The first grand slam of the year takes place in Melbourne with Roger Federer clear favourite to retain his title.
Last year he took down Nadal in a five-set thriller and 2018 could easily be a repeat with Rafael Nadal and Federer priced at 11/4 to face off in the final once again.
Australia’s hopes of having a first hometown champion since 1976 are pinned on the enigmatic Nick Kyrgios who has started the year off well by winning in Brisbane last week and he’s available at 12/1 to claim the crown.
Things aren’t as clear cut in the women’s draw where Serena Williams’ withdrawal has put Elina Svitolina into favourite at 7/1, despite never reaching a grand slam semi-final. While notorious bottler Halep can be found at 8/1, with Singapore champion Caroline Wozniacki next at 9/1.
With not much sticking out in the outrights, we’ll focus on a day one accumulator to kick things off.
Matthew Ebden v John Isner: Set 1 Score to be 7-6 – 7/5
As we all know, Big John rarely gets broken and the hot conditions in Melbourne should help the big man. He’s played Ebden three times before, winning on each occasion and tonight will likely go the same way, but 1/4 it’s too skinny for us.
So instead, we’ll look at a first set tiebreaker at Evens. Ebden has a couple of good results under his belt already this year, beating young gun Frances Tiafoe as well as the seasoned Marin Cilic and losing close contests with Kyrgios and Richard Gasquet.
He played two deciders in similar conditions against Kyrgios in Brisbane and we fancy tonight to go down the same route with tiebreaks very likely.
Kevin Anderson v Kyle Edmund: Total Match Games Over 39.5 – 5/6
Briton’s Edmund couldn’t have asked for a worse draw, getting paired off against the US Open finalist in the first round.
They’ve played in one match before, clashing in last year’s French Open where Anderson took a tight five-set match.
We expect things to follow a similar path this year in much quicker conditions. Both players are solid on serve and as long as Edmund doesn’t wilt in the heat, over 39.5 games at 5/6 looks the bet.
Anna Karolína Schmiedlová v Dsria Kasatkina: D Kastakina (-4.5) games – 10/11
Schmiedlová has had a bit of a revival of late and actually started winning matches again. She came through qualifying with three good victory, but she’s spent over six hours on court and in this heat that will take its toll.
She’s drawn against 20-year-old Kasatkina in the opening round and we expect the Russian to make light work of the Slovakian.
These two played each other in the 2016 edition of the Australian Open, Kasatkina ran out a convincing winner then and today should be no different.
Sloane Stephens v Shaui Zhang: S Stephens (+3.5) games – 10/11
Us Open champion Stephens comes into this game on the back of a seven-match losing streak.
However, we think the big stage will help her and she should at least be able to keep things close.
Zhang is a solid player who tends to play lower level events in order to boost her ranking and while she did get to the quarter-final here in 2016, we believe Stephens’ power should be too much for her and at 7/4 looks great value for the upset.
Having said this, taking the handicap of (+3.5) games at 10/11 looks the safer bet to stay in for a day 1 acca.