Welcome to San Jose! The hard court season is back and players are preparing for the final grand slam tournament of the year, the US Open. Some of the field has gotten a hard court match or 2 under their belt either in the small event in Prague, the Olympics in Tokyo, or even an ITF event, but this is the first event of the North American hard court swing and lead up to the US Open. Unfortunately we missed this event last year for reason with which we are all familiar and the 2019 champion, Saisai Zheng, isn’t here so we will have a new champion of San Jose this week. Let’s breakdown the draw, picks a winner, and hopefully find some value in the outright betting markets.
Depending where you look the favorite to win the tournament this week is Elise Mertens. At the very least she is a close second favorite at around 5 to 1. She has a bye, an easy 2nd round matchup, and then things get more challenging, but Elise will the favorite to win all of her matches until the final. She played fantastic tennis in the earlier hard court events and I agree with the market that she be the favorite and as much as I hate the idea of backing someone in a WTA event at <10 to 1, I think there is a lot of value in her price at 6 to 1. She has a strong history of doing well as a favorite and no one in her half looks like the kind of player she loses to normally, that being a top 20 level talent. Her opponent in the final will be tough and maybe even the favorite, but we will have plenty of equity by then. Let’s back the favorite.
The bottom half of this quarter is a lot of fun. Amanda Anisimova plays against Ajla Tomljanovic in their first match. The American is still very talented, but hasn’t been able to find her best tennis this season. Anisimova might find it any moment, especially in her home country, but even at 18 to 1 I can’t bet on her to do that for a week and against some strong competition. Ajla represented Australia in the Olympics losing in the 2nd round, but in 3 sets to the eventual bronze medalist, Elina Svitolina. She had a fairly average start to the year and hasn’t played well on North American hard courts. Her best finishes are losses in the quarterfinals in Acapulco, Stanford, Monterrey, and here in San Jose. Perhaps she can match her that match that hear, but that will be a difficult task just to start. She’s over 30 to 1 and even at that large number I can’t bet on her.
The other match in that eighth is Donna Vekic vs. Yulia Putintseva. Yulia was in fine form as she won the title in Budapest, but had to retire in her first Olympic match against Nadia Podoroska. She did finally beat Vekic for the first time in 5 tries earlier this year in Brisbane, but Donna was less than her physically best. Even at 40 to 1 or better, there’s no reason to back Putintseva this week. Vekic found some form on a comfortable surface during grass season and backed that up with 2 wins in Tokyo for her country and played well in her loss to Rybakina. She is 33 to 1 to lift the trophy this week which was close to a bet for me, but instead I’ll look to back her against Mertens in the quarterfinals if she plays well in first 2 matches.
This quarter is full of possibility, but possibility that like likely ends in a loss in the semifinals. Anastasija Sevastova’s back looked to be healthier during her good run on grass in the UK and even before that on clay. She’s only 16 to 1 despite a good opponent in every round. Sevastova’s first round opponent is Petra Martic was less than stellar on hard courts earlier this year and outside of a run to the semifinals in Rome has been even worse since then. She’s over 30 to 1 and that didn’t even make me pause. Caroline Garica played better in her 3 wins in Lausanne, but those were against inferior opposition. Garcia got 1 match under her belt in Tokyo losing in 3 to Vekic. You can find 30 to 1 and even better on her this week, but don’t even look because it’s not worth a wager.
There is really one name that sticks out to me as the clear favorite to win this quarter, Daria Kasatkina. She had one of the best hard court runs of anyone to start the year. She won Phillip Island and St. Petersburg against fields similar to if not better than this one. This will be her 1st WTA match after a strong grass season as well. She has a bye followed by 2 matches she should win, but has a tougher path than Mertens, has to play Mertens, could be an underdog in the final, and is only 7 to 1. She might just continue to dominate on hard courts, but I’d need at least 10 to 1 to consider a wager on her this week. That said, similar to Vekic, I won’t hesitate to back her in matches later in the week if she starts strong.
This quarter looks wide open to me which leaves a little befuddled that Madison Keys is the favorite to win the tournament at 5 to 1 at a few books. She finished 2nd in Brisbane in 2020, but since then hasn’t been past the round of 16 on hard courts. She does have a bye and will be favored in her 2nd match, but will face a woman who can beat her in every round that follows. Please, don’t bet any of your money on her to win this even at 5 to 1. If you really want to back her wait to see how her first match goes and get on board then.
With all do respect to the rest of the quarter, there is only 1 name that intrigues me in this section. Marie Bouzkova was not close to healthy after having to retire in her first match in Madrid. She was able to play and even win a few matches despite that, but was limited to say the least. Before that injury she was 11-7 on the year and 10-5 on hard court finishing 2nd in Phillip Island and making the semifinals in Guadalajara. At 33 to 1 it looks to me like the market is overreacting to the matches she played while injured. I don’t love that she has to play a qualifier in round 1, but she will the most talented player on the court that day. Her 2nd round opponent will not be much of a challenge and even if she faces Keys in the quarterfinals I’m not concerned. I might even bet her in that match even with the outright wager. The winner of the next quarter will be a tough opponent in the semifinals, at this number we’ll be in great shape.
Elena Rybakina almost got it done for us in the Olympics, but couldn’t hold a lead against gold medalist Belinda Bencic. She has a bye which gives her plenty of time to travel and get acclimated, but she’s only 9 to 1 to win this week. She could certainly do that, but has a sneaky draw and could still choose to skip this event. Even if she plays her first match, it could be just to grab the 2nd round points and head to the next tournament. I’ll be watching her all week in preparation to grab an early number on her for the US Open, but no wagers on her for me this week.
Dayana Yastremska and Sloane Stephens. Kevin Garnett once yelled, “anything is possible.” Unfortunately, anything isn’t always a good thing. That’s all I have to say about that.
One of the most interesting matches of the first round is Danielle Collins against Shelby Rogers. Collins most recently won the tournament in Palermo on clay. In the hard court events to start the year she made the quarterfinals or better in Yarra Valley, Phillips Island, and Adelaide and lost to top level competition in every event. Shelby had a similarly good hard court season earlier this year herself, but hasn’t played since Wimbledon. Collins is a small favorite in round 1 and it should be interesting to see how Collins form carries over and if Rogers can shake off the rust. Collins is 10 to 1 and Rogers is 17 to 1 in the outright markets. I might bet the winner of the first round match, but neither of those numbers is big enough to interest me at this moment.
Quarter 1 – Mertens over Vekic
Quarter 2 – Kasatkina over Sevastova
Quarter 3 – Bouzkova over Keys
Quarter 4 – Rybakina over Collins
Final – Mertens over Bouzkova
RECAP OF WAGERS
1.5U – Mertens at 6 to 1 or better
0.35U – Bouzkova at 33 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