Mon, Jan 15, 9:11am by Staff Writer
The first tennis Grand Slam of the 2018, the Australian Open, kicks off with round one action on Monday and Tuesday.
With 128 men and women beginning the tournament in the jam-packed draw, there are a number of stand out opening round matches in both draws.
Matthew Ebden versus John Isner
Monday, 15 January 2018 at 1.05pm AEDST
Two big servers meet on Margaret Court Arena on Monday afternoon when 16th seed John Isner faces Australian Matt Ebden.
Isner leads the head to head between the pair 3-0, with the most recent result coming at the Newport final on grass in 2017, where Isner won in straight sets.
Ebden has been a much improved player since that final in mid-2017, playing a host of ATP Challenger events to boost his ranking to world number 76, ensuring automatic qualification into the main draw of the Open.
Ebden has only made it past the first round twice in 11 years, but is in the best form of his career, narrowly losing to Brisbane International winner Nick Kyrgios in three sets just a fortnight ago.
Isner began his 2018 season in Auckland, where he lost in the first round to rising star Hyeon Chung.
Isner was poor in the decisive third set and was well beaten on the night by the Korean.
Matches featuring Isner and Ebden are usually serve oriented, with both players possessing strong first serves and both being limited in terms of court movement.
Isner has made it to the round of 16 twice at the Australian Open and was knocked out by German Mischa Zverev in 2017.
That match went five sets and featured three tiebreaks and 65 games in total.
While this match between Isner and Ebden may not be as long, it would not be surprising if there were one or two tiebreaks.
A wager on total match games over 41.5 at $1.80 looks to be the best bet in this contest, given that fact and the current form of both players.
Best bet- Matthew Ebden John Isner total match games over 41.5 at $1.80
Venus Williams versus Belinda Bencic
Monday, 15 January 2018 at 1.05pm AEDST
A nightmare match up first up for 2017 finalist Venus Williams, as she faces the unseeded but dangerous world number 77 Belinda Bencic.
Bencic is returning from an injury absence which interrupted both her 2016 and 2017 season’s.
After playing in a series of ITF tournaments at the end of 2017, which included winning the Dubai, Hua Hin and Taipai events and only losing one set in a staggering 15 matches.
These two have met on four occasions, with Venus leading the head to head 4-0, their last meeting, a straight sets win for Williams at the US Open in 2015.
Bencic has started the 2018 season strongly, winning the Hopman Cup with compatriot Roger Federer.
Williams has had an indifferent start to her 2018 season, losing in the round of 16 at the Sydney International to eventual champion Angelique Kerber in three sets.
Williams has been known to be hit and miss at the Australian Open recently. Her 2017 final was preceded by a first round exit in 2016 and a first round exit in 2014.
This match features two players with contrasting form lines and Williams’ fitness at age 37 is always to be questioned, particularly at Grand Slam’s.
Best bet- Belinda Bencic to win at $1.90
Yuichi Sugita versus Jack Sock
Monday, 15 January 2018 at 5.35pm AEDST
Number eight seed Jack Sock begins opening round action with a tough first round clash against world number 41 Yuichi Sugita.
Sock has had a lacklustre start to the season, one which has been hampered by injury.
These two met just two weeks ago at the Hopman Cup, where Sugita won the first set before Sock retired.
In their other previous meeting, Sugita defeated Sock in straight sets.
What the Japanese man lacks in power he makes up for in precision, with his ground strokes on both wings solid. Sock on the other hand has tremendous power and potential, but can at times be erratic and poor with his decision-making. Defending his title last week in Auckland, Sock was defeated in straight sets, appeared lethargic and hampered by injury.
Sugita has never made it past the first round in Melbourne and at $3 at Sportsbet, he is good value to knock out the highly fancied American.
Sportsbet pay out on retirements and with Sock under an injury cloud, this could be pivotal.
A more conservative option would be to take Sugita at +4.5 at $1.83. Punters should steer clear of Sock in the head to head markets at $1.36, particularly in multibets.
Best bet- Yuichi Sugita to win at $3
*Odds provided by Sportsbet
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