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Aus Open halfway update on title markets

This was written yesterday for PuntingAce but due to timezones etc, they are yet to publish it. Please forgive what looks to be aftertiming on Bartoli....

AO Halfway Update

WOMEN

The women's draw has been the one most affected by upsets with the lines around Ivanovic and Venus Williams falling away significantly.

In the top half, Jankovic hasn't hit top gear yet, she made hard work of beating an ailing Sugiyama and has tricky opponents from here on in. Versus Bartoli her record is 3-3, Zvonareva 6-4 and Petrova 6-2 - all players capable of beating her on any given day.

The main threat in the quarter for me is Zvonareva. She has been in fantastic form since late last year, but needs to overcome a 1-5 record vs Petrova first. On top of her domination in the singles, her doubles form has been top notch as well (with Azarenka). Petrova is in her best form a while as well. Anyone can win that quarter.

Safina looked very rusty in the opening rounds but returned to something like her best in the win over Kanepi. She should breeze through her quarter now with Ivanovic and Wozniacki gone.

Dokic has been a great story and has impressed me with her court smarts. A blind man could tell you the best way to beat chunky Kleybanova is keep hitting corner to corner (how Ivanovic couldn't suss that out is beyond me). If she plays as well as she did against Wozniacki, you never know...

The third quarter comes down to the match between Cibulkova and Dementieva. The h2h is currently one win apiece. Suarez Navarro has been brilliant in her last two rounds and might go another round, but her run must surely end soon.

The bottom quarter should belong to Serena but Azarenka has been in devastating form so far and won't die wondering if she was up to it. Extremely aggressive player who goes for everything and could possibly catch Serena off-guard if she continues her inconsistent form so far.


Still happy to hang onto the Serena ticket but you might be able to make a few bucks trading any of Bartoli, Cibulkova and Petrova. They're all a huge price and I'd be surprised if they all bomb out straight away.


MEN

For all my doubts about Nadal on hardcourt, Rafa is in fine fettle. Hitting winners galore, finding the angles and making very few errors. But it gets harder from here.

Gonzalez won a marathon match over Gasquet, how much energy will he have left on Monday? I don't think he can go much further.

Monfils was the early bet for a trade and he's looking good so far. His aggressive style can blow opponents away quickly, but over five sets, and particularly against a player like Gilles Simon, who came from a set and a break down (opponent traded 1.01) to win against both Federer and Nadal last year, his super-strength rather than stamina could be his Achilles heel.

Andy Murray is flying at present with a great ratio of winners to errors in his clinical dismissal of Melzer. But naturally he faces tougher opponents the further he goes. Verdasco next round is on a rampage, conceding just twelve games in three matches. Murray holds a 5-0 advantage over the Latino leftie, but the improvement in Verdasco has been remarkable in recent months.

We know Tsonga is capable after last year, the doubts have been over his fitness. After his win over Sela, he claimed his back was in perfect shape. Bear in mind that he talks a big talk, how much of it is truth and how much is hot air? His fastest serve in R3 was 25km/h faster than R2, a good sign of spinal health.

The big guns are all in place in the bottom half, with the quarter finals likely to be Roddick vs Djokovic and del Potro vs Federer. But we all know it doesn't necessarily go according to the script. Of those four, I think Djokovic is the one most in danger. He faces the enigmatic Baghdatis first who can never be written off in Melbourne, followed by Roddick who is looking very sharp. If you followed the early advice, we're in a good position with Roddick at 12/1 to win that quarter.

Cilic vs del Potro should be a cracking encounter. They haven't faced each other before and while I expect the Argie to progress, the reverse wouldn't shock.

Federer has looked impressive so far, he knew the dangers of Safin and didn't give him a look-in in R3. Still, I'd rather wait until the final to back him. If he faces Nadal or Murray, he'll still be a decent price and it removes the potential potholes along the way.

What to do? I'm sticking with my original bets - Federer to win it, but will only back him next weekend. The Monfils ticket is worth hanging onto, if he draws Nadal that price could collapse.

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