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Australian Open: Andy Murray's potential route to the final

Andy Murray's playing days may be coming to an end but the three-time Grand Slam champion is still capable of producing world-class performances and will be hoping to cause a stir at the Australian Open.

Murray has said 2024 may be his final year on the ATP Tour unless he can deliver substantial improvement on last season's performances, which featured a runner-up effort in Doha.

Now 36 years of age, adding to his haul of three Grand Slam titles may look beyond Murray, but the Briton does still have it in him to go deep at Melbourne Park.

He is a five-time runner-up at the Australian Open, the latest of which came in 2016, and there was plenty of promise in last season's run to the third round.

Murray upset 13th seed Matteo Berrettini in a five-set epic in his curtain-raiser before repeating the trick against home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis, who had raced into a two-set lead.

That showed Murray's body to be in full working order, although there is an argument to say that he ran out of steam following his four-set defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut in round three.

Even so, it was an excellent showing from the current world number 44, who will still believe he can at least emulate those achievements.

Murray is 150/1 to go on and take the title, while he is 125/1 to make the final.

With that in mind, we have taken a look at Murray's potential route to the final, which starts with a first-round showdown against Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Briton should claim seeded scalp

The first obstacle for Murray at Melbourne Park is Argentinian 30th seed Etcheverry, a 24-year-old that has been on an upward trajectory in recent seasons.

Etcheverry made the quarter-final of the French Open last season but is considered a clay-court specialist, so is unlikely to do too much damage in this competition.

That gives Murray the edge - he is 4/6 to come out on top - and it would be disappointing were he to falter against a player that has lost both hard-court matches this year.

Etcheverry was beaten by world number 73 Tomas Machac in the first round in Brisbane and then was toppled by world number 48 Alexander Shevchenko at the first hurdle in Adelaide.

Murray was also beaten in the opening round in Brisbane but he did take Australian Open dark horse Grigor Dimitrov to a deciding set, while he has since defeated Dominic Thiem in an Exhibition event.

The pair met twice on hard courts last season, each winning once in a deciding set, but Murray is expected to make the most of this opportunity in Melbourne.

Old foe Monfils may be waiting in round two

Victory over Etcheverry would see Murray face either seasoned German Yannick Hanfmann or French veteran Gael Monfils in round two, with the latter considered most likely by the betting.

Monfils is 8/15 to overcome Hanfmann and, providing he has come on for his recent spin in Auckland where he was beaten in three sets by Hungary's Fabian Marozsan, that looks a likely scenario.

Monfils, like Murray, is coming to the end of his career but the 37-year-old has plenty of class, having once been as high as world number six.

It is easy to forget that the Frenchman made the quarter-final of the Australian Open only two years ago and he is one of the sport's great showmen, so this clash would be excellent viewing for the neutral.

Murray leads their personal series 5-2, however, and would be considered a worthy favourite to come out on top were they to meet.

Top dog Djokovic should prove a bridge too far

The third round is when things should come crashing down for Murray, with 24-time Grand Slam champion and world number one Novak Djokovic the likely opponent.

Djokovic has dominated this competition, winning the Australian Open on 10 occasions, including on each of his last four visits.

With the Serb facing Croatian qualifier Dino Prizmic in the opening round before a likely showdown with Australian world number 39 Alexei Popyrin, it is hard to see him slipping up early.

It may only be 25-11 in Djokovic's favour in his head-to-head battle with Murray, but the Briton has not beaten the top seed since the ATP World Tour Finals in London in 2016.

Murray's route looks tricky

If Murray does pull off the miracle and overcome Djokovic, his fourth-round challenge could come from up-and-coming American Ben Shelton, who made the semi-final of the US Open last season.

Bautista Agut and Swiss veteran Stan Wawrinka, who won one of his three Grand Slam titles in Australia in 2014, are other potential fourth-round opponents.

Murray's potential quarter-final challengers would include last season's runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas or big-serving American Taylor Fritz, while potential semi-final opponents are the impressive Italian Jannik Sinner, home favourite Alex De Minaur or the ultra-consistent Russian Andrey Rublev.

Were the Briton to make a sixth Australian Open final, and a first since 2016, then rising star Carlos Alcaraz is one player potentially waiting in that title decider.

If Alcaraz, a two-time Grand Slam champion falters, then 2021 and 2022 runner-up Daniil Medvedev could be lurking, while Alexander Zverev, Casper Ruud and Dimitrov are three more players that will believe they can figure in the hunt for silverware.

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