Two-horse race

Murray and Djokovic expected to do battle for top spot in 2013 with Nadal and Federer written off in Sky Bet's 2013 specials

By Tim Clement - Twitter: @SkyTimClement.   Last Updated: 04/01/13 6:17pm

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Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic: Set to battle for top spot in 2013

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic: Set to battle for top spot in 2013

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Andy Murray may have only firmly established himself as part of the 'big four' last season, but the Scot is expected to be part of a two-way race for the world number one spot in 2013.

Murray joined the elite list of major champions by winning the US Open as, for the first time since 2003, the four Grand Slams were won by four different players.

It meant that each of the top four enjoyed spells of domination, with Djokovic starting and ending the year as number one, Rafael Nadal imperious on clay again and Roger Federer claiming a seventh Wimbledon title.

However, Sky Bet see it as a two-horse race for the top spot this year, with the current occupant 8/13 favourite followed by Olympic champion Murray at 6/4.

Federer was knocked off his perch at the ATP World Tour Finals and is rated as a 7/1 chance as he settles in to his 30s, while Nadal was pushed out to 12/1 after pulling out of the upcoming Australian Open.

Djokovic and Murray head the betting for both hardcourt majors along with Wimbledon, while Nadal's French Open odds have been on the drift since his comeback was delayed.

It seems implausible for the Spaniard to have a crack at regaining top spot in 2013, with 1,200 rankings points to be relinquished from his Australian Open final appearance.

Djokovic justifies such strong favouritism over Murray due to his superior capacity to pick up points on clay, a surface on which the Scot has never even reached a final.

Federer's decline has been expected and defied in recent years, with a seventh Wimbledon title taking his tally of majors to a surely unsurpassable 17.

Unsurpassable by even Federer say Sky Bet as they offer 11/8 for him to win another during the upcoming campaign.

Murray, on the other hand, is odds-on to add to his first Grand Slam title, while he is 5/2 to remain in his current ranking of third in the world, a longer price than top spot.

Sky Bet are also expecting the young Brits to climb the rankings, with Laura Robson (currently 53rd) 5/6 to finish the season 26th or higher, while Heather Watson (currently 49th) is the same price to finish 39th or higher.

The intriguing friendly rivalry looks set to continue with both girls rewriting the British tennis history books last season, with the bookies pricing up which will be next to win a WTA singles title and reach a Grand Slam quarter-final, with Robson the marginal favourite in both.

A close-fought battle is also expected at the top of the rankings, with Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka 5/4 joint favourites to end the year as world number one.

Maria Sharapova (5/1) is considered the only realistic contender for top spot with Agnieszka Radwanska (14/1) and Petra Kvitova (22/1) largely discounted.

With the exception to the young Brits, both the men's and women's game appears absent of promising youngsters heading in to the new season.

Far from the days of Boris Becker and Michael Chang winning Slams at 17, there is not a single teenager in the ATP's top 100, while Sloane Stevens is the only under 20-year-old in the WTA top 50.

However, with the likes of Federer and Williams evergreen in their 30s and Djokovic, Murray, Azarenka and Sharapova producing in their primes, 2013 looks set to serve up another sublime season.

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