Three Outside Bets for the 2019 Australian Open

Source: Chung Hyeon via Facebook.

Novak Djokovic ended the 2018 season in imperious fashion, thereby ensuring that he will be a strong favourite for all tournaments in the first half of next year at least. There may be no value on backing Djokovic, but his dominance will increase the prices of old foes Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Yet the 2018 Australian Open saw some unlikely candidates progress, so there is scope for picking out players at longer odds in the hope of securing trading opportunities towards the tournament’s business end.

Kyle Edmund

Edmund meets the criteria of an unlikely tournament winner, with the Brit on a clear upward trajectory and a player who has enjoyed his best result in the conditions of Melbourne. Now British number 1 as a result of Andy Murray’s injury troubles, Edmund has thrived under the pressure that the appellation brings. Edmund reached his first two ATP Tour finals in 2018, surprisingly losing in timid fashion in Marrakesh to clay-court specialist Pablo Andujar in April.

That looked like a real opportunity missed for Edmund, but the Brit continued his impressive form to claim the title in Antwerp in October. Edmund will be keenly anticipating a return to Australia, having reached the semi-final last year in impressive fashion. A first-round win over Kevin Anderson, a formidable opponent who would then enjoy his best career season, started a strong run that was ended by Marin Cilic in disappointing fashion. Nobody will underestimate Edmund this time around, but he has shown that he does have the mental fortitude to handle the pressure. At 66/1 or higher, Edmund represents very interesting value.

Chung Hyeon

Another man who enjoyed a breakout tournament at last year’s Australian Open was Chung Hyeon, who retired in the semi-final against Roger Federer. That will not have alleviated concerns of Hyeon’s ability to maintain fitness across the two-week rigours of a Slam, but the manner of his victories beforehand was hugely impressive.

The South Korean would have been forgiven for thinking that his bagelling of fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the decisive fifth set of the third-round tie would be the pinnacle of his Slam. Yet Hyeon continued his fine form to beat Novak Djokovic 7-6 7-5 7-6 in the following round. Few would have expected Hyeon to prevail from that difficult quarter of the draw.

Clutch playing in close sets against the man who would end the year atop the ATP rankings bodes well for Hyeon, who has Australian open 2019 odds of 160 on the Betfair Exchange as of December 6th. That price is much bigger than many players who are past their best, but Hyeon’s best is yet to come.

Juan Martin del Potro

Source: Juan Martin del Potro via Facebook.

Del Potro appears to have put to bed most long-term concerns over his fitness, with 2018 seeing the Argentine claim his first Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells thanks to an impressive win over Roger Federer. Del Potro then reached the US Open final, in which he succumbed to Djokovic in straight sets. Djokovic will be the main obstacle for contenders at the Australian Open, with del Potro having won 4 out of 19 matches against the Serbian star. Two of those wins came in Olympic matches, so the Tower of Tandil has what it takes to upset Djokovic on the biggest stages.

As a Slam winner, del Potro is hardly a huge outsider. However, the Argentine may be underrated by markets due to Djokovic’s dominance. Djokovic has endured some shock Slam results in recent years, so perhaps an early departure could open the door for one of these bigger-priced options to storm through.