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Best men's bets for the Australian Open

Best men's bets for the Australian Open

Wonders down under: Best men's bets for the Australian Open

A look at the top men at the Australian Open, which starts Monday at Melbourne Park (seedings in parentheses):

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RAFAEL NADAL (1): +300

Age: 22

Country: Spain

2008 Match Record: 82-11

2008 Singles Titles: 8

Career Singles Titles: 31

Major Titles: 5 - French Open (2005-08), Wimbledon (2008)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '08-Semifinals, '07-Quarterfinals, '06-Did Not Play, '05-4th Round, '04-3rd Round.

Topspin: The Olympic, Wimbledon and French Open champion spent 160 straight weeks at No. 2 before assuming the top ranking last August, ending Roger Federer's record 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1. ... Reached semifinals or better at all four majors in a season for the first time. ... Had a tour-high eight titles from 10 finals. ... Withdrew from Masters Series event in Paris with tendinitis in his right knee and didn't play for remainder of the season. ... Outlasted Federer in classic, five-set final at Wimbledon; swept him at the French. ... Is 12-6 lifetime vs. Federer, winning all four matchups in 2008.


Age: 27

Country: Switzerland

2008 Match Record: 65-15

2008 Singles Titles: 4

Career Singles Titles: 57

Major Titles: 13 - U.S. Open (2004-08), Wimbledon (2003-07), Australian Open (2004, 2006-07)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '08-SF, '07-Won Championship, '06-W, '05-SF, '04-W.

Topspin: Aiming to equal Pete Sampras' record 14 Grand Slam singles titles. ... After struggling at the start of 2008 with mononucleosis, was upset in the semifinals here by Novak Djokovic. ... Finished last year by winning his fifth consecutive U.S. Open title, extending a streak of winning at least one major title to six consecutive seasons. ... His record 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the rankings finished in August, when Nadal replaced him. ... Won four titles in eight finals - each of his finals losses was to Nadal. ... This will be the first time since the 2004 Australian Open that Federer is not the top seed.


Age: 21

Country: Serbia

2008 Match Record: 67-17

2008 Singles Titles: 4

Career Singles Titles: 11

Major Titles: 1 - Australian Open (2008)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '08-W, '07-4th, '06-1st, '05-1st, '04-DNP.

Topspin: Upset Fededer in semifinals at the last Australian Open before beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for his first major title. ... A crowd pleaser for his imitations of other players, including women's Australian champion Maria Sharapova, he lost his cool at times but held his nerve when the crowd supported underdog Tsonga in the final. ... Beat James Blake for the Olympic bronze. ... Lost to Federer in last year's U.S. Open semifinals. ... Finished off by winning Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai and holding year-end No. 3 ranking for second season.

ANDY MURRAY (4): +250

Age: 21

Country: Britain

2008 Match Record: 58-16

2008 Singles Titles: 5

Career Singles Titles: 8

Major Titles: 0 - Best Finish: Final, U.S. Open (2008)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '08-1st, '07-4th, '06-1st, '05-DNP, '04-DNP.

Topspin: Trying to become the first British man to win a major title since Fred Perry won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 1936. ... Installed as favorite for Australian title by some British bookmakers after beating both Federer and Nadal at an exhibition in Abu Dhabi earlier this month before defending title at Doha, where he beat Federer in semifinals. ... Went 23-3 from U.S. Open, where he beat Nadal in semifinals (first time in six head-to-heads) and lost to Federer in the final, his best run at a major, to the end of the year and finished with a career high five titles in eight finals in the season, second only to Nadal. ... Is 5-2 against Federer, including four wins since U.S. Open final. ... Won in Doha in '08 before losing in first round at Australian Open to Tsonga.


Age: 23

Country: France

2008 Match Record: 34-14

2008 Singles titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 2

Major Titles: 0 - Best Finish: Final, Australian Open (2008)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '08-Final, '07-1st, '06-DNP, '05-DNP, '04-DNP.

Topspin: Nicknamed Ali for his uncanny likeness to Muhammad Ali and for his prizefighter-like power and celebrations, burst onto the scene at the last Australian Open, where he beat three top-10 players (Murray (9) in 1st round, Richard Gasquet (8) in the 4th and Nadal (2) in the semis to reach his first career final. ... Struggled with abdominal and back injuries in 2005 and 2006, grew in confidence despite missing three months after right knee surgery in May 2008 and moved into top 10 for the first time with his Masters series title in Paris, where he beat four players in top 11. ... Conditions in Melbourne well suited to his game. Pulled out of Sydney quarterfinals with continuing back problems.

GILLES SIMON (6): +5000

Age: 24

Country: France

2008 Match Record: 51-27

2008 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 5

Major Titles: 0 - Best Finish: 3rd, Wimbledon (2008), Australian Open (2006, 2008), U.S. Open (2008)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '08-3rd, '07-1st, '06-3rd, '05-DNP, '04-DNP

Topspin: Second Frenchman into top 10 toward end of last season, finishing with 38-15 mark after being 13-12 in mid-May. ... Won three titles including Indianapolis and beat Federer in Toronto. ... One of three players (along with Murray and Andy Roddick) to beat the top three of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic during the season. ... Reached semifinals at his first Tennis Masters Cup, losing to Djokovic.

ANDY RODDICK (7): +3000

Age: 26

Country: United States

2008 Match Record: 49-18

2008 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 26

Major Titles: 1 - U.S. Open (2003)

Last 5 Australian OPens: '08-3rd, '07-SF, '06-4th, '05-SF, '04-QF.

Topspin: Jimmy Connors resigned as his coach early last year, and Roddick started working with Larry Stefanki last month. ... Qualified for Masters Cup but withdrew after one match with a right ankle problem. ... Led tour in service games won (91 percent) and break points saved (69 percent) and was No. 2 in aces with 886 last season. ... Has not reached a Grand Slam final in last two years after making it to at least one championship match in each of the previous four years.


Age: 28

Country: Chile

2008 Match Record: 39-15

2008 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 10

Major Titles: 0 - Best Finish: Runner-up, Australian Open (2007)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '08-3rd, '07-F, '06-1st, '05-3rd, '04-1st

Topspin: Had his biggest breakthrough in a Grand Slam here two years ago when he used a powerful serve and forehand to reach his first major final, which he lost to Federer. ... Silver medalist at the 2008 Olympics, losing to Nadal. ... Beat James Blake after saving three match points in a testy semifinal match at Beijing.

MARAT SAFIN (26): +800

Age: 28 (will be 29 on Jan. 27)

Country: Russia

2008 Match Record: 24-24

2008 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 15

Major Titles: 2 - Australian Open ('05), U.S. Open ('00)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '08-2nd, '07-3rd, '06-DNP, '05-Won, '04-Final, '03-3rd

Topspin: Always unpredictable, can be brilliant or error-prone. ... Upset Federer in the semifinals in 2005 and local favorite Lleyton Hewitt in the final - his first Australian title after losing two finals at Melbourne Park. ... Has struggled with injuries in the last two seasons and now says he is more selective about his tournament schedule to converse energy. ... Combined with his sister, Dinara Safina, to get Russia into the final of the Hopman Cup international mixed team competition earlier this month.

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