東京へようこそ! I’ve been assured that means, “Welcome to Tokyo!” It’s a year late, but the Olympics are finally here. For most sports, the Olympics are the biggest stage for those athletes and a marquee event that brings all sorts of new challenges off the field/court/pitch/floor. For tennis players, this is very much another week. These athletes are used to traveling and adapting quickly to a new location and although it is an honor to represent one’s country, it is not as prestigious as winning 1 of the 4 grand slam tournaments. We have a field of 64 women playing on hard courts for about a week to determine who makes the podium and who gets the gold. Let’s breakdown the draw, pick a winner, and hopefully find some value in the outright markets.
Ashleigh Barty will be playing her first tennis since Wimbledon and her first hard court match since winning the final in Miami. These will be themes with a lot of women in this draw. It’s hard to know who will be rested and who will be rusted from the post Wimbledon break? We also have a surface for anyone who didn’t play the Prague tournament. She is the 2nd favorite around 4 to 1 to win this event and that number is much to small for me to wager on her. Barty will be a strong favorite in probably every match until the semifinals, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be challenged along the way. Tormo, Sevastova, Pavlyuchenkova, and Krejcikova or Pegula in the quarterfinals is a more treacherous path than that price assumes.
The aforementioned Barbora Krejcikova has only lost 2 matches since May. She is 24-2 across all 3 surfaces during that run. In her most recent tournament victory, she lost only 23 games in 5 matches on the hard courts in Prague. That means she averaged a win of better than 6-3 6-2. The market, unfortunately, is very aware of this and has her 16 to 1 to win the gold. Despite the incredible tennis she’s been playing and the fact that she is one of the few women who are not experiencing a surface change, I just can’t bet on her at that number. I will not hesitate to back her in matches against top players, but we’ll have to wait to do that.
There are 2 names on that earlier list I will be betting money on to win. The first is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. She didn’t have the best grass season, but her first few matches are very winnable and then she faces Barty. She hasn’t beaten Ashleigh since 2018, but her 2 losses since then did come in 3 sets. If Barty has a stretch of poor play which can happen for several games, Pavs will be there to take advantage of the errors. At 50 to 1, I’m happy to add her to our portfolio of outrights. If she can make it past Barty, she has the skill and mental fortitude to make the finals and even win the event.
The second name I will be backing is Jessica Pegula. She was 25-9 on hard courts over the last 52 weeks, but didn’t do anything of note on clay or grass, so I think the market has forgotten her a little and at 65 to 1 she is definitely getting some of my money. I’ve mentioned a few times how tough this quarter can be, but you will notice above that Pegula has the 2nd best hold/break rate and the best average +/- games of anyone in the quarter. The only thing giving me pause is that she can’t get an easy win over Pliskova until the final.
Aryna Sabalenka is representing Belarus after her best performance ever in a slam, making the semifinals at Wimbledon. She is the 3rd betting favorite at 6.5 to 1 which looks about right to me, but not good enough to warrant a wager. Although she will be favored, I don’t having to face a player of Rybakina’s caliber as early as round 3. The next round, quarterfinals, will also present a serious challenge. She has a history of strong, winning performances in Asia, but almost all of those came in China. I could certainly see Aryna winning the gold. I would certainly LOVE to see her do that. I will certainly not be betting on it to happen right now.
Elena Rybakina started to find some form during grass season and looked great at Wimbledon even in her 3 set loss to Sabalenka in the 4th round. I expect her to force a rematch at this tournament and I like her chances to pull off the upset. The table above shows how good her performances have been on hard court. She is 25 to 1 to win this event and that’s enough value for me to put some money on her. When Sabalenka falters, it’s generally in the early rounds, so she may be lucky enough to avoid Aryna even though I think she can win that match. The rest of the way isn’t easy, but if she beats Sabalenka she will likely have found her best tennis which means she can beat anyone on hard courts.
Shout out to Petra Kvitova, but you would be foolish to bet on her at even 25 to 1 this week. She had to withdraw due to an off court injury at the French Open and is just 3-3 since with only 1 win in 2 sets. These were all matches on grass where she generally fairs very well. To add to the poor form are bad weather conditions for her. She has asthma and struggles in hot, humid environments which is what we will have this week. Petra might suddenly snap into form and find some great tennis, but there is just nothing leading me to believe that will happen.
One of the best matches of the entire 1st round will be Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Veronika Kudermetova. Muguruza is one of the best players on tour when she is playing her best tennis. Her most recent tennis has been fairly confusing though. She was electric in her first 2 rounds in Berlin and at Wimbledon, but followed up 2 impressive wins with 3 set losses to Alize Cornet and Ons Jabeur. Cornet has shockingly good results on grass and I love Jabeur’s game, but those are both players Muguruza should beat even without her best stuff. She’s 12 to 1 to win the tournament in a spot where she would have to beat Kvitova, Sabalenka or Rybakina, and the 1st quarter winner just to make the final. I won’t be betting that, but I am going to back her round 1 opponent. Kudermetova is 100 to 1 in betting markets and I think that is a great number despite the fact she likely doesn’t win a match in Tokyo. Always remember that betting is all about value and not picking winners. If she can beat Muguruza, she has the talent to make it to the quarterfinals at which point we have a lot of equity at that number.
This looks to be the most wide open quarter of the draw. Karolina Pliskova plays for the first time since her 2nd place finish at Wimbledon. She is only 16 to 1 to get the gold and that’s much too small of a number in my opinion. Her first round match might be the last time she is favored in the tournament. Jabeur, Brady, and Sakkari will all be small underdogs at the worst against Pliskova and that’s just to win this quarter. She could do it, but we definitely shouldn’t bet on her at 16 to 1. You could do much better just betting her moneyline in every match.
Apologies to Elina Monfils, but the tennis data community hasn’t adjusted for her marriage. Now, some more bad news, I don’t think she’s going to win this tournament. I do expect her to win a few matches, but from the 3rd round and beyond she will be overmatched. She is one of the smarter players on tour and has great athleticism, but lacks the power needed to hit winners against the best players in the WTA. 25 to 1 did catch my eye for a minute, because she can succeed with a few lucky breaks, but I’m not betting on it.
Another name that I almost bet on was Jennifer Brady. In fact, if you listened to the Net Worth show or podcasts I advocated for her at first, but pumped the brakes at the end. She’s 28 to 1 and one of the better hard court players in the women’s game. She had to retire in the 3rd round at the French Open with plantar fasciitis and hasn’t played since then. Maybe she’s healthy, been practicing, and fueled with the power of patriotism, but I need to see a match or 2 before I wager on her to win the event.
Maria Sakkari is in a great spot in the draw. Kontaveit isn’t the easiest 1st round opponent, even on hard courts, but Maria has pretty smooth sailing until the quarterfinals. Monfils might challenge her a little, but Sakkari has the power needed to beat Elina which she has done in their last 2 matches. That gets her to the quarterfinals where she’s likely to face Jabeur, Brady, or maybe Pliskova. I’ll be happy to back her in those matches and might as well back her now at 20 to 1 to win the tournament. This is a winnable quarter and the winner of the 4th quarter might be someone she’s beaten already on a big stage.
Another name to add to our list is Ons Jabeur. She is arguably the craftiest player on tour and seems to finally be in a place physically to win tournaments. Ons has effectively the same tough path as Pliskova, but I’m confident in her consistency, intensity, and talent to beat anyone in this quarter. She’s 35 to 1 this week and I’m happy to put some money on her at that number especially since we’ve backed her likely quarterfinal opponent.
Naomi Osaka got a gift of a draw in her return to tennis. She could be tested in her first few matches if she’s not fit and focused, but even without her best tennis Osaka ought to be in the quarterfinals without too much trouble. Naomi is the favorite to win the gold in her country at 3 to 1. That number assumes we get grand slam winning Naomi Osaka this week and I’m not sure who’s expecting that, but it’s definitely not me. I did say she has an easy path to the quarterfinals, but then things get tricky. The top half of the quarter is loaded, the winner of the 3rd quarter is very good, and she’s the favorite in the final if she makes it that far. It’s just asking a lot of someone who hasn’t played competitive tennis withdrawing from the French Open after 1 match to win this event 25% of the time.
As mentioned, what an incredible section of a draw we have in the top eighth of the 4th quarter. Paula Badosa and Nadia Podorsoka are players I love to back and have backed several times, but not this week. Paula sees Swiatek in round 2. Podoroska is an underdog, and rightfully so, in round 1 as Putintseva has the perfect game to force Nadia to make errors. Ekaterina Alexandrova and Elise Mertens are forced to play each other in round 1. Iga Swiatek has an easy first round match, but then would have to beat Badosa, Alexandrova or Mertens, Osaka, Sakkari or Jabeur, and then the winner of the top half. I will back Iga in a few of those matches, but at 8 to 1 there’s no value in backing her now.
Quarter 1 – Pegula over Pavlyuchenkova
Quarter 2 – Rybakina over Muguruza
Quarter 3 – Jabeur over Sakkari
Quarter 4 – Swiatek over Osaka
Final – Rybakina over Swiatek
RECAP OF WAGERS
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