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Djokovic rightly shortens for Aussie Open after hand-picked draw

Given he has lifted the Australian Open title in each of the last three years, Novak Djokovic certainly didn’t need any assistance from the draw if he was to keep his winning run in Melbourne going.

However, punters could be forgiven for thinking that Djokovic hand-picked the draw, given that his five biggest tournament rivals according to the Australian Open betting are all in the top section, while the Serb is in the bottom.

The result is that Djokovic’s odds have shortened from 10/11 to 8/11 to win the Australian Open, with his biggest obstacles en route to the final being Stanslas Wawrinka or Richard Gasquet in a possible quarter final, with Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer or Jerzy Janowicz the most likely last-four opposition.

Djokovic has won 14 on the bounce against Wawrinka, making this one of the most one-sided rivalries in men’s tennis, while he has triumphed in eight in succession against Gasquet.

As for the possible semi-final foes, Ferrer has been beaten in eight straight meetings, Djokovic has won 13 out of 14 against Berdych and Janowicz is an unknown quantity, as the pair have never met.

In terms of who has been most harshly treated by the draw, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has it tough as from the fourth round onwards, his opposition could read as Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and then Djokovic.

Tsonga is 40/1 to win the Australian Open and on top of this, the Frenchman has Marin Cilic as a possible second-round opponent, who is arguably the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw.

Nadal may not be in the same quarter as Murray, Federer or Tsonga, but his quarter is not much easier, with Juan Martin del Potro lurking.

This has caused some other shake-ups within the Australian Open odds, with Nadal 3/1, Murray 7/1, Del Potro 11/1 and Federer at 20/1.

In the women’s event, Serena Williams is the clear favourite at 6/5 and there is a mentality that if she is in it, she will win it.

The top seed won 78 of her 82 matches across all surfaces in 2013 and the quick courts in Melbourne will play to the strengths of her big serves and powerful returns.

Given that she hasn’t won this Grand Slam since 2010 either should ensure that she is fully committed to victory.

Victoria Azarenka has triumphed here in each of the last two years and so has to enter the reckoning at 8/1, which may be an especially valuable each-way price as she is in the opposite side of the draw to Williams.

The each-way market pays 1/2 odds on the top two.

As a darkhorse, only Williams won more tournaments in 2013 than Simona Halep and she should be considered at 33/1.

The obvious blip on her card is that she could have to defeat the top three seeds of Maria Sharapova, Azarenka and Williams from the quarter finals onwards to lift the trophy.