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Week ahead: Final events before the Australian Open

The hectic beginning to the 2023 tennis season continues this week with two events taking place on both the ATP World Tour and the WTA Tour across Australia and New Zealand.

With the Australian Open now just a week away, attention also switches to Melbourne Park as the lower-ranked players bid to qualify for the main draw.

Ruud the man to beat in Auckland

WhatATP Auckland ASB Classic
WhereASB Tennis Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
WhenMonday 9th January - Saturday 14th January
How to watchbet365 Sports Live Streaming
OddsCasper Ruud 10/3, Cameron Norrie 15/4, John Isner 7/1, Jenson Brooksby 10/1, Diego Schwartzman 12/1

While most of the ATP's big guns have opted to put the finishing touches to their Australian Open preparation on the practice court, Norwegian star Casper Ruud heads to Auckland to contest the ASB Classic.

Ruud was ranked outside of the world's top 50 when this event was last played in 2020, but he returns to New Zealand ranked third in the world having reached two Grand Slam finals last season.

The 24-year-old, who receives a first-round bye, has been handed a kind draw which should see him meet big-serving veteran John Isner for a place in the semi-finals, so it's no surprise to see him chalked up as the 10/3 favourite in an event lacking depth.

On the other side of the draw, busy Briton Cameron Norrie aims to build on a fine start to the season which saw him win all three matches at the United Cup - against Alex de Minaur, Rafael Nadal and Taylor Fritz.

The 27-year-old, who spent the bulk of his childhood in New Zealand, is 15/4 to claim the title having also been handed a seemingly straightforward route to the last four.

Rublev the star turn in second Adelaide event

WhatATP Adelaide International 2
WhereMemorial Drive Tennis Club, Adelaide, Australia
WhenMonday 9th January - Saturday 14th January

Novak Djokovic claimed the first of two ATP events in Adelaide when he defeated Sebastian Korda on Sunday and this time it's the turn of Andrey Rublev to assume the role of top seed.

Rublev is nowhere near as formidable as Djokovic, but the Russian is a prolific performer in regular ATP Tour events, claiming 12 career titles. However, there are dangers lurking round every corner.

Unseeded Korda is back for more - although he may withdraw to save his legs for the Aussie Open - while Karen Khachanov and Spanish duo Pablo Carreno Busta and Robert Bautista Agut are among the key contenders.

There is also plenty of British interest with Dan Evans, Jack Draper and Kyle Edmund, who is playing under a protected ranking following a long spell on the sidelines, all in action.

Garcia aims to pick up where she left off

WhatWTA Adelaide International 2
WhereMemorial Drive Tennis Club, Adelaide, Australia
WhenMonday 9th January - Saturday 14th January
How to watchAmazon Prime, bet365 Sports Live Streaming
OddsCaroline Garcia 15/4, Barbora Krejickova 13/2, Belinda Bencic 8/1, Veronika Kudermetova 10/1, Elena Rybakina 10/1

Caroline Garcia was one of the WTA's stories of 2022, rediscovering her form in the second half of the year in spectacular fashion, climbing from 55th in the world to fourth and signing off a four-title season with WTA Finals glory.

The Frenchwoman returned to action for 2023 with two United Cup victories and she is 15/4 to take the title at the second of two Adelaide contests on the women's tour.

Garcia is the highest-ranked player in the draw, but this WTA 500 Series event looks tough to decipher due to a stacked entry list and a number of dangerous contenders waiting in the wings if the favourite falters.

Fellow seeds Belinda Bencic, Veronika Kudermetova and Daria Kasatkina will all fancy their chances, but the sheer depth of the Adelaide draw is illustrated by the fact that Grand Slam winners Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza, Victoria Azarenka, Elena Rybakina and Barbora Krejcikova are all unseeded.

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Wide-open feel to Tasmania field

WhatWTA Hobart International
WhereHobart International Tennis Centre, Hobart, Australia
WhenMonday 9th January - Saturday 14th January
How to watchAmazon Prime, bet365 Sports Live Streaming
OddsMarie Bouzkova 5/1, Elise Mertens 11/2, Sloane Stephens 6/1, Magda Linette 7/1, Anhelina Kalinina 12/1

The draw may not be as strong as Adelaide 2, but the WTA Hobart International looks no less competitive with Wimbledon quarter-finalist Marie Bouzkova a 5/1 shot in Tasmania.

Bouzkova kicked off her 2023 season with a mixed United Cup campaign, losing out to USA star Madison Keys before redeeming herself against Jule Niemeier in her second outing.

There should be more to come from the Czech, but there are other interesting competitors in Hobart, not least 2020 Australian Open winner Sophia Kenin, who is working her way back from injury.

Kenin beat Xinyu Wang in Auckland last week, then performed respectably against eventual champion Coco Gauff, and she could tempt a few punters at 20/1 as she bids to rediscover her form.

Lesser lights dream of Melbourne Park run

WhatAustralian Open qualifying
WhereMelbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
WhenMonday 9th January - Thursday 12th January
How to watchEurosport, Discovery+, bet365 Sports Live Streaming

Before the superstars of the sport enter the Australian Open fray, there is the small matter of the qualifying draw at Melbourne Park, where 128 players on both the men's and women's side will bid to fill the 16 empty spots in the first Grand Slam of the year.

In the men's qualifying draw, the eye is drawn to Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, the 2009 Australian Open semi-finalist who begins his bid for a place in the main draw against Croatia's Nino Serdarusic.

The women's draw will include rising Czech star Linda Noskova, who was beaten by Aryna Sabalenka in the Adelaide 1 final, while a number of British women, including Heather Watson and Katie Boulter, will also bid for a place in next week's showpiece.

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