Istanbul’a hoş geldiniz! We had a brief taste of the red clay in Bogota and now it’s time for nothing but the dirt from now through the French Open. I love clay tennis. The extended rallies. The sliding. Miracle returns. Arguments over ball marks. Ok, not that last one, but all those other things make clay my favorite surface to watch tennis. We have about 6 weeks for players to prepare for the next grand slam starting with a WTA500 event in Stuttgart and the WTA250 in Istanbul. Let’s dive into the field in Turkey, see who might win, and find some value in the outright betting markets.
Elise Mertens finished 2nd on these courts in her only appearance at this event in 2017 and is in great shape to have a successful week again. Qualifiers have the advantage of having played a few matches on the court whereas player like Mertens are coming in cold in their first matches. It’s a concern, but looking at the list for this week, Mertens talent ought to be more than enough to overcome any qualifier advantage. Elise will be a strong favorite in every match in this quarter and possibly through the finals. She is 3.5 to 1 to win the tournament and the deserving betting favorite, but I’m not getting behind such a small number with a surface change.
Kristina Mladenovic is 5-9 this season and was below .500 in 2020. She hasn’t played great tennis in quite some time, but she’s only played 3 clay matches in 2 years. As you can see above, she does quite well when she gets off hard courts and plays on the dirt. Saisai Zheng will make her work in round 1, but should be outmatched. Almost all of the success you see above for Zheng comes from her annual win Anning which is a small, low ranked field. Look at the disparity in Avg Rk. I don’t expect her to beat Mertens in the quarterfinal, but she has a chance to pick up a few wins and find some form. Kiki is 33 to 1 win this event. I’d want a bigger number for a player who has to beat Mertens and the winner of the next quarter.
Veronika Kudermetova sits at the top of the 2nd quarter after her 2nd WTA level tournament victory. She made the quarterfinals of this event in 2019, but I think this a pretty tough quarter albeit winnable. Bernarda Pera is in awful form this year, but maybe the surface change will be good for her. It certainly can’t hurt. Kaia Kanepi only plays a few clay tournaments a year, but does well in those appearances. After those 2 matches, Kudermetova is likely to face Barbora Krejcikova, but all 4 players in the bottom eighth are comfortable and competent on clay. Kudermetova is 5 to 1, Krejcikova is 8 to 1, and Kanepi is 16 to 1. I wanted a better number on all 3 women.
The winner of this quarter will be decided in round 2 when Marta Kostyuk and Darya Kasatkina meet. Kasatkina is having a great year with 2 titles and multiple wins in all but 1 of her events. She generally plays Stuttgart this week, but her lack of experience in these courts is not a concern for me. Marta Kostyuk made the semifinals in Abu Dhabi and hasn’t played much tennis since. As you can see above, she’s had a lot of success on clay although mostly at lower levels. I am worried about her facing a qualifier in round 1 in her first match on clay and her first match in some time. Let’s go back to the Russian. Kasatkina is 7 to 1 to win this event and I make her 4 to 1. This is a quarter she should win, I expect her to be favored over the winner of the 4th quarter, and would happily back her against anyone in the top half.
Petra Martic lifted the trophy here in 2019 which is her only appearance in Istanbul before this year. She’s 4-6 this season with a quarterfinal at the Phillip Island event being her only strong week. The draw has put her toughest opponent in the quarter in her first match. If she can get that first win she should have a chance to find some form and win this quarter. She faces Fiona Ferro in round 1 and you can basically take most of what you just read and repeat it. They’re each 12 to 1 to win the tournament which is an easy pass for me.
The top eighth doesn’t have any names that intrigue me, but there is some value in Polona Hercog. She just won an ITF W60 event on clay and should get a match on Tuesday giving her a day to travel and recover. She’s beaten Ferro and Martic before on clay and if she gets past that match I think she wins the quarter and compete against our outright pick in the 3rd. She made the quarterfinals here in 2020 and finished 2nd in 2018. At 40 to 1 or better, I’m happy to put small wager on her.
Quarter 1 – Mertens over Mladenovic
Quarter 2 – Kudermetova over Krejcikova
Quarter 3 – Kasatkina over Wang
Quarter 4 – Hercog over Potapova
Final – Kasatkina over Mertens
RECAP OF WAGERS
1.5U – Kasatkina 7 to 1 or better
0.3U – Hercog 40 to 1 or better
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