The return of two maestros Downunder!

As the Australian Open starts today in Melbourne, it is great for the the Men’s game that both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are amongst the entrants. Both had injury plagued seasons last year. Between them, they have won a staggering 31 major titles and both are adamant that they can add to that amazing haul and neither has any plans to retire quite yet.

The build-up to the Australian Open has been somewhat overshadowed by further match-fixing allegations in the world of tennis. Yesterday, the BBC released a report on the possibility of widespread match fixing in tennis and involvement of some top ranked players.

Unfortunately in sports like tennis between individuals, it will always be simpler to get two opposing players to fix games. Add to that, most players on the tour scrape by to get from one event to the next and the lucrative amounts being offered by match-fixing syndicates, there will always be players susceptible to throwing matches.

It is important to remember that reported cases are still fairly isolated and that the large bookmakers are working together in highlighting irregular betting patterns and reporting these incidences to the appropriate investigating bodies in World Tennis such as Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU). Swift and stiff penalties should keep match-fixing in check and we can only hope that none of the elite players on court in the Australian Open would dream of chucking matches.

What a tournament it should be!

The Djokovic-Murray battle for the No.1 spot should rage on in 2017. Andy Murray managed to take the No.1 spot from Novak Djokovic in an exhilarating end of season rally last year. Djokovic will be keen to recapture his position as the World’s No.1 by retaining the Australian Open title, which he has won five times in the last six years.

But it is the chances of two of the greatest tennis champions of all times winning another major, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer that I want to look at. Realistically this is probably the last year for either of them to add yet another major to their respective bulging trophy cabinets.

Rafael Nadal is only 30 years old and still ranked 9th in the world, but last year was plagued by a left wrist injury that saw him withdraw from the French Open and Wimbledon. Results on his return proved disappointing but the recent addition of Carlos Moya to the coaching staff may be instrumental in Nadal getting back to winning ways. Nadal can be backed at 16/1 to win outright in Melbourne.

Nadal’s backcourt game has alway suited the clay courts that he learned his trade on as a kid in Manacor, Spain. Dubbed “the king of clay” he is most likely to go far in the French Open at Roland Garros which he has won an astonishing nine times, he is best-priced at 6/1 to claim his 10th French Open title. A lot will depend on his fitness and if his legs still have the juice to get through and recover from gruelling, epic encounters time and time again.

Rafael Nadal the Gambler

Rafael Nadal is an avid poker player and has admitted to being interested in playing on the European poker tour when he hangs up his racket. He made quite a splash with a stint with Pokerstars already and you can’t take the competitor out of men like Nadal who would play poker with the same winning zeal as tennis. Don’t expect to see Nadal grinding medium stakes tables at online casinos to pay his entrance fee to the bigger tournaments. It will be fun to see how he fares if he does go All-in on the poker circuit.

Federer is now 35 years old and ranked 17th in the world. A knee injury last year has kept him out of the game since he lost in the Semi-Finals at Wimbledon last June. The six-month layoff has left him feeling rejuvenated and in good spirits about his chances of winning another major in 2017.

Federer just came through his 1st round match against Jurgen Melzer in four sets and should get a decent draw to further improve his match sharpness in the early rounds. When he does meet any of the new guard he will be difficult to beat. Federer serve-volley game suits the hard courts of Australia and may be worth a bet at 25/1 to win

I, for one will enjoy watching these true gents and ambassadors of the game give it their all to add further Silverware in 2017, fully aware that this is probably the last year we will see both being truly competitive on the World Tour. A final between both would cap it all off perfectly. We can only but dream.

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