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Talking Tennis with Tracy: Austin on the Australian Open

The last time Novak Djokovic played the Australian Open, in 2021, he won the whole thing—for the ninth time. Forbidden to defend his title due to his vaccination status, Rafael Nadal went on to win last year's tournament in epic fashion, rallying from two sets down in the final to best Daniil Medvdev. On the women's side of things, Ash Barty made Australian history in victory—before deciding to retire from tennis.

There will surely be drama Down Under once again in 2023. Will Djokovic, the heavy betting favorite on the men's side (-110), take back the title? Will Iga Swiatek, nearly as heavy a favorite on the women's side (+200), continue to exert her dominance in the post-Barty world? We'll touch on all of that, and more, as we give you our fliers, fades and picks to win for the 2023 Australian Open.

Let's get into it!

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Danielle Collins, Dominic Thiem, Elena Rybakina and Alexander Zverev have all had their moments, and missteps, on the Grand Slam stage.

Danielle Collins, Dominic Thiem, Elena Rybakina and Alexander Zverev have all had their moments, and missteps, on the Grand Slam stage.

The Men

FLIER: Casper Ruud (+2500) Really, Ruud is too good to be considered a flier at this point, but these odds are just ridiculous. He made the finals of two Grand Slam tournaments last year, and nothing about his trajectory suggests he's slowing down. The 24-year-old has made significant strides with his game, turning what was once a weak backhand into a legitimate weapon. Ruud played right through the off-season and should be in as good of form as anyone. The world No. 3 has never made it further than the fourth round Down Under, but you just have to play the value here.

FLIER: Cameron Norrie (+6500) When you think of Norrie, the terms that come to mind are probably things like "grinder" and "maximizer." He's a very smart tennis player that tends to make the most out of every ounce of talent he has. In the past, Norrie could look out of place when playing against some of the sport's more gifted players. But we saw a different version of the southpaw at the United Cup, with the Brit looking a bit more assertive with his game. Norrie earned a straight-set win over Alex de Minaur, and followed it up with three-set wins over Rafael Nadal and Taylor Fritz. (That was Fritz's only loss all week.) In those matches, it rarely looked like Norrie was simply relying on his opponents to generate pace or make mistakes. He was hitting the ball cleanly, and his first serve was a serious weapon.

While the 27-year-old remains a long shot to actually win a major, it wouldn't be surprising if he were to make a deep run. That would give you the opportunity to hedge later in the fortnight for some guaranteed winning. These odds are just disrespectful to a player with a remarkably high floor—and suddenly, a bit higher of a ceiling.

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The last time we saw Zverev at a major, he was giving Rafa all he could handle in the Roland Garros semis.

The last time we saw Zverev at a major, he was giving Rafa all he could handle in the Roland Garros semis.

FADE: Alexander Zverev (+2800) Zverev's odds look enticing, but there's a reason for that. The 25-year-old dealt with some serious injuries last season, missing nearly seven months of action after needing surgery on his ankle. He returned to action in December, when he beat Dominic Thiem in an exhibition match. But Zverev has played a total of six matches since then, going 2-4. We just haven't seen Zverev at his best in quite some time, and it's hard to imagine him going out and winning his first major here. It could be difficult for him to physically hold up in a best-of-five format, and we want to take a wait-and-see approach as he tries to work his way back into form.

FADE: Dominic Thiem (+5000) Thiem has made some significant strides since returning from his own injury, on his wrist, that brought him to some dark places over the past two seasons, but he isn't quite playing at a Top 10 level just yet. We're actually somewhat optimistic that Thiem could be a contender to win big again by the time the French Open rolls around, but a deep run in Melbourne just seems like a pipe dream. Don't throw your hard-earned money on Thiem just because he's a big name.

PICK TO WIN: Novak Djokovic (-110) It'd be nice if Djokovic had more favorable odds, but what can you do? He has proven to be head and shoulders above everybody outside of Carlos Alcaraz, who is out for the foreseeable future. This just feels like Djokovic's tournament to lose. You know he's going to want this title more than ever after being deported from Australia before last year's tournament; this year has all the makings of a revenge tour for Djokovic, so we're keeping things simple and putting our money on the best player on the planet.

When the Australian Open begins, not much longer than a week will have passed since Djokovic made Medvedev look silly during a 6-3, 6-4 win in Adelaide. That's one of the few players that has proven he can beat Djokovic at a major. The Serb is simply in God mode right now.

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Rybakina's win at Wimbledon suggests that she's a title contender anywhere.

Rybakina's win at Wimbledon suggests that she's a title contender anywhere.

The Women

FLIER: Elena Rybakina (+2000) Rybakina put herself on the map when she won Wimbledon in 2022, and we don't exactly see the 23-year-old slowing down this season. This seems like a year in which the Kazakhstani finds a way to crack the Top 10 and stay there. She doesn't have many holes in her game, and she now has a little bit of that championship DNA that helps calm the nerves on some of the sport's biggest stages. Rybakina was also playing some impressive tennis as recently as the end of December, when she earned wins over Aryna Sabalenka, Caroline Garcia and Iga Swiatek in the World Tennis League exhibition event. She was eliminated in her second match in Adelaide, but you can't win 'em all. We are high on Rybakina's talent and think these odds are worthy of you putting some timber on the line.

FLIER: Danielle Collins (+2800) We wanted to roll with Naomi Osaka here, but the four-time Grand Slam champion (and two-time Australian Open champ) decided to withdraw from this tournament. Instead, we're going to take a shot on Collins. The 29-year-old had an up-and-down year in 2022, but she did make it to the final of this very event. She also had a nice showing.at the US Open, falling to Aryna Sabalenka in a great match in the fourth round. Collins had been dealing with neck pain before that event, but she still performed well and is now seemingly doing a lot better. It wouldn't be surprising if she were to make another run Down Under, and she wouldn't have Barty to deal with if she did this time. This is also just a good price for a player that has the potential to win a Grand Slam.

FADE: Cori Gauff (+1600) While the 18-year-old looked dominant in Auckland, it's impossible to wash the bad taste of the WTA Finals out of our mouths. Gauff absolutely fell apart in Fort Worth, losing in straight sets against Garcia, Daria Kasatkina and Swiatek. She struggled to keep it together mentally when her forehand completely let her down, and it's just hard to believe she has found a way to fix that shot in just about two months. Gauff is capable of making a deep run at the event, but at some point a smarter opponent will pepper her forehand side and force her to overcome those issues. For that reason, we'd stay far away from backing her to win her maiden major Down Under.

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Go to Barcelona with Zheng Qinwen

Go to Barcelona with Zheng Qinwen

She sprouts from a family’s big sacrifice—and the little seed Li Na planted in her heart.

FADE: Bianca Andreescu (+2800) Much like Zverev and Thiem, we're still in the process of watching Andreescu attempt to get her game back. There have been flashes in which the Canadian has looked superb in the last year or so, but there have also been far too many unacceptable performances—like a 6-4, 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Veronika Kudermetova on January 4. With that said, it's hard to suggest betting on her when we'll need to see her go through a gauntlet of difficult opponents. At 22 years old, there's no denying that better days are ahead; she just needs to continue to prioritize her health, as consistent match play is what she needs to get out of this slump.

PICK TO WIN: Jessica Pegula (+2000) Pegula just earned one of the biggest wins of her career, beating Swiatek 6-2, 6-2 in the United Cup semifinals. We restrained from calling Swiatek a "fade" her—she's still the favorite to win it al. But she does appear to be dealing with a shoulder injury, and that has to give some of her competitors more confidence. Like Gauff, Pegula also had a dreadful WTA Finals, but we have more confidence in the veteran to rediscover her form Down Under. The American hasn't quite had her moment at a Grand Slam just yet, but it does feel like she is on the brink after multiple second-week runs. At these odds, it's hard not to throw a little something on her. And if you're really behind her, throw a parlay in on Pegula to win the Australian Open, and her Buffalo Bills to win Super Bowl LVII.