Tennis is back! I know, it was a short break, but I couldn’t be more excited to have it back in our lives. The women begin in Abu Dhabi with a field of 64. It is a very clean slate for us. Almost the entire field got to the venue a few days early, so no travel fatigue to consider. There is plenty of time for top players to win this week and get to Australia in time to quarantine for the Australian Open, so everyone should locked in for the entire week and not looking ahead. We also have no form to consider as no one has played competitively in weeks, if not months. All that will keep things simple for us and lead to a fun start to the WTA season. Let’s sift through the field, see who might win, and most importantly who has value in the outright betting markets.
Top Half Fodder
With my deepest apologies to the players, but the utmost respect for everyone’s time, Laura Siegemund, Kirsten Flipkens, Jamie Loeb, Martina Trevisan, Anastasia Potapova, Ulrikke Eikeri, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Polona Hercog, Lin Zhu, Yafan Wang, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Danka Kovinic, Arantxa Rus, and Xiyu Wang will not be winning the tournament this week.
Barbora Krejcikova has really expanded her skills in singles. She is mostly known for her success in doubles playing with Katerina Siniakova, but her play alone last year was very good on hard courts. She’s not yet at the level needed to win this event, but I’ll be looking to back her in individual matches.
Wang Qiang had nice year in 2020 despite all the craziness. She’s a smart, hard working player and there is going to value on her match to match. I’ve actually bet her as underdog against Kasatkina in round 1. She’s not going to win the event, but don’t be afraid to back her match to match.
Speaking of Daria Kasatkina, and let’s add in Kristina Mladenovic & Ajla Tomljanovic, they are all nice players with recognizable names who have no shot to win this event. Unlike our last 2 names, I will be looking to go against all 3 this week. Pricing is telling me that the market is giving them too much credit for performances of previous seasons and not for what we might expect this year.
Bottom Half Fodder
Again, with my deepest apologies to the players, but the utmost respect for everyone’s time, Hsieh Su Wei, Marta Kostyuk, Jasmina Paolini, Tamara Zidansek, Bernarda Pera, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Mona Barthel, Sorana Cirstea, Yaroslava Schvedova, Zarina Diyas, Heather Watson, Vera Zvonareva, and Fiona Ferro will not be holding a trophy at the end of the week.
Donna Vekic and Anastasija Sevastova are another two, popular names that failed to live up to their potential last season. Two seasons ago they were players I liked to bet as underdogs or as outrights to win events, but no more. I need to see both play good tennis for a few events before I consider backing them in outrights or matches.
Nadia Podorosoka gained notoriety with a fantastic clay season last year. She made the semifinals in Prague, won an ITF event, and made it to the semifinals at the French Open. Players, especially from South America, can be pigeonholed as clay only players which offers us value when they play on hard courts. I will be backing her in single matches, but I don’t think she’s ready to win a field of this caliber.
Paula Badosa has a similar story to Podoroska. Although she didn’t rip through clay season like Nadia, she’s a Spanish player and usually overrated on clay and underrated on hard courts. I’m on her in her first round match and will likely bet on her to win a future tournament, but this early in the season and with her treacherous path it’s quite unlikely she lifts the trophy in Abu Dhabi.
Players Stuck in the Kenin & Muguruza’s Quarter
Yulia Putintseva, Maria Sakkari, and Coco Gauff are 3 very talented players that will have chances to compete for titles throughout the season. Unfortunately they have burden of having to beat Muguruza, Kenin, or even both. That’s a lot to ask of this group at this point in their careers and even if I’m wrong about that, they’ve only made the semifinals. To add even more on top of the heap of negativity, Coco & Maria will play each other and Putintseva is going to be challenged in round 2 by Krejcikova. Too road blocks for me to consider all 3 in the outright markets.
Second Quarter’s Second Tier
Ons Jabeur and Karolina Muchova are 2 players I love to bet match to match and might as outright selections eventually. Jabeur is one of the smartest and most versatile women in tennis…..when she’s healthy. Now, she’s healthy this week, but in an awful spot in the draw. She should win her first 2 matches, but will be tested. The rest of the way looks like Sabalenka, Rybakina, Kenin/Muguruza, and the winner of the bottom half. Muchova has a similar path, just swap the first 2 names. She was also out of shape and struggled last season. The path is too perilous at these prices to back these ladies.
Second Quarter’s Top Tier
I hope we get to see these 2 face off in the quarterfinals. Aryna Sabalenka ripped through the end of the hard court season, but most of that success was indoors. She still one of the most talented players in tour and at her best can beat anyone. Jabeur will make her work, but she should be in the quarterfinals. Elena Rybakina was one of the bright spots of last year. She started the year winning Shenzhen, winning Hobart, winning St. Petersburg, winning Dubai, and then went to break. Elena played little tennis in the months after the break, but is still one of the most exciting, upcoming players. Despite all those nice things, I cannot endorse them at 5-1 and 14-1 to win this tournament. They have to beat each other, then Muguruza or Kenin, and the winner of the bottom half. I just fail to see the value in those numbers. I think you’ll do much better betting them match to match.
Notable Names, Frequent Failures
Marketa Vondrousova made the finals of the 2019 French Open and has done little since then to backup the flashes of brilliance we saw during and up to that peak. Elina Svitolina’s struggles at more important events, most notably grand slams, are well known and the profile of the power hitter she struggles to beat are all over her path to victory. I know that Karolina Pliskova has a new coach who is very popular, but in this writer’s opinion has done little of note since he stopped working Naomi Osaka in 2019. She has almost every weapon you’d want from a player, but continues to fall apart late in tournaments. To play any of these 3 I would need much better prices than what is being offered in the betting markets. On top of that, I will be looking to fade all 3 when opportunities present themselves throughout the week.
Veronika Kudermetova is a player I love to back in tournaments. Despite some of her less than stellar stats last year, she has the skills to win events. Anett Kontaveit is not someone I usually back, but had a stellar 2020 and her numbers caught up with all the potential I’ve heard about the past years. Sadly, they play each other in round 1. Enjoy the match, but we can’t take them to win the event at their prices in this situation.
Multiples Medals, but Few Finishes in First
Elise Mertens is a very good tennis player, but she’s not a great tennis player. She is well known for soundly defeating opponents beneath her level, but often being soundly defeated by the top 10-15 players on tour. There is nothing she does poorly, but lacks the top end power or skills needed to beat the very best. She could win this quarter, but I expect her to be overmatched in the semifinals and the final. At 12-1, I can’t see any value in betting her to win the tournament. In fact, I think you could do better than 12-1 just betting her to win on the moneyline each round and rolling your stakes and winnings over match to match.
Not Yet, Maybe Later This Year, but Not Yet
Leylah Fernandez and Jessica Pegula are a few of my favorite young, rising talents in the WTA. Both come back each season with improvements to their games and signs of an even higher ceiling that expected the year beforehand. You can see above that each had a good 2020 and I expected them to continue to grow. Both have big prices this week, but even bigger challenges to take home the trophy. Fernandez sees Brady round 2, Pegula starts with Svitolina, and things just get more difficult after that.
They’ll Probably Win, but We Can’t Bet Them at These Prices
Sofia Kenin has a good of a season as anyone had last year. She won the Australian Open and finished 2nd at the French Open. She is one of the favorites to win this event and with very good reason. Kenin will be the favorite or a close underdog in every match she plays, but 8-1 is too short for my liking. She has to beat Muguruza to win her quarter which she has done twice in her career, but in very close matches that Garbiñe could have won. Sabalenka or Rybakina await and both have power to their games that Kenin can’t match and could struggle to counter. I expected Brady to be waiting in the final and she’ll present similar challenges as Sabalenka or Rybakina. She could do it, but I have no interest at that number.
Jennifer Brady was a name I had circled to bet, but 10-1 just isn’t good enough. Although I have little faith in Pliskova, you do have to respect her being in Brady’s quarter. She’ll be favored in the semifinals, but that match could be more challenging that expected. In the final she’ll see Muguruza, Kenin, Sabalenka, or Rybakina who will all be priced closely to Jennifer if not favored. I’ll be sure to support her in her matches, but I can’t condone a wager on her to win the event at 10-1.
The Chosen Few
I’m surprised that Garbiñe Muguruza is not one of the favorites to win it all this week. She had a strong 2020 and look reinvigorated in her passion for tennis. Muguruza has a few challenging opponents before she gets her shot to avenge her 2 losses to Kenin, but will dispatch of those players if she’s in the form we last saw. I think she’ll have all the chances she’ll need to beat Kenin, won’t mind the power of Sablenka or Rybakina, and is likely the favorite over anyone out of the bottom half. At 15-1, I see a lot of value in her number.
Ekaterina Alexandrova is someone I love the back at big numbers in the outright markets and this is another bet in that series. She has all the skills one would need to excel on hard courts and a serve that is a key weapon in the WTA. There’s a strong chance she avoids Svitolina, but is the exact player Elina struggles to defeat. Mertens is her next toughest opponent, but I think she has the kind of talent that usually overwhelms Mertens. If we get that far, we’ll have a chance to lock in some nice profit hedging or sweat a big ticket with a real chance to take the title.
0.75U – Muguruza to win at 15-1
0.25U – Alexandrova to win at 50-1
GLOSSARY OF DATA HEADINGS
Avg Rk – This is the average rank of opponent’s faced over that period.
Avg Spread – This is the average games more(or less) the player wins than their opponent. For example, 1.3 means that player averages 1.3 games per match more than their opponent.
Avg Total – This is the average total games in matches this player has played
Hold% – % of total games won on service
Break% – % of total games won on return