Serena Williams is the defending champion for the Australian Open of tennis and she is the current world number 1 player.
Finding the value for next month's Australian Open requires identifying the players that have a better shot of winning than their odds suggest and knowing which players to avoid. First, let's examine the best prices for the key players in Melbourne before figuring out where the value is.
1. Serena Williams, +275 (11/4), Paddy Power
2. Kim Clijsters, +450 (9/2), Blue Square
3. Justine Henin, +550 (11/2), Victor Chandler
4. Venus Williams, +900 (9/1), Blue Square
5. Maria Sharapova, +1000 (10/1), Blue Square
6. Victoria Azarenka, +1600 (16/1), Boylesports
7. Elena Dementieva, +1600 (16/1), Blue Square
8. Caroline Wozniacki, +1800 (18/1), Sky Bet
9. Dinara Safina, +2000 (20/1) Paddy Power
10. Svetlana Kuznetsova, +2200 (22/1) Blue Square
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova remain our recommendations and due to how the odds are proportioned you need to pound Williams good while sprinkling Sharapova moderately.
Williams and Sharapova are both past champions in Melbourne, unlike anyone else in the list above, except for Justine Henin, who doesn't have "big expectations" for herself (her own words, settling the issue).
The only other reasonable picks would be Kim Clijsters or even Svetlana Kuznetsova but Clijsters is not priced good as her odds shortened with her US Open victory and the Australian Open has never been all that kind to Kuznetsova.
Venus Williams is the worst pick you could possibly make from the list above as 2009 was the year she started to fade. She is priced at +900 but she's been to the Australian Open ten times already and has never won, even when at the peak of her game (which was actually about 9 years ago). It would be a mistake to 'gamble' on her this late in her career to do something she's never done before.
As far as young guns Wozniacki and Azarenka go: they aren't ready. Azarenka was supposed to threaten for Wimbledon 2009 but then she got bounced out of the quarters pretty routinely. Wozniacki had a dream draw to the finals of the US Open and then lost in straight sets in the final. Those results are history but as far as Grand Slams go, they are recent history and neither of these two players is poised to make the Australian Open her maiden Grand Slam title.
The last two players are Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva, two veterans on tour that we already know not to bet on in the futures market.
Safina made the finals last year in Melbourne but she recently pulled out of Brisbane with an injury. You never want to bet a player that is sidelined because you never know for sure how long they will be out. Even if she expects to play in Melbourne, which appears to be the case, small injuries can still drag on as many players want to be 100% before they return. Even if she was playing for certain, Safina's been labelled a choker and she may even have bought into the label a little bit herself.
Dementieva's last chance for a title may have come and gone at Wimbledon when she missed match point against Serena Williams in the semis. With the younger talent emerging it is too hard to picture Dementieva coming close to winning a Slam again. She is 28 years old and while there is nothing unusual about a player winning a Slam at that age in tennis, it is unusual for a player to win her FIRST slam at that age and that's the look you're looking at with Elena.
Stick with Williams and Sharapova, the proven winners.
Go to Paddy Power to bet on Australian Open futures.