WHEN we look back at it many years from now, the 2017 Australian Open will be remembered as one of the great Grand Slams.
Serena Williams claiming her 23rd major singles title was special enough, let alone that sister Venus was at the other end of the court when she sealed the deal.
It seems inevitable now that whenever she decides to call time on her glorious career, Serena will be regarded as the greatest female athlete in modern history.
The younger Williams – who has also reclaimed the number one ranking from Angelique Kerber – is Sportsbet’s $3 market leader for the French Open, which starts in the last week of May.
Yet as significant as the women’s final was, nothing could have compared to what took place at Rod Laver Arena the following evening.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have enjoyed many a top-shelf stoush over the last decade or so, but perhaps none so hotly anticipated as this one.
In the end it was the Swiss master who triumphed over five glorious sets in a fairytale final that will be recalled in the same mythical, magical vein as that famous 2008 Wimbledon final.
Although Roger won on the day, perhaps for the last time in a Grand Slam final, it is Rafa who could be the greater beneficiary down the track.
Nadal has endured a wretched few years in which persistent injuries have prevented him from bringing anything like peak form and fitness into a major.
But a clean run between now and May could see him hit the 2017 French Open as the man to watch.
Already there is money pouring in for the Spaniard to snare a 10th career title at Roland Garros.
Online bookmaker Sportsbet has him listed at $3.75 in the futures betting, behind only $2.63 favourite Novak Djokovic.
The question is whether Nadal’s best now is good enough to beat the new glamour pair in full flight.
Both Djokovic and Andy Murray were dismissed early on at Melbourne Park, and many pundits have posited that neither Roger nor Rafa would have had a hope in heck if the top two seeds hadn’t flopped.
That dismissive tone does a disservice not only to the finalists, but also to the players they defeated along the way.
After trumping both Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori in the early rounds, Federer beat the man who beat Murray – that is the raw fact – and then took out three-time Grand Slam champ Stan Wawrinka in the semis.
Nadal’s run was hardly any easier.
He dumped out two of the top six seeds – Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic – before besting a seriously in-form Grigor Dimitrov over five sets to reach the final.
Who is to say the old timers can’t carry that kind of form throughout the rest of 2017 if they stay fit and healthy?
The slow, grippy clay of Roland Garros is not Federer’s favourite surface, but nobody has ever played it better than Nadal.
If Rafa gets a few more deep tournament runs under his belt and heads to Paris in good health, will it even matter if Djokovic and Murray are there?
2017 French Open outright winner markets
All odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
$2.63 – Novak Djokovic
$4.50 – Andy Murray
$9 – Stan Wawrinka
$21 – Roger Federer
$23 – Dominic Thiem
$31 – Kei Nishikori
$34 – Juan Martin del Porto, Nick Kyrgios
$41 – Milos Raonic
$51 – Sasha Zverev
$67 – Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin, Gael Monfils
$81 – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
$3 – Serena Williams
$5.50 – Garbine Muguruza
$11 – Simona Halep
$13 – Angelique Kerber
$19 – Petra Kvitova
$21 – Karolina Pliskova
$26 – Belinda Bencic, Madison Keys
$34 – Johanna Konta, Agnieszka Radwanska
$41 – Eugenie Bouchard, Timea Bacsinszky, Lucie Safarova, Sloane Stephens, Elina Svitolina
$46 – Coco Vandeweghe
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