ATP Australian Open Post-Draw: Rublev capable of getting through Quarter Two

Following Thursday's draw, our tennis columnist Dan Weston returns to give his thoughts on the men's singles outright market...

Little has changed at top of market post-draw

Prior to the draw being made, we had a thorough discussion on Wednesday regarding the men's singles at the Australian Open - including player statistics - and to my mind, not a great deal has changed.
Thursday's draw saw Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer being drawn together in the bottom half of the draw while Rafa Nadal has Daniil Medvedev as company as a fellow top four seed. Generally speaking, the outright market has seen little to disagree with my assertion above that not much has changed, with Djokovic's price virtually unaltered at 2.24, while Nadal has drifted a touch to [7.2]. Medvedev has very slightly shortened to 8.80 with Federer - who has deigned not to play a warm-up match this season - at [13.0].

Traditional elite three still the ones to beat

This leaves the implied percentage chance of a traditional elite three winner at around the 66% mark, with the implied likelihood of one of the top four seeds lifting the trophy just shy of 78%, and that should be an accurate illustration of where we are at with this men's singles tournament - while the elite three should - sooner or later - fall of their perch, it hasn't happened yet. If we look at the all-surface ATP Tour combined service/return points won data for the last six months, the top three are - yes you've guessed it, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.
So, it is pretty straightforward to see that any other player winning this title would be a pretty big shock.
History suggests that men's singles players breaking opponents less than 20% of the time on the relevant surface have a very poor chance of winning Grand Slams, which is utterly logical because they tend to play tighter sets, and more of them because they are relying on winning key points and tiebreaks - leading to more accumulated fatigue, which is crucial to avoid in the arduous best of five set format. This issue does, however, make backing the likes of Stefanos Tsitispas, at 19.00 and Nick Kyrgios at [44.0] an extremely questionable proposition.

Tricky to find a player to take on the elite

This leads me on nicely to the main issue at play here. While it's viable to think about taking on a couple of the top four in the market - Nadal, who tends to struggle more in quicker conditions, and Federer, who comes into the event potentially rusty, in particular - it's so difficult to find a player who you have a reasonable degree of confidence in getting to the latter stages at a value price.
Statistically, Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev and Roberto Bautista-Agut look to have as good a shot as any at taking on the top four, but it's far from a straightforward proposition. I also highlighted Alex De Minaur as a potential threat on Wednesday but the Australian has pulled out in advance with an abdominal injury.

Shapovalov and Bautista-Agut with some potential

Shapovalov is in Federer's third quarter, but he faces a potentially tricky route to the fourth round with a likely schedule of Fucsovics/Sinner/Dimitrov. Those who are keen on the Canadian may wish to avail themselves of the 6/1 about him to win Quarter Three at the Sportsbook.
My concern surrounding Bautista-Agut is twofold. Firstly, he is the type of player who tends to beat those worse, but struggles against those better than him. This makes him a really reliable type in 250 level events, for example, but in higher profile tournaments, it's more of an issue. In addition, he has been drawn in Quarter Four alongside the tournament favourite, Djokovic.

Rapidly improving Rublev the best option to take on Medvedev

Finally, Rublev. The Russian youngster has shown a superb level so far in 2020, going eight from eight and winning in both Doha and Adelaide, accumulating an extremely strong combined service/return points won percentage of almost 113%. At 22 years of age, it is evident that he's on an upward ability curve but my main concern surrounding him would be potentially overplaying in these warm-up events. However, he got a first round bye in both tournaments and therefore needed to win just four matches in each to lift the trophy, and he only dropped two sets in these eight matches - so got the job done quickly, for the most part.
The Sportsbook are going 9/1 on Rublev to win Quarter Two - Medvedev's quarter - with Alexander Zverev shorter and Stan Wawrinka at the same price. Stats would suggest Rublev has a better chance than this duo, who aren't currently showing a level close to their best, and Rublev to win Quarter Two looks the best of a bad bunch from a pre-tournament outright perspective.

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