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Five outsiders to watch at the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek head into the Australian Open as the clear frontrunners in their respective outright markets.

Djokovic will be hoping to secure a record-extending tenth Melbourne title, having missed the tournament last year as Rafael Nadal was crowned Australian Open champion for a second time.

Swiatek, meanwhile, is targeting a first triumph in Melbourne, having reached the semi-finals last year before being beaten 6-4 6-1 by Danielle Collins.

However, that leading pair have plenty of other contenders to try and see off and we take a look at five outsiders who will fancy their chances of challenging for glory at the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

WhatAustralian Open
WhereMelbourne Park
WhenMonday 16th January - Sunday 29th January
How to watchChannel 9
OddsMen: Novak Djokovic 10/11, Daniil Medvedev 9/2, Rafael Nadal 10/1; Women: Iga Swiatek 7/4, Aryna Sabalenka 9/1, Caroline Garcia 10/1 

Casper Ruud

20/1 To Win Outright

Norwegian Casper Ruud appears to be something of a banker to land a Grand Slam title at some point in the near future and his time could arrive as soon as later this month in Australia.

The 24-year-old reached the finals of both the French Open and the US Open last year, being denied by Rafael Nadal in Paris and Carlos Alcaraz in New York.

And the latter of those two Spaniards will be absent in Melbourne due to injury, which should offer Ruud even greater hope that he can clear the final hurdle.

Prior to his runs to two finals, his best performance at a Grand Slam came in Australia in 2021, when he reached the fourth round, before retiring when two sets down to Andrey Rublev.

The real question is does Ruud have the mentality and belief to go all the way? As well as two Grand Slam final losses last year, he was beaten by Djokovic in the final of the ATP Finals and lost out to Alcaraz in his first Masters 1000 final in Miami.

Andrey Rublev

50/1 To Win Outright

Andrey Rublev has made six Grand Slam quarter-finals during his career to date and needs to improve on that record to prove that he belongs among the elite of the game.

The 25-year-old Russian made the last eight in Melbourne in 2021 before being beaten by compatriot Daniil Medvedev and repeated that run in both France and the United States last year - either side of being unable to play at Wimbledon.

Rublev claimed four ATP Tour titles in 2022 and the time appears to be right for him to challenge to make a major breakthrough.

Frances Tiafoe

66/1 To Win Outright

American Frances Tiafoe sprang to prominence by reaching the semi-finals of the US Open last year, beating Nadal in the fourth round and Rublev in the quarter-finals, before being edged out in a five-set classic with eventual champion Alcaraz.

Prior that that stellar run, Tiafoe’s best effort at a Grand Slam came in Melbourne back in 2019, when he ousted Adrian Mannarino, Kevin Anderson, Andreas Seppi and Grigor Dimitrov before being swept aside by Nadal in the quarter-finals.

Danielle Collins

33/1 To Win Outright

Danielle Collins made it all the way to the Australian Open final last year, before being beaten in straight sets by home hero Ashleigh Barty.

Along the way the 29-year-old American knocked out Eilise Mertens in the fourth round and Swiatek in the semi-finals, with her 6-4 6-1 success against the latter one of the performances of the tournament.

Three years earlier Collins was a semi-finalist in Melbourne, beating the likes of Caroline Garcia and Angelique Kerber before falling to Petra Kvitova in the last four.

A note of caution has to be highlighted with the fact that Collins won just one match across the French Open and Wimbledon after her 2022 efforts in Melbourne, although a run to the fourth round of her home Grand Slam was much more encouraging.

Madison Keys

25/1 To Win Outright

Madison Keys has four Grand Slam semi-finals and an appearance in the 2017 US Open final on her record already.

Her one major final outing ended in a crushing 6-3 6-0 defeat to fellow American Sloane Stephens, while her most recent run to the last four of a Grand Slam came in Melbourne last year.

Straight sets wins over 11th seed Sofia Kenin, eighth seed Paula Badosa and fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova showed exactly what Keys is capable off at her best, with the seemingly unstoppable Barty the only player to halt her charge.

She backed up her efforts in Australia by reaching the fourth round at the French Open and the third round of the US Open.

Keys also has title success on Australian soil to draw upon, having gone all the way at the Adelaide International a year ago, when again she excelled in beating second seed Elina Svitolina and eighth seed Coco Gauff on her way to glory.

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