Serena leads open Melbourne market

The first Grand Slam of 2019 gets underway on Monday and the women’s draw of the Australian Open looks as unpredictable as ever.

Serena Williams will be aiming to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles and leads the betting heading into the event at 5.00.

Serena still the one to beat 

The American won in Melbourne 24 months ago, but was unable to defend her crown after giving birth to her first child in September 2017.

With seven Aussie Opens on her CV, and two Grand Slam final defeats last season, the 37-year-old will be desperate to prove she is back to her best. Serena also has a happy knack of winning this event in odd years.

Kerber always a threat

If one player can stop Williams, it is 9.00 shot – Angelique Kerber. The German beat the American in the Melbourne final in 2016 and repeated the trick in July’s Wimbledon showpiece.

Having three Slams on her CV demonstrates just how good Kerber is and she has reached the last 16 or better in five of the last six years.

All eyes on Halep

It finally happened for Simona Halep in May as after three Grand Slam final defeats; the Romanian broke her duck at the French. That answered questions over her mental fragility, but she lost early this week in Auckland and is without a coach.

Halep is hard to ignore as the world number one but at 12.00, her form may not be there to succeed and she could even come unstick in the first round against Kaia Kanepi.

Can Caroline defend?

Caroline Wozniacki was another player who often fell short when it mattered, but she beat Halep to win her maiden major in this event 12 months ago.

The Dane’s results have been mixed since then but those chasing the value might want to follow her successor as WTA Finals champion.

Time for Elina to produce

Elina Svitolina won in Singapore and a player of her talent needs to start making inroads in the Slams, with her best showings currently being quarter-finals appearances in Melbourne and Paris.

The Ukrainian is 21.00 and will feel it is her time, as could Belgium’s Elise Mertens having reached number 12 in the world last year.

A player on the rise, Mertens made the last four on her last trip to the Australian Open and while a lack of experience counts against her, form is on her side, even at 81.00.