This week’s big event is a WTA 500 tournament in Doha. The field is littered with the very best players on tour and should give us a week of top notch tennis. Most of the players were in Melbourne, but we’ll get to see a few names for the very first time this season at the top level. Let’s jump into the draw and see if we can find any value in the outright markets.
Elina Svitolina vs A Big Hitter
*See the glossary at the end for explanation of table headers*
Elina Svitolina is the top seed, but got few favors in the draw. Her second match shouldn’t be too challenging, but having to face Victoria Azarenka or Elena Rybakina just to win her quarter is less than ideal. Svitolina will her chances in that match, but at 10-1 I can’t entertain a wager on her with this draw.
Azarenka has a sneaky good opponent in Svetlana Kuznetsova and has struggled to start the year. It took her 3 sets to put away Putintseva in her first match at the Grampians event. She retired in her next match and was knocked out in round 1 at the Australian Open. She has won this event twice and finished second another time, but that was all before 2016 and should not be considered. She’s 12 to 1 to lift the trophy and I wouldn’t bet that number with your money.
Rybakina likely handles any qualifier with ease as long as she can avoid Jessica Pegula. She had a nice showing in Abu Dhabi, but lost in the first round at Grampians and lost to Fiona Ferro in surprising fashion to end her Australian Open after only 2 matches. Despite all that, I think she can find some form here and make it through this quarter. Elena loves the conditions in cities off the Persian Gulf. She won Dubai last year, won her fist 2 matches in Doha before having to withdraw, and made the quarterfinals in the aforementioned Abu Dhabi event this year. Azarenka is vulnerable and Svitolina has historically struggled with power players like Elena. I’m going to wager on her once qualifiers are placed and Pegula is not her first round opponent.
Amanda Anisimova is still working her way back to the level we saw in 2019. The loss of her father and a few injuries have made things tough, but I expect her to be winning matches sooner rather than later. This is not the tournament or place in the draw for that to happen this week. Saisai Zheng will make her work in round 1 and then it’s a gauntlet of the best players in the WTA the rest of the way.
Aryna Sabalenka or Bust
In the last 12 months, Aryna Sabalenka is 26-5 on hard courts. She is the defending champion at this event. After clay season Sabalenka went to the US and lost in her second match to Gauff, Pegula, and Azarenka in Lexington, “Cincinnati”, and the US Open respectively. She won her next 2 events in Ostrava and Linz to end 2020. She started this season by dropping only 1 set against a strong field in Abu Dhabi. Aryna did lose her first match at the Gippsland event, but that appeared to be a warm up session for the Australian Open where she lost to Serena Williams in the 3rd round. That’s one of the more impressive stretches of hard court play for anyone not named “Naomi” and/or “Osaka”. She’s the betting favorite at 5-1 and despite that form I can’t back her. I expect Garbiñe Muguruza to beat Veronika Kudermetova and be ready to give Sabalenka all she can handle in round 2. The next match is easier, but the winner of quarter 1 will be no picnic in the semifinals.
Possibly having to beat Sabalenka or Muguruza forces us to cross off Maria Sakkari, Mayar Sherif, Madison Keys, and Belinda Bencic. Sakkari has been playing better, but is not at the same level as Sabalenka or Muguruza. Bencic might not even play this event after her second place finish in Adelaide. Mayor Sherif isn’t good enough and Madison Keys is likely not interested enough in her event since last year’s French Open.
A Quarter of Questions
Will Jennifer Brady have a let down after her first grand slam final in an event at which she has only 1 main draw win in her career?
Might Anett Kontaveit, who’s struggled to start the year, beat Brady AND Kvitova to get through this quarter?
Can we trust Angelique Kerber after losing to Bernarda Pera in round 1 of the Australian Open?
Are there any conceivable scenarios that don’t involve injury or illness to others that result in Cagla Buyukakcay, any qualifier(besides Pegula), and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova winning Doha?
Will Petra Kvitova suddenly begin playing good tennis at a tournament where she finished second last year and first in 2018?
I hate the answers I have for all of those questions and must pass on this group entirely. Do keep an eye on Kvitova. She seems to really love it here and has one of the better spots in the draw. It’s tough with the bye round 1, but check the outright markets after round 2.
Pliskova vs Jabeur
Kiki Bertens hasn’t played since Roland Garros last year. Jelena Ostapenko is one of the best watches on tour, but not likely to win 5 consecutive matches in this field. Wang Qiang has played poorly this year. Maybe Pegula gets one of these qualifier spots?
That leaves us Ons Jabeur and Karolina Pliskova. I’m starting to feel crazy writing over and over again about great draws for Pliskova and how she’s going to blow them. If she gets past Jabeur, whom she SHOULD beat, she’ll favored or a small underdog to winner of the third quarter. She won this event in 2017, with an even easier draw than this, but has never made it past the round of 16 in her other appearances. Jabeur is was impressive her last year, Siniakova, Brady, Pliskova, and forcing Kvitova to 2 breaks before losing in the quarterfinals. Ons is 19-1 to win this event and I like that price pending placement of qualifiers.
The Fly in the Ointment
I’ve mentioned her several times already, but Jessica Pegula is making it very tough to handicap this draw. Several players I like have qualifiers in round 1 and if she’s in those spots can certainly win. At the same time, there are 3 qualifier spots on the bottom half and I’d love to have an outright ticker on her if she falls in any of those spots.
Once qualifiers are placed…
0.5U on Rybakina at 19-1 or better unless she has Pegula in round 1
0.5U on Jabeur at 19-1 or better unless she has Pegula in round 1
0.5U on Pegula at 25-1 or better if she’s anywhere in the bottom half of the draw
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