Australian Open Betting: Murray/Jankovic or Djokovic/Ivanovic - it all depends...


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Dec 2, 2008
Australian Open Betting: Murray/Jankovic or Djokovic/Ivanovic - it all depends on whether you believe in form or stats


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"Magical" Matthew Walton considers whether the key to finding the two winners of the Australian Open lies in following the form, or the stats. Because depending on which you believe in, you'll find very different results...

The first Grand Slam of the year provides the opportunity for us to examine one of the great debating points of betting strategy. Namely, what is the best way to choose a bet? One year of form or ten years of statistics?

And this topic of conversation is made all the more significant as we head off to Melbourne Park with the two form players in the respective draws (Andy Murray and Jelena Jankovic) both looking for their first Grand Slam titles.

The question is, as backers, should we back either - or both - players purely on the basis of their present well-being (because their form over the last 12 months dictates this approach) or should we pursue a more studious path and be guided by the formbook (which suggests we should look elsewhere for this year's winners).

As ever, we set about finding out.
Let's begin by exploding one myth about the Australian Open - because of it's timing and location, it's a tournament which produces a lot of surprises.
In terms of individual matches, quite possibly. However, when it comes to finding the winner of the event, the facts say something markedly different.
To begin with, the Australian Open doesn't produce all that many first-time Grand Slam winners. In the last 20 years (never mind just the last 10) the winner of the men's event has been a first-time Slam winner on just three occasions (Korda 1998, Johansson 2002 and Djokovic 2008).

As for the women, only four of the last 20 champions (Pierce 1995, Hingis 1997, Capriati 2001 and Mauresmo 2006) have been claiming their first Slam with a win Down Under.

That's just 15% for the men and 20% for the women during the last two decades which would make the odds for a new men's champion bigger than 6.50 and a first-time women's winner 5.0. More to the point it would make a previous winner around 1.12 for the men and 1.16 for the women - and both of these options currently trade much, much bigger on Betfair.

Secondly, adding onto this point, the Australian Open is actually, statistically, the least likely of the Slams to produce a first-time winner.

Over the last 20 years it has produced just three new male champions and four new female winners. That compares poorly to the French Open (12 men, 6 women) as well as Wimbledon (5 men, 4 women) and the US Open (5 men, 5 women).

So if you're looking for the form players (Murray and Jankovic) to prevail this coming fortnight, and so become first-time winners, the formbook offers you little cause for optimism.

Also, think about the age of these players. Murray is just 21 (he's 22 on May 15th) and Jankovic is 23 (soon to be 24 in February).

As far as Murray is concerned, being 21 also counts against him. During the past 20 years we've seen just Djokovic (20) in 2008 win this event at a younger age. Jim Courier (21) won in 1992 but the likes of Federer in 2004 and Sampras in 1994 were both 22 and Boris Becker was 23 when he won in 1991.

In fact, players like Thomas Johansson (26), Ivan Lendl (28) and Petr Korda (29) all suggest that age is actually a bonus with regards to this Slam, not youth!
So, Andy, you may have to wait a couple of years for your time to come!

But, and here's the strange thing, paradoxically Jelena Jankovic appears too old at 23!

Going back over the past 20 years we see the first time, female winners of the Australian Open aged 16 (Hingis 1997), 19 (Sharapova 2008, Seles 1991), 20 (Pierce 1995) and 21 (Serena Williams 2003, Justine Henin 2004).

Only Lindsay Davenport (23 in 2000) and both Jennifer Capriati and Steffi Graf (both 24 in 2001 and 1988 respectively) offer much cause for optimism amongst Jankovic supporters.

Perhaps the Serbian girl has already missed her chance ...
Carrying on from this as well, general Grand Slam experience. If you look at recent first time Slam winners (the last 10 maiden winners across all the majors) then the average number of Slams competed in before a win is 18. Nadal won the French Open after just five Slams ... Goran Ivanisevic took 47!

This will be Murray's 13th major event so, again, experience might not be on his side.

As for Jankovic, this is Slam number 22 for the Serbian. Compare that to the likes of Sharapova and Serena Williams (both 6), Hingis (8), Venus Williams (12), Ivanovic (13) and Henin (14) and you can see that Jankovic is, as they say in racing circles, becoming difficult to win with.

Finally, as far as seedings are concerned, Murray has only Marat Safin in 2005 and Boris Becker in 1996 as examples of No.4 seeds who have lifted the trophy. For past winners over the last 20 years you've got seven No.1 seeds winning and seven No.2 seeds along with a No.3, No.6, No.10 and No.16.
No.4 isn't a particularly lucky number.

As for Jankovic, the seeding of No.1 in the women's draw does give more cause for hope - more so given the lack of strength in depth of the women's game - but even so the top seeding has proved something of a poisoned chalice in recent years as the last four champions at Melbourne Park have been seeded No.5 (Sharapova), No.3 (Mauresmo) and No.7 (Serena Williams), and Serena also won in 2006 when she was unseeded!
So, statistically speaking, there is a clear case to be made for the two form players of the men's and women's draws being opposed - and a lay of both at prices of 4.2 for Murray and even 10.0 for Jankovic is quite plausible given this information.

But, if we're to ignore the claims of these two, what do the figures tell us? Well, they point to a previous winner, with moderate Slam experience, a relatively high ranking and a reasonably young age. Put together a photo-fit and the closest match you'll find is for Novak Djokovic 8.4 and Ana Ivanovic 12.0. They seem the sort who best fit the profile the data has created and are certainly worth a look in the market.

Ultimately, whether you prefer to follow the form or, like us, stick with the statistics it promises to be a fantastic tournament - so get busy on Betfair!

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