ATP Australian Open Pre-Draw: Traditional elite still likely to dominate

In advance of the Australian Open draw tomorrow, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns with his thoughts on the main contenders for the men's singles title...

Djokovic and Federer have dominated here in recent years

The Australian Open represents the first opportunity each season for players to win a Grand Slam title, but typically this opportunity is restricted to a select group of players for the men's tournament. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer won nine of the ten events played here between 2010 and 2019, with only Stan Wawrinka breaking the dominance of the duo. In addition, only six men - these three plus Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal and Marin Cilic - reached the final during those last ten tournaments.

Outright market illustrates dominance of elite trio

If this doesn't give insight into the difficulty that the next tier of players have had in reaching the final of this tournament, then not a lot will. Apart from Wawrinka, we have to go back to Marit Safin in 2005 to see a winner that didn't come from the current elite trio.
The dominance of that trio - Djokovic, Nadal and Federer - is illustrated by the tournament outright market, with Djokovic currently trading at a shade over even money. The Serb is available at 2.24 on the Exchange, with Nadal further back at [6.0] and Federer the outsider of the three at 13.00. Between Nadal and Federer is Daniil Medvedev, with the Russian priced at 9.80 at the time of writing, but the Exchange market is still pricing a Djokovic/Nadal/Federer winner at an implied 69%, which actually feels a little low to me.
The table below assesses some data for the main contenders for the men's title, with the numbers sorted by 12 month hard court combined service/return points won percentage:-
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Federer potentially under-rated by the market

Here we can see Djokovic edges Nadal statistically on hard court, and by a bigger margin on all surfaces in the last six months. Federer and Medvedev are slightly further back, but these numbers would at least question Federer being offered at a bigger price than Medvedev - he's got marginally better data than the Russian across both combined percentage metrics.
Perhaps the main concern regarding Federer is the fact that he hasn't played a warm-up match for the tournament at all - he was last seen on court in competitive action when losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-final of the World Tour Finals in November. In previous years, he's used the Hopman Cup exhibition or the Brisbane 250 as preparation for the Australian Open, but he's deigned not to participate in anything this season. However, it's worth making the point that Federer often schedules pretty lightly, and will know his capabilities of playing a warm-up tournament.

De Minaur among long-shots of interest

Further back from this market leading quartet is Alex De Minaur 100.00, Roberto Bautista-Agut [65.00], Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov 50.00, and these four players - with the exception of the fitness doubt, Raonic - form the basis of where we might look with regards to our post-draw outright picks or 'to win the quarter' choices.
De Minaur and Shapovalov statistically impress compared to a lot of their 'Next-Gen' rivals, while Bautista-Agut is just a solid player who tends to get the job done against worse opposition - his main issue, historically, comes against top ten rivals. He should also come into the event in great confidence following a six from six display at the ATP Cup last week, without dropping a set. While his opponents - particularly the first four - were very weak, he did also defeat Nick Kyrgios 6-1 6-4 when priced as a pre-match underdog.

Kyrgios one of those who looks over-rated by the market

Kyrgios, along with the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem, look a little over-rated by the market compared to the numbers that they have produced, although it's interesting to see Alexander Zverev friendless in the outright market at 80.00. While Zverev's medium and shorter-term data isn't as good as it once was, it's not 'that' bad, and I wonder how much this is an over-reaction to his poor displays at the ATP Cup, where he struggled with double-faulting on serve.
I'll be returning over the weekend with some firmer thoughts after Thursday's draw, with some finalised outright options. In such a top-heavy tournament, this will probably be 'to win quarter' positions, but we'll see what manifests itself in the draw tomorrow.

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