Now that the quarter final line-up is complete, the betting picture is starting to look a lot clearer at the Australian Open tennis.
Both of the top seeds remain in the mens and womens draws, although intriguing performances from elsewhere has loosened the vice-like grip that Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams appeared to have on their respective trophies.
The Mens Draw
Top seed Djokovic will take on Kei Nishikori in the quarter finals after surviving a scare in his last 16 encounter against Gilles Simon. This was the first time that the Serb has been taken to five sets since July at Wimbledon when he so nearly suffered a shock defeat to Kevin Anderson, although he eventually prevailed that day and against the Frenchman here too.
To his credit Nishikori, the seventh seed, has only dropped one set in the tournament up until this point, and a head-to-head record of 2-5 against Djokovic doesn’t sound great but a win ratio of 30% is actually better than most on tour against the relentless champion. The last time they met in a Slam was at the US Open semi-final back in 2014 too; a match Nishikori won.
While most would expect the Serb to triumph here, backing the Japanese star with a +2.5 Set Handicap at 4/5 looks smart.
The second seed Andy Murray is still going strong too despite off-court dramas. Father-in-law Nigel Sears collapsed on Friday in the Melbourne heat, and with wife Kim heavily pregnant back in the UK you could forgive the Scot for taking his eye – metaphorically and literally – off the ball.
But he has marched on regardless, defeating the big-serving pair of Alex Zverev and Sam Groth before overcoming Joao Sousa in the last 32. Then Murray’s straight sets win over home favourite Bernard Tomic was surprising in its simplicity. He should have no problem seeing off David Ferrer – a talented player but one that has never really performed on the big stage – in the quarter finals.
The third quarter final looks an intriguing one. Milos Raonic will start as the bookmakers’ favourite given that he has dispensed with the likes of Tommy Robredo, Victor Troicki and dark horse for the title Stan Wawrinka already, but Gael Monfils has a 2-0 head-to-head record over the Canadian and will prove no pushover. Both of those victories came a long while ago though (2011 and 2013), and Raonic has improved exponentially since then. He’s serving so well that he has to be backed from 4/9.
Finally the third and sixth seed meet in the last of the quarter finals. Roger Federer dropped a set against Grigor Dimitrov in the last 32, but looked back to his ominous best in a straight sets win over David Goffin last time out. Tomas Berdych, meanwhile, deserves praise for the way in which he has negotiated his way past both Nick Kyrgios and Roberto Bautista-Agut, two hardy performers, in his last pair of outings.
The key to this one could be in the past matches between the pair, which Federer leads 15-6, including their last four meetings. The combined sets score of those is 8-1 to the Swiss ace, so he will be well backed once again.
The Womens Draw
Over in the womens draw a mouth-watering clash between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova is the pick of the last eight matches, although with an 18-2 head-to-head record in her favour – including 15 on the bounce – there’s no surprise that Williams is the big favourite.
There’s a match of contrasts in the second quarter where the powerful Agnieszka Radwanska takes on the smooth strokeplay of Carla Suarez Navarro, and a 6-0 head-to-head record in her favour should be good enough to see Victoria Azarenka – many pundits’ favourite for the title at 15/8 – to see off Angelique Kerber.
And finally Johanna Konta will attempt to become the first British woman to reach the final of the Australian Open in more than 40 years, but first she must see off the winner of the Madison Keys/Shuai Zhang clash in the last eight.