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Australian Open: The road to the final

Australian Open: The road to the final

If you have been following the Australian Open betting odds and going with the favourites, chances are that you have not made a profit. In the men's draw, Novak Djokovic succumbed to Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in the second round before Andy Murray came out second-best when faced with a serve-and-volley masterclass from Mischa Zverev. It was a similar story in the women's draw as defending champion Angelique Kerber and world number three Agnieszka Radwanska both went out before the quarter-finals.

However, their demise has led to some fairytale stories being told during the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. It has been 14 years since Venus Williams last featured in an Australian Open showpiece and seven-and-a-half years since her last Major final, but despite being in her mid-thirties, she will line up against younger sister Serena Williams in what is a dream final for the Melbourne crowd, discounting Australia's representatives in the draw.

After knee surgery, it appeared that the final chapter had already been written on Roger Federer's quest for what has proven to be an elusive 18th Major crown but on Sunday, he ends a seven-year absence from the Australian Open final after a stunning run of form over the past two weeks. It has also been a memorable period for Rafael Nadal, who earned the opportunity to compete for a second title with an epic win over Grigor Dimitrov in the early hours of Saturday morning in Melbourne.

With both matches scheduled to take place over the weekend, we have taken a look at both matches in an attempt to point you in the right direction where the winner of each final is concerned.

Venus Williams vs. Serena Williams
Before this year's Australian Open, Serena Williams had played just two competitive matches since losing in the semi-finals of last year's US Open and after being handed a tough draw in Melbourne, it appeared that she faced a fight to progress through to the latter stages, never mind the final. However, the legendary American has blitzed her way through the field, beating the likes of Belinda Bencic, Lucie Safarova, Barbora Strycova and Johanna Konta all in straight sets to give herself the opportunity of just her second Australian Open title since 2010.

The 35-year-old has not always been at her best, but she has already served 44 aces and her unforced errors are coming down by the match. She is also showing a willingness to attack the second serve at will, which is not uncommon for Serena but the fact that her timing was perfect on a second serve like Konta's gave the impression that her game had started to click into gear and that only spells trouble for her sister.

Wimbledon Ladies champion Serena Williams (right) of the USA poses with the winning trophy with runner-up and sister Venus Williams of the USA at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championship held at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, Lon© Getty Images

That said, Venus has inflicted the most defeats on Serena during her career, with the elder sibling winning 11 of their 27 contests in the professional ranks. Their last two showdowns - always eagerly anticipated - at the US Open and Wimbledon have ended in success for Serena but Venus does hold a victory over Serena as recently as 2014 when she triumphed on a hard court in Canada.

If we are to look at Venus's run to the final, she has had a much easier draw and hasn't faced anyone higher than the 24th seeding position, but at 36, she will have recognised that this is her best chance to win an eighth Major, and she's handled it impeccably. Even though she dropped a set against Coco Vandeweghe, it made it all the more impressive that she held her nerve so effortlessly during the remainder of the match. However, while Venus is hitting a similar amount of winners to Serena, her unforced-error tally is too high and that could play its part in the final.

With Serena not dropping a set through the tournament and Venus spending longer on court during the semi-finals, it is difficult to back against Serena reaching 23 Grand Slam titles and you are more likely to get a minimal return on odds of 9/50 rather than a profit off the 41/10 offered for a Venus triumph. However, there is plenty of value in many other betting odds offered and with two of the last three meetings going the distance, it may be worth a punt on the 2/1 for a third-set decider.

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal
Federer has only come through in straight sets on three occasions during his progress to the Australian Open final but there is no doubting that he has produced some of his best form at a Major tournament for years. He started off somewhat shakily in his opener against Jurgen Melzer, but his third-round demolition of Tomas Berdych caught the eye and he has been considered a strong contender ever since. The exit of Andy Murray helped his cause but to come through in five sets against both Kei Nishikori and Stanislas Wawrinka - two of the fittest and biggest-hitting players in the game - made the ultimate statement.

While it goes without saying that Federer will hit winners from all areas of the court, his serve has proven to be his biggest weapon during his first six contests, with 88 aces being recorded and the percentage of points won on both first and second deliveries being as good as any of his rivals. It's a key component of his game because it enables him to win a lot of cheap points and at the age of 35, that's important, especially against a player like Nadal.

Roger Federer in action at the Australian Open on January 26, 2017© SilverHub

After needing five hours to deny Grigor Dimitrov his first Grand Slam final, some will question how much Nadal has left in the tank but as we have seen before, the left-hander has the resolve to dig deeper than most to get his name on a trophy. Nadal has twice reached the final since his sole success in 2009 but he suggested in his post-match interview on Friday that he wasn't sure if he would ever reach the heights of before his wrist surgery. It isn't preposterous to suggest that Sunday's final could make or break the remainder of his career.

Nadal breezed through his opening two matches but it remains to be seen how much his efforts against Alexander Zverev, Gael Monfils, Milos Raonic and Dimitrov have really taken out of him. While his numbers on his second serve are high, his statistics suggest that the main difference between victory and defeat are the unforced errors being made by his opponent. If Nadal can extend a rally, he is generally winning the point.

The pair have met on 34 occasions, with Nadal holding a 23-11 advantage, but they have not faced each other since the final in Federer's home town of Basel in 2015. That's Federer's only triumph in six meetings since the spring of 2012 and while the Swiss is arguably in the better form, the statistics suggest that neither man will be dominant at the weekend. Nadal is available at odds of 69/100, with Federer at 11/9, but it is advisable to assess the betting odds offered for total amount of sets and total amount of tie-breaks. Expect a few from two of the icons of the sport!

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Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates victory in his men's singles match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day three of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 17, 2015
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