Australian Open Betting Preview: Djokovic, Murray, Serena favorites

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The two men who met for the 2016 Australian Open singles title are the co-favorites to win this year in Melbourne, as defending champion Novak Djokovic and runner-up Andy Murray are both listed at +150 (bet $100 to win $150) at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Murray beat Djokovic at the ATP World Tour Finals last November to take over the title as the top-ranked player in the world from his rival for the first time. Last year, Murray won Wimbledon and the gold medal in men’s singles at the Rio Olympics while Djokovic won the Australian Open and the French Open.

Stan Wawrinka upset Djokovic for the 2016 U.S. Open title, and he is the third choice to win the 2017 Australian Open at +1100 ahead of other contenders like Rafael Nadal (+1200), Milos Raonic (+1600) and Roger Federer (+1600). Nadal and Federer are former champions.

Wawrinka is the only other player besides Djokovic to win the men’s singles championship at Melbourne since Federer last won it in 2010 over Murray, who has been the runner-up in five of the previous seven years and gone more than three sets twice.

Federer is a four-time Australian Open champ and lost to Djokovic in one semifinal last year as the third seed while Raonic fell to Murray in the other semifinal.

On the women’s side, six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams is the +200 betting favorite, but she has only one title in Melbourne over the past six years, with the last coming in 2015. Williams was upset last year by seventh-seeded Angelique Kerber, who won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 for her first Grand Slam title.

Kerber followed that up by winning the U.S. Open last September after Williams fell in the semifinals to Karolina Pliskova.

Kerber is the +350 second choice on the tennis betting lines for the Australian Open while Pliskova, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza are all +800. Halep reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne each of the last three years and is still seeking her first Grand Slam title. Muguruza won last year’s French Open for her first Grand Slam title, defeating Williams in straight sets.

The lone Grand Slam title for Williams in 2016 came at Wimbledon, which she has won seven times.

Stephens beats Osaka in three sets at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — In a match between the last two U.S. Open champions, Sloane Stephens came out on top.

The 2017 champion beat Naomi Osaka 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 Monday at the WTA Finals, the season-ending tournament for the top eight players in the world.

Both players are making their debut appearances at the tournament, but Stephens appeared to be more composed while Osaka, who became the first Japanese citizen to win a Grand Slam title last month in New York, never seemed comfortable.

“I’m just really happy to get through and play a good competitive match,” Stephens said on court after the match. “I never gave up. I knew she’s been playing well and I’d have to play really good tennis to beat her.”

Both players struggled to hold serve. Osaka was broken on seven of 19 break-point opportunities, while Stephens was broken on four of 12.

Stephens entered the tournament with 33 wins this season, the least of any of the eight qualifiers. She reached her second career Grand Slam final at this year’s French Open, and won the Miami title.

Osaka continually showed her frustration during the match. When she failed to capitalize on four break points in the fourth game of the second set, she made a visible shrugging gesture with both hands.

Stephens gifted the second set to Osaka when she double-faulted on a second set point in the 10th game. But Osaka appeared to be mentally fatigued and only managed to hold serve in the third game of the final set.

Stephens is now 1-0 in the Red Group, while Osaka is 0-1. Angelique Kerber and Kiki Bertens are also in the group.

Tsitsipas wins Stockholm Open; becomes first Greek to claim ATP title

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STOCKHOLM — Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek tennis player to win an ATP World Tour title when he beat Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Stockholm Open on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Tsitsipas tossed his racket in the air and put both hands to his head when Gulbis put a forehand into the net after 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Tsitsipas had lost his previous two finals, both times to Rafael Nadal. The No. 145-ranked Gulbis was an easier proposition, though, and Tsitsipas won 80 percent of his service points and didn’t have his serve broken.

“Of course I feel happy because I’m the first Greek (to win an ATP title),” said 16th-ranked Tsitsipas, who became the 12th first-time title-winner on the ATP Tour this year. “Hopefully many Greek players can achieve something like this. I would be super-happy to see them achieve something like this in the future.”

Gulbis had won all six of his finals at ATP tournaments. This was his first since 2014, having beaten top-seeded John Isner in the semifinals.

It was still a great week for Gulbis, who only had four tour-level wins this season before coming to the Swedish capital.

“He played a really good match. He had a great week,” Gulbis said. “I know it’s a big deal to win your first ATP title, so enjoy it. I wish that it’s not the last one.”