Tue, Apr 11, 4:29pm by Senior Writer
The Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach on Victoria’s surf coast is one of Australia’s iconic sporting events, and the bookies are predicting a non-Australian winner of the men’s event for the first time in four years.
Current world champion John John Florence is $4.50 top pick, coming off the Hawaiian’s win at the recent Margaret River Pro in WA ahead of Mick Fanning, who is $7.50 to win a record fifth Bells title, while Brazil’s Gabriel Medina is third pick at $9.
Florence is the hottest surfer in the world right now, but he hasn’t enjoyed a great time at Bells over the past couple of years, falling in the third round in 2016 and 2015 after making the semi-finals in 2014.
The veteran Aussie Fanning loves this surf and is rightly high up in the market despite a fairly quiet start to the year. He was T13th on the Gold Coast then T25 at Margaret River, but has such an affinity for Bells.
Having won in 2014 and 2015, he was beaten in the semi-final by South Africa’s Jordy Smith last year. He also won this event in 2012 and way back in 2001 as a 19-year-old.
Medina, who was third in the world championship last year, has never finished higher than fifth at this event, but is expected to rebound quickly from his early exit in WA.
Smith, who was second in the world title fight last year, and runner-up to Matt Wilkinson here last year, is on $10 along with Felipe Toledo.
Owen Wright, who had an emotional win on the Gold Coast last month after spending 12 months off the tour with a serious head injury, is $12 along with fellow Aussie Julian Wilson.
However, he is drawn against Fanning in a blockbuster first heat, which is scheduled to get underway on Wednesday morning, with good surf predicted. Fanning is $1.67 to win that heat with Wilkinson at $3.10 and Jadson Andre at $5.
The winner goes straight through to Round 3, with the losers going through the repechage Round 2.
Current women’s world champion Tyler Wright is $4.50 to claim her first ever Bells title having lost the final in 2013 and 2014. Wright finished second at Margaret River last week, with the start of the season complete dominated by Aussies.
Sally Fitzgibbons, the beaten finalist here last year after winning Bells in 2011 and 2012, won in WA after Steph Gilmore won on the Gold Coast.
Gilmore, a three-time winner here in 2007, 2008 and 2010 is $5 equal second favourite with another three-time Bells winner Carissa Moore, who won here in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
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