The Australian Open has a habit of creeping up unannounced on the British punter every year, ensconced as he is in the insularity of Premier League football and horseracing.
While the coverage of Wimbledon occupies the front and back pages of the national newspapers for weeks leading up to the event and the tabloids and broadsheets talk up Andy Murray’s prospects of becoming the first British winner of Wimbledon for 703 years, the Aussie Open barely registers on the radar.
It’s not as if there’s that much going on in England at the moment, particularly given all the football postponements and race meetings that have been snowed off this month. In fact it’s such a stretch for the betting man that some of us have had to resort to Celebrity Big Brother and, God forbid, virtual racing for our bet-tertainment
Of course one of the main reasons the Melbourne event fails to capture the imagination in this neck of the woods (England) is because those inconsiderate ex-cons Down Under are 11 hours of us.
Traditionally we have had to settle for highlights of the day’s play when we get home form work – as only tennis die-hards, students and the unemployed can stay up all night following events live on satellite TV.
However, the Aussie Open is no longer as inaccessible as it once was. Organisers of the event have taken to scheduling the top matches late at night so that viewers in the civilized world can watch them in the morning. More importantly, most leading bookmakers now offer live streaming of the event as a matter of course – so whether you’re at home or at work you can follow the later matches live.
The likes of Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes (who are going big on live streaming this year) all charge viewers a tenner for the privilege of watching the Aussie Open in return for a £10 bet – which is a fair exchange even if there are numerous pirate websites showing it for free (just make sure the wife or the boss aren’t looking over your shoulder when you’re ‘working’).
The success of Betfair has seen to it that online sports betting has swung hugely towards betting in-running and tennis is one of the best suited sports for it. Personally, I have probably had more success backing tennis live than any other sport, partly because the ebb and flow of a five-setter is such that it often takes the best player a while to get into his groove.
There is always a moment when the better player looks as though they might capitulate – and it’s when they are two sets to one behind and 15-40 down that is the time to strike.
Two years ago one punter had an £11 bet on Murray matches at 74-1 when he was 2-1 down to Richard Gasquet with the Frenchman serving for the match at 5-4. Not for the first time Richard blew his Gasquet, Murray completed a remarkable comeback and the Betfair cherry picker who laid the bet found himself staring at an £814 loss.
The other bonus of betting on the Australian Open is that the customer gets better value. Last year Murraymania was such that the British No1 was priced at 7/4 to win Wimbledon with Bet365 after Rafa Nadal pulled out. Seven months on and Murray is 13/2 to win his first Grand Slam.
The explanation is that the defending champion Nadal is back, Juan Martin Del Potro has since won the US Open and Murray has fallen to fifth place in seedings after opting not to defend rankings points and the title in won in Doha last year.
An unkind draw means that Murray will probably have to beat three of the top four players to win the title, which has put the bookmakers for once in the rare position of cheering on the 22-year-old.
“The patriotic punt on the British ace has failed to materialise,” said Ladbrokes’ Nick Weinberg before the draw. “As things stand, we could be in the unusual position of cheering him on as he takes to the court.”
But don’t you agree that Murray is the sort of player that flourishes when he is the underdog? It’s a British thing. Remember when he outclassed Nadal in the 2008 US Open semi-final?
All I’ll say is £10 with the bookie of your choice to watch the first major of the year is an absolute bargain. Spend your ‘free’ bet on Murray or maybe Novak Djokovic (who is in form, a previous winner and 17/2 with Bwin) and fill your boots with in-running betting over the next two weeks.
It’s great fun – but don’t tell the Missus.