

NEWCASTLE have been a revelation this season. Alan Pardew has proved all the doubters wrong and his side comfortably beat Man United at the Sports Direct Arena earlier this month. They are only three points behind Chelsea in fourth, but inconsistency has been the issue and defeats against Norwich and West Brom last month underlined their fragility.

Mark Hughes has joined QPR following the sacking of Neil Warnock and that should give Rangers a much-needed lift. They made a decent start to life back in the Premier League, but have stuttered alarmingly in the past couple of months. A miserable run has seen them pick up just two points from a possible 33 and the gloom was compounded with a 2-1 home defeat to Norwich at the start of the month.

QPR have been out of form, but Hughes is a good manager and, although a trip to Tyneside is a baptism of fire, I think he can take a point from his first game in charge. It could be a day of draws and I’m going to be taking the 11/4 with Coral that this match is also tied, while another 1-1 scoreline seems likely at 13/2 with the same firm. Spread bettors are again advised to sell goals at 2.6 with Sporting Index.

POINTERS...

Draw at 11/4 with Coral

1-1 correct score at 13/2 with Coral

Sell total match goals at 2.6 with Sporting Index