The Australian Open semi-finals are upon us and in the men’s draw all eyes are on two players.
Rafael Nadal is gunning for an 18th Grand Slam title and looks in the form of his life.
But Novak Djokovic is in top form and comes into the semi-finals fresh.
This could be the year of the next generation in men’s tennis, with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lucas Pouille also into the semis
The two matches will be played on Thursday and Friday this week and here are the best bets available online…
Tsitsipas vs Nadal
Rafael Nadal is the overwhelming favourite with the best tennis bookmakers to win this semi-final and cruise into another Melbourne final. Yet Stefanos Tsitsipas is not to be overlooked.
Remember, the Greek beat Roger Federer in four sets in the fourth round before ousting Roberto Bautista Agut - again in four sets - in the quarters.
Tsitsipas has dominated on serve, nailing 89 aces across five matches so far. However, his first serve percentage is not among the top 20 this tournament and on the second serve he’s won just 59% of points.
That is worrying when Tsitsipas is coming up against a mean serve returner like Nadal. The Spaniard lives on the baseline and can knock back balls all day, waiting for the other man to falter.
So much of how this match plays out will come down to the serve and Tsitsipas must be on his game to secure holds, let alone breaks. Nadal is +3300 to win 3-0 with the most aces and fewest double faults.
Some bookies have Tsitsipas at -137.50 to simply not win a set!
Djokovic vs Pouille
Friday’s semi-final sees Novak Djokovic face Lucas Pouille for the first time in his career. Djokovic is gunning for a seventh Australian Open crown and his first final appearance in Melbourne in three years.
And the majority of punters have the Serb down to win here. Djokovic has already dispatched of Daniil Medvedev and Denis Shapovalov with ease, before Kei Nishikori retired less than two sets into their quarter-final showdown.
Djokovic, nicely rested for this semi-final, has never had the absolute best serve. But his return game is on point and that is what’s needed to get those crucial breaks in the men’s game. He is -1750 to get the job done on Friday.
Where Pouille can hurt Djokovic is not quite clear. The Frenchman has only won one of his matches in three sets so far, and there is concern of burn-out. In his quarter-final with Milos Raonic, Pouille relied on two tie breaks to get through difficult sets. Breaking Djokovic is proving tough and Pouille must be able to grind out points here.
A 3-0 Djokovic win is not a bad shout at all. It’s hard to see how 24-year-old Pouille will be able to handle being pinned persistently onto the baseline. Like Nadal, Djokovic has perfected the hard-court endurance rally and that should see him through here.
Australian Open Winner Odds
Amazingly, Djokovic has never lost a final in Melbourne and that is why he is the -115 favourite to win his 15th career Grand Slam. Right now it looks the obvious choice.
Nadal won here just once in 2009 and lost in three finals in the decade since. One of those finals, in 2012, was to Djokovic. He is priced at +130 for the title and has the much tougher semi-final.
However, Nadal’s semi-final is played on Thursday, while Djokovic vs Pouille takes place on Friday. That could be the 24 crucial hours Nadal needs to usurp Djokovic in the expected final.
As for the others, Pouille is +2000 and Tsitsipas +1100. But in reality, it’s hard to see either man getting through these last two matches.