Things are heating up Down Under and it’s set to get even more sizzling at Melbourne Park from 15 to 28 January 2018 as the globe’s best take to the tennis courts for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

This is the 106th edition of the Australian Open and the women’s division has been blown wide open following the announcement that Serena Williams won’t be back to defend her title – which she won while eight weeks pregnant. In the men’s division, five-time finalist, Andy Murray, has announced he will not play due to hip injury and Kei Nishikori is out on account of his wrist injury. Here are the top five contenders in both the men and women’s divisions.

Australian Open Betting

Top 5 Men

1. Roger Federer

Despite looking forward to his 38th birthday this year, Switzerland’s Roger Federer is still the top-ranking contender to take the Australian Open in 2018. He returned to the Melbourne ground in 2017 determined to win and he looks set to take the top spot once again. Finishing off the 2017 season in the Number 2 position with seven titles and two Grand Slams under his belt, Federer definitely looks a good bet for this year’s Australian Open.

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2. Novak Djokovic

Although he’s not played since his Wimbledon 2017 withdrawal owing to an elbow injury, the six-time Australian Open champion is well rested and performing superbly under his new coach, Radek Stepanek. When Djokovic is on form, he is one of the toughest players to beat – as long as he’s got his head in the game. He’s definitely up there with Federer as a frontrunner.

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3. Rafael Nadal

Plagued by injury, the Spaniard superstar is once again battling a knee injury which saw him withdraw from the Abu Dhabi exhibition and Brisbane International. However, the 15-time Grand Slam Winner – who made it to the finals last year – is working well with coach Carlos Moya who feels he is in good shape to take this year’s title.

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4. Stan Wawrinka

Also suffering from knee-related issues, the 2014 Australian Open champion will be going into the 2018 Grand Slam with no match practice. Yet this Swiss dynamo has a habit of proving he’s not to be taken lightly and he should be coming into the 2018 season fired up for a big win.

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5. Miles Raonic

This Canadian tennis legend has yet to claim a Grand Slam title but his time is coming. He has one Grand Slam final, two Grand Slam semi-finals and three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals to his name but this might just be the year he clinches the victory.

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Top 5 Women

1. Garbine Muguruza

Basking in the glow of her Wimbledon victory and having reached the quarter-finals at last year’s Australian Open, this bold Spaniard is tipped as a favourite to take this year’s top spot. Finishing off the 2017 season in the No 2 position, Muguruza was forced to withdraw in Brisbane owing to muscle cramps but she should be in fine form come 15 January.

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2. Karolina Pliskova

A former World No 1, the 25-year-old Czech player is primed to take her first Grand Slam title soon and, with Serena out of the competition, the Australian Open could be it. She reached the finals in the 2016 US Open and has made it to the Australian Open quarter finals, so she’s definitely getting closer to the mark.

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3. Maria Sharapova

It’s been a while since the Russian tennis ace has made the top contender’s list having failed a doping test at the 2016 edition of the Australian Open which saw her suffering through a 15-month suspension. However, the current World No 59 will be looking to set the record straight at this year’s Australian open, two years after the drug debacle. She had a decent run in her 2017 comeback, reaching the fourth round of the US Open, but injuries set her back some. It will be exciting to see her back on form this January.

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4. Simona Halep

Still looking for that well-deserved Grand Slam title, the 26-year-old Romanian is entering the Australian Open as World No 1 and she just needs to break through that quarter-final barrier. In 2013 she won her first six Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) titles as well as earning the WTA Most Improved Player title. She continued to win another six titles in 2015 and 2016. Now for the Grand Slam win.

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5. Caroline Wozniacki

As with Halep, this Danish tennis star is a two-time Grand Slam runner-up looking for that top title. The World No 3 made the semi-finals at the Australian Open in 2011 and quarter-finals the following year, but hasn’t been passed the third round since then. She did finish off 2017 with a WTA Finals win so she’s coming into the new season with some serious confidence.

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