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Australian Open: Five potential first-round upsets - Frances Tiafoe in danger from Borna Coric

The first Grand Slam of the season is upon us and the Australian Open has been dominated down the years by Novak Djokovic, with the super Serb crowned champion on 10 occasions.

But while the cream tends to rise to the top, there are plenty of early surprises at Melbourne Park with a number of seeds often proving vulnerable at the beginning of the season.

With that in mind, we have picked out five potential first-round upsets in which punters could profit from going against the tide.

Tiafoe needs to raise his game

Frances Tiafoe made the quarter-final of the Australian Open in 2019, but the American has struggled on his recent trips Down Under, failing to go beyond the third round in four subsequent visits.

Tiafoe is a classy customer, highlighted by his semi-final run at the US Open in 2022, but he tends to grow into a season and faces a stern test in the opening round against Borna Coric.

The American is the seeded player at number 17 but it looks a tough draw on paper; Coric was the world number 12 as recently as 2018.

The way in which Tiafoe has started the campaign should be of obvious concern as he has won only one of four matches, losing to world number 142 Juncheng Shang in Hong Kong and going down to Canadian veteran Milos Raonic, now the world number 317, in an exhibition event.

Coric has played only twice so far in 2024. Losing to world number 11 Casper Ruud at the United Cup, he then toppled dangerous Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.

The Croatian is a three-time winner on the ATP Tour, which includes a Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati in 2022, and he is a former Grand Slam quarter-finalist.

The only previous meeting between the pair went the way of Coric and at 6/4, he could be the value call.

Khachanov has a point to prove

Another seed in the men’s draw with plenty to prove at present is 15th seed Karen Khachanov, who has to be wary of the challenge of Daniel Altmaier.

The Russian was a semi-finalist at the Australian Open last season but his preparations this time around have been difficult.

Khachanov’s first start of the season saw him lose in three sets to Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori in Hong Kong, before he suffered a 6-4 7-5 loss to Holger Rune in an exhibition event.

At his best Khachanov would prevail, but he looks below his peak currently and German rival Altmaier is performing to a good standard.

The 25-year-old made the quarter-final in his recent warm-up event in Auckland, recording wins over Marcos Giron and classy Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime before bumping into highly-touted Frenchman Arthur Fils.

Those performances give Altmaier a chance and he could be worthy of interest at 3/1, especially given Khachanov has lost four of his last five matches.

Bautista Agut may put experience to good use

Ben Shelton announced himself as a potential star of the future when making the semi-finals of the US Open last season and the pressure will be on the 21-year-old to live up to that promise.

The American also made the quarter-final of the Australian Open in what was only his second start in the main draw of a Grand Slam, so he clearly has a bright future.

However, he will have to be on the ball from the off as an opening round showdown with seasoned Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut is sprinkled with danger.

Bautista Agut, now 35 years of age, is on the decline but the former world number nine is a one-time Australian Open quarter-finalist and he did make the fourth round last season.

The Spaniard showed his well-being with a run to the quarter-final of the Hong Kong Open last week and he could put his experience to good use against Shelton.

At 5/2, there is a strong argument to suggest Bautista Agut may be overpriced.

Kerber could roll back the years

Former women’s world number one Angelique Kerber makes her first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2022 and the German is capable of causing a stir.

Kerber, who took time off due to pregnancy, is never going to be as good as she once was given she is now 35 years of age.

However, the three-time Grand Slam champion - who won the Australian Open in 2016 - showed she is still capable of performing to a high level when competing at the recent United Cup.

Kerber was soundly beaten by two top-ten performers in Iga Swiatek and Maria Sakkari, but she forced world number 20 Caroline Garcia to a deciding set and got the better of Australian ace Ajla Tomljanovic.

That stiff competition should have blown away the cobwebs and it will stand her in good stead against Danielle Collins, who has lost her last three matches.

Collins looks short enough and the value could lie with Kerber, who is available at 2/1.

Raducanu difficult to trust

Britain’s Grand Slam heroine Emma Raducanu has failed to build on her 2021 US Open success, unable to go beyond the second round in her subsequent five majors.

In fact, Raducanu didn’t feature in any of the final three Grand Slams last season as she took some time off after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. She is tough to trust in her first-round clash with Shelby Rogers.

The 21-year-old is a short-priced favourite to find a way past the American, but she has lost four of her last five matches and is yet to prove her Grand Slam triumph was no flash in the pan.

Raducanu defeated Rogers in the last 16 of that US Open title triumph, but she is no certainty to frank that form.

The American has been absent since Wimbledon in July, which is of some concern, but that is factored into her price and at 11/4 she could be a value play.

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