Spain’s Rafael Nadal waits for a serve from Britain’s Cameron Norrie during their third round match a the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
- The three strong favorites to win the 2021 Australian Open have lost a little luster
- Novak Djokovic may have a torn stomach muscle, and Rafael Nadal is dealing with a sore lower back
- The top seven seeds are still alive – we look at the best bets for players vying for a quarterfinal spot
The Australian Open men’s side haas reached the Round of 16. And while the top two seeds are still in the hunt, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are both hurting. Let’s run down the matches and who you should be targeting for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Australian Open Men’s Round of 16 Odds
| Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs  Milos Raonic (CAN)||-215 / +170|
| Dusan Lajovic (SRB) vs.  Alexander Zverev (GER)||+750 / -1250|
| Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs.  Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)||-315 / +245|
| Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) vs. [Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS)||-186 / +148|
| Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs.  Casper Ruud (NOR)||-1000 / +650|
|Mackenzie McDonald (USA) vs.  Daniil Medvedev (RUS)||+1400 / -3335|
| Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs.  Matteo Berrettini (ITA)||-385 / +295|
| Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs.  Rafael Nadal (ESP0||+460 / -670|
Odds from Feb. 14 at DraftKings
Torn Muscle Hampers Djokovic
This Australian Open has dealt with conditions changing daily.
But the biggest question marks are the top two seeds.
Novak Djokovic managed to defeat No. 27 seed Taylor Fritz in the third round Friday night. It was a night that began with a good crowd and ended in silence, as a five-day lockdown descended upon Melbourne. But the world No. 1 and eight-time champion suffered what he described as a muscle tear in his midsection.
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) February 12, 2021
So the prospects for the player who was the strong favorite going into the tournament do not look great in a matchup against the big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
The match is scheduled as the late-night offering Sunday.
Still, Djokovic said he was able to serve until the anti-inflammatories kicked in. And the rallies with Raonic will be short.
Djokovic v Raonic Head-to-Head
|33 (May 27, 1987)||Age||30 (Dec. 27, 1990)|
|Belgrade, Serbia||Birthplace||Podgorica, Montenegro|
|81||Career ATP Singles Titles||8|
|No. 1 (July 4, 2011)||Career High Ranking||No. 3 (Nov. 21, 2016)|
|No. 1||Current Ranking||No. 14|
|5-0||2021 W/L Record||4-1|
|$145,861,177||Career Prize Money||$19,927,191|
Tough to Beat the Odds When You’re 0-11
Raonic’s biggest problem is that he hasn’t beaten Djokovic in 11 previous attempts.
The two have met three times in Grand Slam tournaments – twice in Australia, last year in the quarterfinals and back in 2015 – and Raonic has never even taken a set.
But if Djokovic is far from 100%, and still tries to play, this might be his best chance.
However, the big question remains: will Djokovic play and if he does, will he finish?
Nadal’s Back vs Streak Breaker Fognini
Rafael Nadal, who has won the Australian Open only once, skipped the entire ATP Cup last week to nurse a sore lower back.
He looked … fine in his first two wins over Laslo Djere and qualifier Michael Mmoh. Brit Cameron Norrie offered a bit more resistance in the third round. But Nadal still hasn’t lost a set.
In the round of 16, he will come up against the man whose improbable comeback at the 2015 US Open spoiled Nadal’s perfect record of winning every match he plays after taking the first two sets. It’s still the only blemish on that record.
Fabio Fognini is a pest out there. Also, a talent. Despite a brutal marathon in the second round, he recovered well enough to absolutely destroy Aussie No. 21 seed Alex de Minaur in the third round.
And Fognini has no problem getting under the Mallorcan’s skin (or anyone’s skin. But we digress).
“When he’s playing well, he’s one of the most dangerous opponents on tour without a doubt, no? Today he had an amazing victory against a great opponent, so will be a very tough match,” Nadal said.
And he has beaten him four times (three of them in 2015, all but the US Open victory on clay).
Nadal is such an overwhelming favorite in this match, and seems far less than 100%. It’s worth risking a little on Fognini to win at +470. Maybe even in five sets (+1300).
Expect Tsitsipas to Beat Berrettini
Stefanos Tsitsipas is already the favorite to beat Matteo Berrettini, despite the proximity in their rankings and how well Berrettini has played in Australia.
But the Italian was in distress during his victory over Karen Khachanov Saturday – a match he won in three tiebreaks. And it was more than three hours before he came in to fulfill his media responsibilities.
He told Eurosport that he felt a pull, especially on the serve – which is his biggest weapon – and had to change his mechanics to compensate for it.
This is the first year Berrettini has even won back-to-back main-draw matches at the Australian Open. Tsitsipas beat him in four sets in the first round in Melbourne two years ago.
Best Bet: Tsitsipas in four sets (+270)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.