If winning the US Open wasn’t enough to push Dominic Thiem towards the top of the favourites charts, his marvellous showing at the ATP Finals has ensured he will start off the 2021 Australian Open as the joint-second favourite.
The Australian Open authorities have to obviously come back with their plan of action after the government refused to allow them to have players over in the country before January 1 as well as not allow them to practice for 15 days.
This could mean the tournament gets pushed back to a later date but the chances of the year’s first Grand Slam getting cancelled are slim.
What that means is the Big Three – two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic who will be gunning for his ninth title at the Australian Open, 20-time major winner Rafael Nadal who is now one away from taking the lead in the men’s Grand Slams tally and Roger Federer, who is expected to make his return to competitive tennis – won’t be too far away from the bookmakers’ favourites.
US Open champion Thiem, however, has moved into the second spot now, starting out at a strong 11/2 with bet365 to double his Grand Slam tally count. At the time of writing, Thiem joins Nadal at that position with the Spaniard also at the same odds to add to his lone Australian Open triumph in 2009.
Thiem’s rise to the top comes as no surprise. Nor has the ascension been very sudden with the Austrian knocking on the door which takes a player from the challenger room to the champion one.
Back to back finals at the French Open in 2018 and 2019 helped brand him as a clay court specialist but a remarkable turnaround on the hard courts of the Australian Open and US Open in what has been a severely curtailed 2020 season has left the bookmakers with no choice but to bump him up the charts.
At the Australian Open at the beginning of the 2020 season, Thiem had started off as the fifth seed but came through a winner against Gael Monfils, Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev to make it to the final of the competition. It was Thiem’s first ever major final other than at the French Open.
Interestingly enough, at the very next hard-court event he played in, a good seven months later, Thiem was bundled out in his opening match – at the Cincinnati Open – but that did not deter him from coming up with a performance of his life-time.
Aided by the absence of two of the Big Three and the default from the competition of the third, Thiem came up with the goods to overturn a two-set deficit in the US Open 2020 final against Alexander Zverev to win the title. In doing so, he became the first from the Next-Gen to grab a Grand Slam title in a while.
As we noted earlier, Thiem had been on the verge of a major for a while now but for a player to make that giant a leap on hard court surfaces in a matter of one season is quite commendable. And that reflects in the odds too.
Despite that six-month hiatus for the sport, Thiem featured in a truckload of exhibition competitions and then made the trip from New York to Paris to participate in both Grand Slams. Probably exhausted by it all, the Austrian then opted to miss out on the Paris Masters and head straight to O2 in London where he made it to the final of the ATP Finals.
He would be baying for that much-needed rest between the seasons and the pushing back of the Australian Open might even improve his chances of going the distance by that small bit.
On the flip-side, 2021 will see the Big Three reunite once again. Djokovic would have gotten the time to reflect on what went wrong for him after he won the Cincinnati and Rome Masters – make no mistake he has his eyes on reaching the magical figure of 20 Grand Slams – while Nadal and Federer would continue to remain as formidable a force despite age not being on their side.
Djokovic, however, still remains the man to beat in Melbourne. Only one other player has won more titles at a single Grand Slam – Nadal at the French Open – than his eight at the Australian Open and one can expect him to come roaring back. We would still be averse to backing anyone other than Novak at the season’s first Grand Slam at this stage but Thiem’s made a move and would need the Serb world number one to be at his best to continue winning.
Australian Open 2021 Men’s Singles Outright Odds*
Nadal, Thiem: 11/2
Medvedev, Federer: 6/1
Tsitsipas, Zverev: 12/1
Murray, Shapovalov, Sinner: 33/1
*odds correct at the time of writing with bet365.