Australian Open: Serena Williams favourite to secure grand slam record
The odds for the year’s first grand slam in Melbourne show just how open women’s tennis continues to be.
Serena Williams’ pedigree sees her installed as the favourite for the Australian Open at 2/1 – generous odds for the American in recent years.
A seventh title Down Under would see her break the Open era record of 22 grand slam titles, which she currently holds with Steffi Graf.
But the 35-year-old is not the sure thing she was. Last year her only slam title came at Wimbledon while she did not play again in 2016 after losing in the semi-finals of the US Open.
A shoulder injury was a nagging problem and Williams looked rusty in losing her second match at her opening tournament of 2017 in Auckland to little-known American Madison Brengle.
She can never be written off, of course, and the same should be said of world number one Angelique Kerber, available at 7/2, who stunned Williams to win her first slam in Melbourne 12 months ago.
The German went on to add the US Open crown and usurp Williams at the top of the rankings but she has had a poor start to the season and is vulnerable to pace.
One of those looking to out-hit Kerber and the rest of the field will be world number five Karolina Pliskova, who is available at a very attractive 8/1.
The tall Czech came of age by reaching the US Open final, defeating both Williams sisters, and pushed Kerber all the way.
With that experience under her belt, Pliskova looks ready to take the next step and a title in her first tournament of the season in Brisbane only strengthened the view that this could be her time.
British number one Johanna Konta will have fond memories of Melbourne Park after her stunning run to the semi-finals 12 months ago.
She has built on that result impressively, establishing herself in the top 10, and is a dark horse at 33/1.
Two other contenders worth considering are former finalist and WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova, available at 25/1, and 30/1 shot Elina Svitolina, whose excellent 2016 season went under the radar.