Australian Open 2012 Predictions: Championship Odds for Top Contenders

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IJanuary 10, 2012

Australian Open 2012 Predictions: Championship Odds for Top Contenders

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    The first grand slam tournament of the 2012 tennis season begins on Monday when the Australian Open commences in Melbourne.

    Novak Djokovic, the world's No.1 ranked player, is the defending champion of the event, and is the favorite to win this year's tournament.

    The "Big Four" of Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are again the top contenders, but there are several other talented players who will challenge the top-ranked stars.

    Let's look at championship odds for the top contenders at this year's Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic

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    Novak Djokovic's run of three grand slam singles titles last season started with his triumph at the Australian Open.

    After facing questions about his ability to beat top players consistently, especially in high-pressure matches, Djokovic was spectacular when it mattered most in 2011.

    He comes in favored to repeat and begin another dominating season.

    With wins over Roger Federer and David Ferrer to close 2011 on a high note, Djokovic comes into 2012 as strong as he's ever been.

    Championship Odds: 5/2

Rafael Nadal

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    Rafael Nadal is the No. 2 ranked player in the world behind Novak Djokovic, and the Spaniard is again a major threat in the Australian Open field.

    Nadal has been bothered by a shoulder injury recently, and will take time off after the open to get back to full strength.

    This injury could be a problem for Nadal, who would be best served taking it easy this month and not risk aggravating his shoulder and 2012 season.

    Despite the injury, Nadal is still a top contender in Melbourne.

    Championship Odds: 6/1

Andy Murray

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    Will this be the year the Scot Andy Murray finally wins a grand slam? It might be, and the young star has had success at the last two Australian Opens, losing in the final two consecutive years.

    Murray is determined to start the year off with a grand slam triumph to serve as the breakthrough win for his career.

    He plays well on hard surfaces, and with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal not looking their best recently, the only man standing in Murray's way in Melbourne may be Djokovic.

    Championship Odds: 5/1

Roger Federer

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    Many expect a big year from Roger Federer, who is the greatest tennis champion of the last 25 years.

    The last time Federer won a grand slam tournament was the 2010 Australian Open, when he beat Andy Murray in the final.

    If Federer's back problems aren't a major issue, in Melbourne he will be a favorite to reach the semifinals.

    He isn't as quick or powerful as he used to be, but Federer is determined to get back to his dominating ways and add to his 16 grand slam singles titles.

    Championship Odds: 7/2

David Ferrer

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    The 29-year-old Spanish star was dominated by Novak Djokovic in the final of the World Tennis Championship at Abu Dhabi in late December, but he comes into 2012 as a worthy Australian Open  contender.

    Ferrer has won 11 career singles title and enjoyed his best season earnings-wise in 2011.

    His loss to Djokovic won't give him much confidence if the two meet in Melbourne, but the Spaniard is still capable of knocking out players such as Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.

    Championship Odds: 9/1

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is poised for a big 2012, and he opens his grand slam journey this season at the tournament where he rose to prominence.

    His road to the 2008 Australian Open final was a remarkable story, and though he lost to Novak Djokovic, he should still have much confidence.

    Tsonga is no longer an unproven player, and if the "big four" aren't careful he could make another run to the final and take the open.

    Tsonga's best surface is hard courts, so he will be quite comfortable in Melbourne. Expect him to make a deep run in this tournament.

    Championship Odds: 10/1

Mardy Fish

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    Mardy Fish is the American with the best chance and he just might surprise everyone with a run to the semifinals this year.

    His best finish last year was at Wimbledon, when he reached the quarterfinal. Fish has also had success on hard courts in the past, including the 2007 Australian Open when he reached the quarterfinal.

    The key for Fish in this tournament will be to dominate with his powerful serve. If he can effectively complement his serving power, he will make some noise in Melbourne.

    Championship Odds: 13/1