The first Grand Slam of the New Year kicks off this Monday with the 2022 Australian Open. It’s already been an eventful affair with the drama surrounding nine-time champion Novak Djokovic, his vaccination status and his court (but not tennis) appearance, which ultimately led to his visa being revoked. 

With a perfect final record at Melbourne Park (winning all of his 9 finals), Djokovic was aiming to clinch his fourth consecutive Australian Open title (10th in overall) but his absence would see the Serb missing the opening Grand Slam of the year for the very first time. 

So who are the top favorites and potential dark horses to cover themselves with glory at the 2022 Australian Open? We share our thoughts and free betting picks for the opening Grand Slam of the season.

In a non-pandemic universe, it should be No. 1 Novak Djokovic facing No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the final. If not the Serb, what's the case following Sunday's court ruling, then the final could involve Alexander Zverev (+250) against Daniil Medvedev (+145), which at first glance seems to be a toss-up match.

Who lasts on the baseline longer? Who dictates the game more effectively? For Sascha Zverev to win, he needs to be consistent with his serve and keep the points short, otherwise Medvedev becomes a favorite.

Daniil Medvedev (+145 @ BetOnline)

Daniil Medvedev enters the season as No. 2 in the ATP rankings as the Russian enjoyed a remarkable last season. However, Medvedev will be looking to build on in a year when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will hardly represent the same threat they used to, while Djokovic's court (not tennis court, though) issues could seriously reflect on his performance. 

Medvedev triumphed at the US Open and his performance was great, including an impressive win against Novak Djokovic himself in the final. All in all, the Russian dropped only one set throughout the tournament (during his quarter final tie against Botic van de Zandschulp).

Alexander Zverev (+250 @ BetOnline)

Even though he failed to reach another Grand Slam final last year, the 24-year-old German had a remarkable season, winning six ATP titles as well as an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. Zverev rounded off the year with a return to top 3 and his second ATP Finals title. 

Should Zverev carry his form into the new season, he can surely reach another Grand Slam final anytime soon and Melbourne Park looks like the perfect place to go. Moreover, Zverev toughened his character in five battles against Novak Djokovic throughout the 2021 season, with the German emerging victorious from two of them (in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics and the ATP Finals), while the Serb never had an easy match against him, and also ended his five-match losing streak to Daniil Medvedev in the ATP Finals showdown in Turin.

Rafael Nadal (+500 @ BetOnline) 

There's no need to introduce him – Rafa Nadal is one of tennis greats and is the only former champion left in the draw. He has a fine chance to break a tie with rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for the most major titles in history (20 each). 

This would be Djokovic's first Grand Slam absence since he missed the 2017 US Open through an elbow injury and Nadal embraced the opportunity back then. Can the Spaniard benefit from the situation once again? 

Rafael Nadal warmed up for the opening Grand Slam of the season with a victory at Melbourne Summer Set 1. He defeated first time ATP finalist Maxime Cressy in the final.

It was Nadal's first title in Australia since 2009, when the Spaniard won his only Australian Open title. 

Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal are both placed in the top half of the draw, and either of them can dream. However, if there are no major setbacks and everything goes smoothly, Zverev and Nadal could face off in the fourth round and the Spanish veteran may have a difficult challenge, with the German winning three of their last four meetings. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas (+2000 @ BetOnline)

Stefanos Tsitsipas – the top favorite in the third quarter – will be looking to, at least, reach the semi-finals for the third time in four years. The Greek had an opportunity to defeat Novak Djokovic in last year’s French Open Final as he led two sets to love but eventually lost in five. 

Carlos Alcaraz (+4000 @ BetOnline)

Teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz made it to the seedings and will hope to beat the odds. The NextGen champion finds himself in what was originally scheduled as Djokovic's quarter of the bracket, so his chances are increasing, particularly if the young Spaniard shows the same maturity and composure that are unusually strong for a player of his age. He otherwise gots the quality and potential to unleash. 

Matteo Berrettini (+3300 @ BetOnline)

 Matteo Berrettini, who reached last year's Wimbledon final, is another player who should hope to take advantage from the whole situation around Novak Djokovic. The Italian, who lost to Djokovic himself in his maiden Grand Slam final, has likewise lost all of his four matches against the World No. 1, including a quarter-final tie at last year's US Open. 

Berrettini is also placed in the top half of the bracket and in Djokovic's quarter, so the absence of his executioner opens a golden opportunity for the Italian, who already improved his best Australian Open performance by reaching the fourth round in 2021, yet he had to withdrew from the tournament prior to his match against Tsitsipas with abdominal pain.

Later in the season, Berrettini was forced to withdraw from the ATP Finals with an abdominal injury after his first match with Alexander Zverev. So, we sincerely hope that the Italian is fully fit for a new adventure because he has been progressing well and 2021 was an unforgettable year for him, but he's surely eager to go even further this term.

Nick Kyrgios (+10000 @ BetOnline)

Once upon a time, the home crowd were probably enthusiastic that Kyrgios' talent could see him becoming the first Australian to win the men's competition since Mark Edmondson in 1976. However, his career hasn't been on the anticipated level and current reality is quite disappointing. 

Outside the ATP Top 100, Kyrgios could face Daniil Medvedev as early as in the second round so his Australian Open campaign doesn't seem likely to last long, though we don't really know what version of him will show up on a given day. 

Homeboy Nick Kyrgios was involved in yet another memorable night at Melbourne Park twelve months ago. The Aussie had to face Dominic Thiem as the Austrian clinched a dramatic comeback victory over him in the third round of the 2021 Australian Open to eventually win 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4.

Grigor Dimitrov (+12500 @ BetOnline) 

Speaking about untapped potential and unrealised talent, Grigor Dimitrov is one of the players who were expected to challenge the Big Three in men's tennis. The former No. 3 was close to reaching the final at Melbourne Summer Set 1 as he lost to qualifier Maxime Cressy in the semi-finals. 

The 2017 semi-finalist finds in an acceptable section with a potential third-round match against fellow Monte Carlo resident Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. 

Dimitrov is set to kick off his Australian Open campaign with a match against Czech qualifier Jiří Lehečka and if we don't witness a massive first-round upset, the Bulgarian should face either of Benoit Paire or Thiago Monteiro in the second round. 

It remains to be seen which Dimitrov will show up at Melbourne Park this week as the Bulgarian could gain precious momentum and confidence, and when this happens, he's definitely a player who's capable of playing great tennis. 

Team Canada (Find Félix Auger-Aliassime at +5000 and Denis Shapovalov at +8000 with BetOnline) 

Team Canada recently triumphed at the 2022 ATP Cup and its representatives Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, seeded 9th and 14th respectively, are among the potential dark horses at the Australian Open. 

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov have both reached their maiden Grand Slam semi-final last season and either of them will be keen to build on their recent success. 

Spooky Express Betting Predictions 

Daniil Medvedev made history when the Russian won his first major title with an impressive straight sets performance against Djokovic in the US Open final, but also stopped the Serb from completing the Grand Slam.

Medvedev, along with fellow compatriots Andrey Rublev, Aslan Karatsev, and Karen Khachanov, ended the season on a high as he led Russia to the Davis Cup title in Madrid last month. 

To start the new season, Medvedev also gained momentum in the 2022 ATP Cup in Australia. Being in a team with several low ranked players, Medvedev lost his first match in singles – a 2-1 defeat to Ugo Humbert of France, but has been on the usual level in the next matches against Australia's Alex de Minaur, Italy's Matteo Berrettini and Canada's Félix Auger-Aliassime, though Russia lost in the semifinals to Team Canada. 

We believe that Medvedev proved how mature, composed and clinical he can be at the US Open just a couple of months ago and he is ready to clinch his second Major title at the Australian Open. 

Spooky Express Free Play: Daniil Medvedev to Win 2022 Men's Australian Open +145 @ BetOnline for 6/10 Units 

Spooky Express Free Play 2: Australian Open – Quarter 1 Winner – Matteo Berrettini +550 @ BetOnline for 2/10 Units 

Spooky Express Free Play 3: Australian Open – Quarter 3 Winner Grigor Dimitrov +1400 @ BetOnline for 1/10 Units 

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