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Place your bets now for the Australian tennis Open

January may be frozen in Europe, but the sun blazes down on Melbourne, setting for the first Grand Slam of 2012. The Australian tennis Open men's tournament looks a relatively close and competitive tournament this year.

The Australian Open (www.australianopen.com) begins at Melbourne Park on 16th January. The bookmakers make it a 5 horse race, with defending champion Novak Djokovic the 15/8 favourite.

Djokovic is looking for his third win in the tournament, and can enjoy the prospect of starting a new year as world number one in the ATP rankings (www.atpworldtour.com). He will need to start accumulating grand slams with remorseless regularity if he is to establish themselves as the latest dominant force in the game.

The main obstacle to that ambition is Rafael Nadal. The Spanish genius is still young and ambitious enough to reclaim the number one spot and add to his solitary Australian Open title. The question mark is always whether Nadal will be fit and conditioned to deal with the demands of a Grand Slam in January.

Roger Federer will not enjoy knowing that everyone believes his career is heading into inexorable decline. 2012 may be a watershed year for him, although he should not be written off in Melbourne, where he has won the title 4 times.

It's also a key year for Andy Murray, well-beaten in the last two Australian finals. He has witnessed his contemporary Djokovic overtake him and outshine him in the slams. If Murray could make it third time lucky in Australia it could be a launch-pad for an attempt at becoming number one

The outsider of the bookmakers' top 5 is the Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro. He is only rated 19th in the world at present, but likes hard courts, and, unlike the top 4 from the northern hemisphere, will be playing in his body clock's own summer.  If those credentials appeal, you can get 7-1 for him to win the Australian tennis Open.

 

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