Benvenuto a Roma! The men and women are together for a 1000 level tournament in Italy. Unlike the last 2 weeks we are not indoors and we are not at altitude. We’re outside and the clay in Rome is known for being deep and sticking to the ball. This creates very slow conditions that are very similar to Roland Garros. This is a great comparison event for the French Open and several players will need this week to tune up for our next grand slam. Let’s go through each quarter, try to figure out who wins, and hopefully find value in the betting markets.
Aryna Sabalenka just beat Ashleigh Barty in Madrid and we’re likely to see a rematch in Rome. I was thoroughly impressed with Elise Mertens comeback victory over Halep last week, but she has one of the toughest spots in this draw. Her first 2 matches will be very competitive and she’s likely an underdog in the rest of her matches. With all due respect to the rest of the athletes, I don’t see anyone else in this quarter that can win this event. Perhaps Sabalenka & Barty are fatigued even with their first round byes and slip up, but whoever takes advantage of that ought to be outmatched in the semifinals & finals.
So, let’s go back to the matchup from last week’s final and actually the matchup from the last TWO finals. To start, that was awesome. I loved that. (Full disclosure, for those that don’t know, I’m a hopeless Aryna “The Amazonian Warrior Princess” Sabalenka fan) We got to see what I can only hope is a matchup we’ll in finals for years to come. Aryna has the rare talent that leaves almost every match “on her racquet,” but like any player with great power comes inconsistency. Barty is a much more consistent player and has greater variety in her game, but as we saw can be overpowered by the right player. Barty won in 3 sets in Stuttgart and Sabalenka won in 3 in Madrid. There is one thing to note about both places, Stuttgart is indoors and Madrid is at a higher altitude. Those are ideal conditions for Sabalenka on clay. This week will be different. These courts outdoors, at sea level, and generally play slow even for clay. Aryna was a lucky loser in 2018, but lost in round 1. In 2019, she lost to Alize Cornet 1 & 4 in the first round. If you think that’s underwhelming, hold on for a second. Barty failed to qualify in 2017, lost in the 1st round in 2018, and lost in the 2nd round in 2019. As much as I think they decide this quarter, I can’t trust either to win this event. They are tied with Halep as favorites at 5 to 1 even though they would play each other in quarterfinal. Happy to pass on both.
Sofia Kenin has a new coach! I’m not sure how much that matters, but let’s all cross our fingers and hope this is beginning her return to good form. She is now 7-7 since her 2nd place finish in the 2020 French Open. She lost 3 & 2 to Kanepi in the 2nd round of Melbourne 4(The Australian Open), lost to Olivia Gadecki who’s ranking for that match is unlisted on tennisabstract, and is on a 3 match losing streak entering this week. Tennis is more fun when more players are more better. Hopefully Sofia is on her way, but even at 66 to 1 I’m not willing to wager on her to win this week.
Part of the reason I’m passing on that big number is that the women who beat her in that French Open title, Iga Swiatek, will be there in the 3rd round. She’ll be only 20 years old at the end of this month, but is already one of the best players on tour. She’s the defending French Open champion and Roland Garros is a good comparison for these courts. She played 2 strong matches before losing to Ashleigh Barty last week, so she should have her “clay legs” and be rested for this week. I have her winning this quarter and the market has her the 4th favorite to win the event at 7 to 1. Although I have her picked to win this quarter, and likely easily, I don’t see value in that number. The winner of the first quarter will likely be favorited over her and this quarter isn’t a complete cakewalk.
Elina Svitolina has won this event twice, in 2017 & 2018. Her elite fitness is a true weapon on these slow courts. She’s 25 to 1 to lift the trophy a 3rd time. Normally, I avoid backing her to win tournaments, but this a different situation. Her half of this quarter should be easy for her to win. She’ll certainly be an underdog to Swiatek and would be an underdog to Sabalenka or Barty, but I’m not sure she’s going to have to pass both of those tests. If she can avoid one of those matchups, she has a much better chance to win this event than the price is dictating. Let’s back Elina this week.
Garbiñe Muguruza is a laughable 12 to 1 win this event. She has yet to play event on the red clay and retired in her last match in Charleston. She has made the semifinals here a few times, but I think you’re nuts to back her at this number and in this quarter. Starting in her second match she’ll playing women with elite fitness or women that will be the favorite to beat her. Hard pass for me.
I know that Bianca Andreescu’s name is at the top of this quarter, but I’m fairly certain she is still recovering from covid. If she does make it to Rome it will be her first clay tournament since the 2019 French Open. I was inspired by her play in Miami, but she retired in the 2nd set of the final and hasn’t played since. Even at her best, these are not ideal conditions for her game and we certainly can’t trust her to play at her peak powers, so even at 22 to 1, let’s skip over her.
Petra Kvitova has made 2 quarterfinals at this event in her career, but similar to Andreescu, these are not great courts for her. Although she has the power to hit through the slow dirt and consistent serve to keep her opponents returns at bay, she lacks the movement and general level of fitness required to play a week of great tennis in Rome. She is 14 to 1 in the betting markets which is nowhere even close to a number I would bet.
Among the favorites to win this event at 5 to 1 is Simona Halep. She hurt her should in Miami, but claimed to be fully healthy in Stuttgart 2 weeks ago. She won her first 2 matches comfortably, but was crushed by Sabalenka in the semifinals. Last week in Madrid, she blew a 1 set lead to Elise Mertens. Something isn’t quite right with Simona. Yes, at her best Sabalenka dictates any match, but Halep can generally find a few spots to steal a break and even a set. The loss to Mertens is downright shocking. I do expect her to win this quarter and even this half of the draw, but I certainly don’t feel great about it. At 5 to 1, I’m happy to pass over a player getting a lot of respect for her name and not her recent performances.
There is a long shot in this quarter I like. Marketa Vondrousova who made the quarterfinals here in 2019 and the semifinals in 2020 is 70 to 1 to win the tournament. She will have to beat Halep who beat her in Stuttugart, but she’s actually 2-1 against Simona in her career with a win on these courts. At that number, I’m happy to back her in a very soft quarter.
I hate this quarter. I would LOVE to back a player in quarter with Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka on clay. Serena has played only 4 clay events since 2017 and didn’t even make a quarterfinal in any of them. Osaka plays only slight more on clay and although she made the quarterfinals here in 2019, I’m happy to pick against her on these slow courts. Unfortunately, all the other options are terrible as well.
We have a handful of players like Jennifer Brady, Ekaterina Alexandrova, and Jessica Pegula who might have the power to hit winners in Rome, but have little to no clay pedigree. Even at triple digits, I’m not picking them suddenly be good on clay. Belinda Benic hasn’t returned to former peak form and drew Bernarda Pera in round 1 who almost beat her in Madrid. I did consider backing her at 50-1, but ultimately that’s not enough value. Nadia Podoroska has had great success on clay at lower levels, but has played poorly all season and this will be her fist clay, WTA event this season. She did play 2 matches in the Billie Jean King Cup, but lost both. Maybe a qualifier pops? There’s just nothing here despite great opportunity.
Quarter 1 – Barty over Sabalenka
Quarter 2 – Svitolina over Swiatek
Quarter 3 – Halep over Kvitova
Quarter 4 – Someone over Someone else (Podoroska over Osaka if I have to pick)
Final – Halep over Svitolina
RECAP OF WAGERS
0.55U – Svitolina 25 to 1 or better
0.2U – Vondrousova 70 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