When Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Australian Open last week, eyes immediately turned to the top half of the draw. Andy Murray, never a winner in Melbourne, became the odds-on favourite to lift the trophy.
While Britain slept, so did Murray and followed his Serbian rival to the airport. Unseeded Russian-born German, Mischa Zverev, ranked 50 in the world, beat the Scot in four sets (7 – 5, 5 – 7, 6 – 2, 6 – 4). His brother Andrey nearly joined him in the fourth round, but Rafa Nadal proved too wily and won in five sets (4 – 6, 6 – 3, 6- 7, 6 – 3, 6 – 2).
So, who will triumph in the Australian Open? We look at the last four in the men’s tournament.
Current Best Priced Odds - To Win the 2017 Australian Open
Murray’s defeat propelled the Swiss back into the limelight. Federer is back in the groove and winning his matches comfortably, so far. He’s reached the last eight for the 13th time in 14 years, a record which is not to be sniffed at. The defeat to Andrea Seppi two years ago, stands out like a sore thumb.
Jürgen Melzer took a set from the housewives’ favourite, but with Noah Rubin and Tomas Berdych despatched in straight sets, the fourth round saw him face fifth seed Kei Nishikori. His toughest test yet but Federer came through, winning the decisive fifth set 6 – 3.
Federer admitted his performance didn’t get off to the best of starts. The Swiss player was philosophical about the outcome. He said after the game that the first set had been a wake-up call. “After almost going down 6-0,” he told reporters, “I thought it wasn’t getting any worse from there.”
The enigmatic Swiss player – you’re never quite sure whether the intense or lackadaisical Wawrinka will turn up – faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last eight in what is his toughest test yet. Viktor Troicki is the only seed he has faced and the Serb was number 29 for this tournament.
Tsonga has proven a tough opponent for Wawrinka; he leads the Frenchman 4 – 3 in the head-to-head contests and has their last three meetings but this is the first in Australia and the first in a decade on a hard court.
Wawrinka knows what it takes to win in Melbourne; it’s only three years since he was crowned champion while Tsonga hasn’t got past this stage since 2010.
If Federer is on the comeback trail, so is his great friend and rival, Rafa Nadal. The Spaniard endured 2016 rather than enjoyed it; injury dogged him, invoking poor form with a couple of embarrassing exits from major tournaments in the second half of the year.
He’s worked hard to get himself into good shape for this tournament. “I worked a lot during all December,” he said in Melbourne, “to have the chances to compete well this these kind of moments.”
Nadal, who opened a tennis centre last summer, is looking to get himself back into a winning mood and revive his fortunes. Late last year, he contemplated retirement if he didn’t see a tangible improvement in his performances.
2017 hasn’t got off to a bad start, Raonic beat him in a three-setter in the Brisbane warm-up and his progress to the last sixteen has been straightforward with neither Florian Mayer or Marcos Baghdatis offering much of an obstacle to the Spaniard’s progress.
Francois is one of Howtobet4free’s co-founders and has written many of Howtobet4free’s popular Betting Guides. Francois also helps run the @howtobet4free_ Twitter account