Look for big value prices in the week prior to a Grand Slam.
The Australian Open is around the corner next week it is difficult to envisage the top stars who are playing this week performing anywhere near 100%. Dominic Thiem is the 100/30 favourite and would usually see a field of this nature as rich pickings to further enhance his ranking of 8 in the World, but it is hard to see him going all out with Grand Slams surely his main focus this year where a semi final at the French Open is his best effort to date.
Thiem pulled out of this competition last year mid-event and is opposed this week in favour of 2 year defending Champion Victor Troicki at 10/1.
The Serbian is very hard to get right and often flatters to deceive on tour but in Sydney the week prior to Melbourne he is Mr Reliable.
Troicki has a very soft draw and looks set to go close with matches against a qualifier, followed by Florian Mayer of Germany or Italian Journeyman Paulo Lorenzi set to cause Troicki little problems in the sleep department.
A quarter-final against the player to come out on top half of his draw in 7th seed Philpp Kohschrieber who is out of form or the extravert Italian Fabio Fognini who won't want to be doing too much running a week prior to the Australian Open and same could be said for either of above duo's second round opponent in Aussie youngsters Jordan Thompson or the returning from injury Kokkinakis whose best efforts will surely come next week in front of massive home support.
Pablo Cuevas is the 2nd seed in Troicki's half and although improved on courts away from the clay in 2016 he looks well short of troubling Troicki in these quick conditions. Troicki is the 3rd seed here with an outstanding 17-3 record in Sydney and the 10/1 with Betfair or 8/1 general is hard to ignore.
The top half could see improving Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta make the final at 11/1 but he could be rusty at more appealing odds Andrey Kuznetsov is a big talent and the World number 46 is the each-way value at over double those odds to make the final. Kuznetsov is defending 4th round points at the Australian Open next week but looked in good shape last week losing in 3 sets to Jo Wilfred Tsonga at the first round stage in Doha so importantly comes here fresh and no doubt acclimitised, he is a player I expect to go well this year.
The ASB Classic has a wide open feel to it with former finalist Jack Sock at the head of the betting at 5/1 along with defending Champion Roberta Bautista-Agut of Spain. Sock looked in great shape last week at the Hopman Cup (exhibition tournament) when representing USA with Coco Vandeweghe reaching the final losing to France and the player I tipped pre season to be top American come the end of the year should go close.
However in a half packed with big servers the lottery of numerous tie-breaks put me off at the prices. Bautista-Agut the top seed has just wrapped up the Chennai title in what is always very difficult playing conditions, he also had the trainer out during his quarter-final 3 set marathon with Mikhail Youzhny and it is hard to see him putting in much effort this week with a grand slam upcoming, and a small amount of court time & acclimatisation will be the order of his week.
At 11/2 David Ferrer the 3x former champion looks a fading force and past his best for a good year and a half now, whilst John Isner 11/2 has won here twice but is in that lottery of a bottom half with fellow big servers Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Feliciano Lopez, and Jeremy Chardy who the latter can come alive over the Austrailian swing having reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne in 2013 and interests me most at 20/1 from that bottom half.
The door could be a-jar for Czech big server Jiri Veserly a former finalist in a week prior to this grand slam. Housed in that top half with top seed Bautista-Agut and 3rd seed David Ferrer who I don't see making the latter stages. Veserly has to negotiate his way past Zeballos of Argentina who predominantly plies his trade at Challenger level and is a clay court specialist, then he will face the top seed RBA where the draw could open up nicely there-after. Veserly 55 in the World is progressive and should climb the rankings nicely in 2017. A victory over Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo last year shows his self belief is now their, and i see little else in that top half to trouble him. Marcus Baghdatis 6th seed withdrew early on opening week and will not want to jepodise any grand slam hopes and Albert Ramos of Spain the 5th seed has poor form this early in the season. The 20/1 with Betvictor, Ladbrokes, Betfred, and Totesport appeals each-way at half the odds of he reaches the final.
ATP Sydney - Victor Troicki to win Outright @ 10/1 Betfair Sportsbook or 8/1 General & Andrey Kuznetsov to win Outright Each-Way @ 25/1 Betfred & Totesport. (E/W terms half odds 1-2 Finish).
ATP Auckland - Jiri Veserly to win Outright Each-Way @ 20/1 Betvictor, Ladbrokes, Betfred & Totesport. (E/w terms half odds 1-2 Finish).