We did it! Despite a brief Covid scare, things have settled down in Melbourne and we’re ready for Melbourne 4 also known as the Australian Open! It’s a little later than we normally have it, but after the last year it just feels good to have grand slam tennis back in our lives. Make sure you pray to your G(g)od(s), do any good luck rituals, and generally focus all your energy so that we can have a clean, Covid free fortnight. It sure would be nice to only complain about matches getting screwed up because of rain. Let’s sift through the field, see who might win, and most importantly who has value in the outright betting markets.
Quarter 1 Fodder
*See the glossary at the end for explanation of table headers*
With my deepest apologies to the players, but the utmost respect for everyone’s time, Danka Kovinic, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Daria Gavrilova, Saisai Zheng, Barbora Krejcikova, Martina Trevisan, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Kristyna Pliskova, Heather Watson, Francesca Jones, Olga Danilovic, Lauren Davis, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Barbora Strycova, Lin Zhu, Whitney Osuigwe, Mona Barthel, Elisbetta Cocciaretto, Ana Bogdan, and Jasmine Paolini, no. It’s just not happening.
Anett Kontaveit, Shelby Rogers, and Petra Martic are all stuck together in same section of the draw. Although I don’t see any of them winning the tournament, all 3 could have made short runs in other spots. I also expect whichever of these players meets Barty in the 4th round to give her a tough much. They all have solid to strong serves and enough power to not only make Ashleigh work, but possible upset her in front of the home crowd. Rogers gave Barty a scare just last week at the Yarra Valley event. Kontaveit and Martic have also taken sets of Barty in quicker conditions like we should have these next few weeks.
Leylah Fernandez is one of the many talented youngsters we are so lucky to have in the WTA. She’s big underdog to Elise Mertens in round 1, so we can’t too excited about her chances here. That said, if she can beat Mertens things open up nicely for her to win second and maybe even third match. It’s likely one and done for the Canadian, but keep an eye on her if she does get the upset victory.
Karolina Muchova was one of the better hard court players all the way back in 2019, but last year was pretty rough. Her stats took a big step backward and she appeared to struggle to be in tip top tennis shape. It was an odd year, so we might be able to throw all that out, but there are other problems even if we can get passed that. Ostapenko could beat her in the first round, Cocciaretto will be a challenge, and then she would have to beat Pliskova, Bencic/Mertens, and Barty just to win her quarter. I will be watching her matches to see how she looks, but won’t be wagering on her early in this event.
Quarter 2 Fodder
Again, with my deepest apologies to the players, but the utmost respect for everyone’s time, Maddison Inglis, Anastasija Sevastova, Christina McHale, Yafan Wang, Donna Vekic, Aliona Bolsova, Madison Brengle, Arina Rodionova, Chloe Paquet, Mayar Sherif, Kaja Juvan, Destanee Aiava, Samantha Stosur, Nao Hibino, Astra Sharma, Kristina Mladenovic, Sloane Stephens, Alison Van Uytvanck, Clara Burel, and Jil Teichmann no. You will not be winning the Australian Open.
Kaia Kanepi comes into this week in fine form finishing first runner up in the Gippsland event, but this kind of success is rare for Kaia in Melbourne. She’s never advanced passed the 3rd round at the Australian Open which strikes me as odd, but we have more than a decade’s worth of damning evidence. I would expect her strong serve to do well on these quick courts, but given her history and fatigue burden after a long week I am staying away from Kanepi.
Johanna Konta did make the semifinals in 2016 and the quarterfinals in 2017, but hasn’t won more than a single match in this event since then. Similar to Kanepi, I think her game would do well in these conditions, but the last four tries have gone poorly. She has a tough first round opponent and is in the same section as Jennifer Brady and Sofia Kenin. Expect another short Australian Open for the Brit.
I just wanted to say that I’m really happy that Yulia Putintseva was able to finally get outside for some fresh air, escape that deadly mouse, and generally stop whining. Oh, and she’s not going to win the tournament, probably doesn’t even survive more than 3 matches.
Coco Gauff could someday win this event, but for now she’s only 16 and will face a difficult opponent in every round. It’s too soon and too difficult of a road for Gauff to win this year. Let’s just enjoy watching her grow as a player and support her to become the great player we think she can be.
Scroll back up the Muchova section, replace her name with Marie Bouzkova, and imagine an even tougher draw. I think Marie could upset Svitolina in round one, beat Gauff in round 2, enjoy an easier opponent in round 3, but then it goes Azarenka/Sakkari followed by Brady/Kenin to win her quarter. That’s more than I’m willing to bet on from the Czech.
Quarter 3 Fodder
Once more, with my deepest apologies to the players, but the utmost respect for everyone’s time, Mihaela Buzarnescu, Su Wei Hsieh, Tsvetana Pironkova, Kirsten Flipkens, Venus Williams, Sara Errani, Qiang Wang, Rebecca Peterson, Rebecca Marino, Kimberly Birrell, Patricia Tig, Sorana Cirstea, Greetje Minne, Margarita Gasparyan, Ludmilla Samsonova, Zarina Diyas, Tamara Zidansek, Bernarda Pera, Andrea Petkovic, Mayo Hibi, Anna Schmiedlova, Polona Hercog, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova , no. Start planning where you want to play next.
Marketa Vondrousova is one of the hardest players in the WTA to pin down each week. She made the semifinals last week and lost to Su Wei Hsieh with a one set lead the event beforehand. She’s left-handed and in moments will blow you away with her skill. I’m not willing to back her in the outright markets until she displays consistency.
Paula Badosa is someone I love to bet on in hard court tournaments, but she had the longest quarantine of any player missing all of the warm up events and will only have had a few days to practice before her first match. If she can win in round 1 she will be rewarded with a match against her fellow Spaniard, Garbiñe Muguruza. Don’t fret, we’ll be back on Badosa soon, but it’s happening this fortnight.
Quarter 4 Fodder
Finally, with my deepest apologies to the players, but the utmost respect for everyone’s time, Viktoria Kuzmova, Katie Boulter, Daria Kasatkina, Alize Cornet, Valeria Savinykh, Ann Li, Shuai Zhang, Alison Riske, Anastasia Potapova, Timea Babos, Ysaline Bonaventure, Nina Stojanovic, Irina Begu, Laura Siegemund, Arantxa Rus, Yaroslava Shvedova, Fiona Ferro, Katerina Siniakova, Vera Zvonareva, Marta Kostyuk, Varvara Gracheva, Anna Blinkova, Misaki Doi, Ajla Tomljanovic, and Lizette Cabrera, no. You will not be taking the Australian Open trophy home with you.
I promise, I’m not being lazy. I really just don’t have anything interesting or optimistic to say about that entire group. The 4th quarter is stacked with too much talent for any of these women to make a run let alone win the trophy.
Can She Redline for 7 Consecutive Matches?
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of redlining then take a look at the list of names above and remember any of the matches in which suddenly she started painting lines, blasting aces, and not making errors. That player was redlining. It can happen for part of a match, a few matches, and even long enough to win a grand slam(say, the French Open?). You certainly can’t rely on it happening and one would be very foolish to wager on it happening, but, it just might happen. Caroline Garcia and Camila Giorgi are marooned in the bottom half of the draw near most of the big guns. Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko are in the bottom half of the 1st quarter and have the performance ceiling to beat Barty on their best day. Again, I’m not counting on this and certainly not betting on it, but wanted to make sure it was noted.
Can They Push Their Ceiling Higher?
Elise Mertens is one of my “measuring stick” players. If you’re not very good, she is going to destroy you, but if you are very good, you will best her and likely without much stress. She has made improvements over the last few seasons and her level of consistent focus and effort is an underrated weapon in the WTA. Despite that, she’ll need to find a new top level for her to win a grand slam or make it past Barty in the quarterfinals in this event.
Maria Sakkari looks like a different player to me this season. It’s only been a handful of matches, but her serve looks much sharper and she’s added some power to her game instead of constantly relying on her athleticism to wait for her opponent to make errors. She’s in Azarenka’s section which isn’t great, but we’ll get to that in a second. If she can avoid or even beat Vika, she might win the quarter and even more. Even with all that optimism, there’s just no value on her in the outright markets.
Dear Draw, Damn You
Seriously, what the hell? I was looking forward to betting on both of these women to win the Australian Open and may or may not have already done so weeks or months ago. Instead of enjoying all that fun, the stupid poker chips or whatever they did screwed us. Victoria Azarenka was as good as anyone woman on tour on hard courts last year and Jessica Pegula continues to beat higher quality players. This should be a great first round match that I will watch begrudgingly. Perhaps I’ll grab an outright ticket on the winner after the match, but for now, we wait.
Can They Stay Healthy?
Simona Halep is already hurt. She aggravated the back injury that she’s been carrying around for a few seasons and frankly, even if she was healthy would not be a bet for me to win this event. As previously mentioned, the 4th quarter is loaded with talent and she is the #2 seed. I hope after a few days rest she’ll be ok and playing her best, because tennis is always better when Simona is firing on all cylinders.
Ons Jabeur is not hurt, but has only made the second week of one grand slam. Although that one quarterfinal was here in Melbourne, she has yet to shown the fitness needed to play 7 consecutive matches at a high level. Ons is one of the smartest players on tour and has arguably the best variety in her game of any player in the WTA. I think she can put it together one time and possible win a grand slam, but not this year and not with her draw.
Hello Darkness, Their Old Friend
In all sports there are great players who never win the big one. In the NBA you have Charles Barkley. In the NFL you have Dan Marino. In World Cup soccer Lionel Messi is growing dangerously close to never lifting that trophy. In the WTA, we have Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina. Pliskova’s serve is one of the best weapons on tour. She has shown mental fortitude and won several titles, but never at the grand slam level. Karolina has had several favorable draws the past few years and faltered. She made the semifinals here in 2019, should love the conditions, and although I said on the NetWorth that I would bet her if she got to 30-1 or better which she now is I just can’t do it. Svitolina has the opposite problem. She’s a smart, tough player who rarely gets flustered or plays below her best level. Elina does however lack the power in her game to win against the elite players on tour. She’s made a handful of grand slam quarterfinals and even two semifinals, but always run into a woman with a game bigger than she can counter. I would be happy for both if they won this year’s Australian Open, but I’m certainly expecting it.
More Information Required
All 3 of these women would be excellent candidates if they had any amount of form, but there’s just too much unknown to rely on those names to be their best this fortnight. Belinda Bencic took most of last year off and lost to Sorana Cirstea in sets in her only match this year. I like her spot in the draw, but I can’t bet on her at this point. Petra Kvitova was good last year, but struggled with Venus in her first match and lost to the much younger Podoroska in her second match. On top of that she struggles with the heat in Melbourne every year as it impacts her asthma. Angelique Kerber took a step back in 2019, but played well in her few hard court matches last year and got two wins under her belt in the Grampians event. She followed those wins by getting tuned up by Sakkari. There’s just not enough for me to get excited about Kerber’s potential and that’s before you see how tough her draw is. I have to pass on everyone here.
Not Now, Definitely Later, But Not Right Now
This list makes me sad, because I could write a lot of complimentary and exciting words about each and their chances to win any event, but not this time. Ekaterina Alexandrova has the skill set you would want on these courts, but she’s gotten as tough of a draw as anyone in the top half. Even at a big number, I can’t bet on her when she has to beat Ashleigh Barty just to make the quarterfinals. Nadia Podoroska is one of my favorite young players and just keeps getting better with each passing week. She is likely too young to win a slam and especially one in which she shares a section with Kenin and Brady. Iga Swiatek, Elena Rybakina, and Veronica Kudermetova are all marooned in the 4th quarter not only having to beat each other, but also Halep and Sabalenka to make the seminfals. We’ll be back for each of these women later in the year, but nothing for now.
Each name on this list is among the very best the WTA has to offer. They will be contenders to win any tournament they enter, but who cares about just picking a winner? I want to find some value in the betting markets and earn a little money. Ashleigh Barty has potentially the easiest draw in the event and will be favorite in every match until the final and might be favored there as well. She is rightfully the favorite at 5-1 which is entirely too small of a number for me attack in a 128 player, WTA field. Sofia Kenin is the defending champion, but got few favors in the draw and I expect her to lose to another American yet to be mentioned. Garbiñe Muguruza could player her best tennis and compete for the trophy, but at 10-1 I have no interest as she is in Osaka’s quarter and would face the 4th quarter winner in the semis. Naomi Osaka has the most difficult draw of almost anyone in the tournament and is lined at 5 or 6 to 1. I love Aryna Sabalenka and at her best is borderline unbeatable, but she still lacks the consistency needed to earn the respect she’s gotten from the betting markets. Serena Williams is far from her peak, but still has the serve and power to dominate. The biggest concern is her ability to do that for 7 consecutive matches and that alone makes 9-1 too expensive for my money.
The Chosen Few
Jennifer Brady is going to be a name you see here often this season. She continues to grow into one of the best hard court players on tour and is equipped with everything one needs to win this event. She’ll have 3 fairly easy matches before meeting Sofia Kenin. She is 0-2 against Sofia, but those matches were in 2017 and 2019 when Brady wasn’t quite the player she is today. I make her the favorite in that match and there’s even small chance Kenin gets upset before facing Brady. Once Jennifer advances past Kenin she has smooth sailing until Barty in the semifinals whom Brady beat last year in Brisbane. Barty will be favored, but I will likely bet on Brady in that match even though I’m betting her to win the tournament at 40-1. Put half a unit on that I think we’ll be sitting pretty when we get to the final four.
Bianca Andreescu should probably be in the “More Information Required” category, but look at her price! She’s up to 20-1 and this might be the last time she’s even single digits on hard courts. She took all of 2020 off, but when we last saw her in 2019 she was competing with Osaka for the title of best hard court player in the WTA. Am I thrilled to wager on someone has played exactly zero WTA level matches since October in 2019? Absolutely not. Is there a lot of value in this number? Absolutely there is. She has three easy opponents before facing Petra Kvitova followed by Naomi Osaka to win her quarter. Those are both women who can beat Andreescu if she’s not at her best, but they might not even be there with their tough paths. Put another half unit on Bianca 20-1, because there is a lot of value in that number if she can use those first three matches to get back to even 80% of what she was in 2019.
0.5U – Brady 40-1 (would play down to 30)
0.5U – Andreescu 20-1 (would play down to 18)
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