Bienvenue à Montréal! Tennis returns to Canada for the first time in almost 2 years. Once the Rogers Cup, now the Citi Open, this tournament changes cities each year. In 2021, the ATP is in Toronto and the WTA is in Montreal. This is week 2 of the North American hard court swing and the build up to the US Open. Most of the field has played a hard court match or two in the Olympics or in the last 2 weeks and this is a WTA1000 event, one level below grand slams, so I expect a competitive week of tennis from some of the finest players the game has to offer. Bianca Andreescu is the defending champion and the list of women to win before her are among the best to ever play the game. Who will join that elite company? Let’s breakdown the draw, pick a winner, and hopefully find some value in the outright markets.
The bottom half of the quarter has a few of the better hard court players, but they haven’t played much tennis in Canada and have done even less winning in Canada. Maria Sakkari lost her only 2 matches North of the US border, but both were in 3 sets and over 2 years ago when she was a different player. She played well last year in Cincinnatti and the US Open which she backed up with a semifinal appearance in Miami earlier this year. I would love to back her, but at only 14 to 1 there’s no value given her spot in the draw. That said, I won’t shy away from backing in her single matches against some of the bigger names in this quarter.
Veronika Kudermetova has never played in Canada and is just 1-4 since the end of clay season. She was 1-3 on grass and lost in the 1st round of the Olympics 5 & 5 to Muguruza. Although there is no shame in losing to Muguruza, it would be nice if she had beaten someone over the last 6 weeks. She is 40-1 to win the tournament this week which is normally a number I’d consider, but her form and draw make it an easy pass for me.
Victoria Azarenka will be playing her first tennis since Wimbledon. She has only played 4 times in either Toronto or Montreal in the last 5 seasons. The tournament that follows is the WTA1000 in Cincinnati which she has won twice in her career. If I had to guess, this week is likely a warm up before heading to Ohio. She’s as high as 18 to 1 this week which is a big number for her, but given what I just mentioned and how tough her opponents will be from round 3 onward, let’s skip her.
In 2016, Madison Keys won this event. She has played just 1 match in Canada since which was 3 set loss to Donna Vekic in the 1st round in Toronto in 2019. She played only 5 hard court matches earlier this year and was 2-3. She had a bye last week in San Jose, but couldn’t take advantage losing to Shuai Zhang in the 2nd round. It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen anything close to “Madislam Keys” and I’m not expecting to see that level until she proves me wrong. Even at 35 to 1 I can’t back her.
The first quarter of the draw will likely be decided in round 3 when Aryna Sabalenka faces Paula Badosa. Sabalenka is 35-12 this year with titles in Abu Dhabi and Madrid with a 2nd place finish in Stuttgart. Not that this is important, but I did notice that she is the only person to beat Ashleigh Barty in a final since 2019. She has been one of the very best players on tour all year and is the favorite this week at 6 to 1. That’s too small of a number to back anyone in this field, especially in such a tough quarter.
Badosa had to retire in the quarterfinals of the Olympics, but the cause was heat exhaustion and not an injury that will carry into this week. She doesn’t have the best data on hard courts, but made the semifinals in Lyon early this season and was playing well before having to leave Tokyo. Her first round match could be a test, but round 2 should be easier and she has the game to handle Sabalenka’s power and win if Aryna isn’t painting the lines. She’s 33 to 1 to lift the trophy in Montreal and I’m happy to make that my first outright bet. Hopefully a big name or 2 gets knocked off before she has to face them, but even with her most difficult possible path there’s value in that number.
The top half of this quarter is qualifiers and 3 women that can good to back in the right circumstances. Karolina Pliskova played her best tennis on clay and grass in 2021. She didn’t win more than 1 match at any of the 6 hard court tournaments she has played already. Karolina did get a few matches under her belt in Tokyo, has a bye, and will be the favorite up to the quarterfinals. She’s 14 to 1 and I guess that number is right? I really can’t tell, but it’s definitely not a bettable number.
Donna Vekic has been playing better and won 2 matches at the Olympics over Caroline Garcia and Aryna Sabalenka. She didn’t look great in San Jose last week and I’m concerned that she to face a qualifier in round 1. The qualifying field has some good names and that player will have already played a few matches to get a feel for the courts. From then on she is an underdog to everyone left in her path. 66 to 1 is a big number, but not big enough to warrant a wager. If she plays well in her first 2 matches I’ll look to back her in single matches, but I’d need triple digits to bet her now.
Karolina Muchova made the semifinals of the 2021 Australian Open and just a 3rd set away from the finals. She hasn’t played a lot since then, but made the quarterfinals in Madrid and Wimbledon. This will be her first hard court match and she is in line to face qualifiers in round 1 and 2. She’ll be the favorite, but as I mentioned, these will be players in form and used to the courts. Despite that I am going to back her at 25 to win the tournament. Despite her lack of play, she’ll be a favorite and likely a strong favorite in those first 2 matches. I like her chances against Pliskova in round 3 and against the bigger names that follow. Let’s add her to our portfolio.
The bottom section of this quarter is loaded with talent. Elena Rybakina and Ludmilla Samsonsova are forced to play one another in the first round. Rybakina finished 4th at the Olympics and has won at least 3 matches in 4 of her last 6 tournaments. Samsonova has yet to play on hard courts and has played just one match, a loss on clay, since her 10-1 run through grass season. Rybakina is favored in what could be the best match of the first round and 20 to 1 to win the title. That number is right on the nose in my opinion, so instead of backing Elena right now I will look bet her in single matches. Samsonova is 100 to 1 which is a huge number, but she’s +250(3,50) in round 1 which means you’ll do better just backing her each round instead of betting on her now.
After having been made fun of for her poor play on hard courts by yours truly, Sara Sorribes Tormo was great on the surface earlier this year. She won the tournament in Guadalajara, made the semifinals in Monterrey, and the quarterfinals in Miami. She was 2-1 in the Olympics and strong favorite in her first match, but then faces the winner of Rybakina v Samsonova and things remain difficult the rest of the way. Even at greater than 60 to 1 I’m going to pass.
Jelena Ostapenko is 21-13 this year which is her first season winning more than 60% of her matches since 2017 when she won the French Open. She was unable to repeat that feat, but is playing some of the best and most consistently good tennis we’ve seen from her in a long time. Unfortunately, she a similar draw to Tormo, an easy first round victory followed by some of the WTA’s best players. She’s 50 to 1 which looks right to me, so not outright bets, but keep an eye on her form, because she always capable of having a hot week.
Speaking of the WTA’s best, Garbiñe Muguruza is the 5 seed in this event and has a bye in the first round. If I had to guess, she’s excited to back on hard courts where she won the title in Dubai and finished second in Yarra Valley & Doha. Her clay and grass seasons were uninspiring which I can overlook, but she has struggled in this part of the season the last few years. She played only the US Open in 2020 and lost in the second round. In 2019 she played Cincinnati and the US Open losing both of her 1st round matchups. She did the same thing in 2018, but did win a match at the slam. This is odd, because in 2017 she made the quarterfinals in Toronto, won Cincinnati, and won 3 matches at the US Open before losing to Petra Kvitova. Maybe she’s put less emphasis on this part of the calendar? Either way, it’s a concern and that’s before we even consider all the names I just mentioned who are in her quarter. She is the 2nd favorite to win this week at 8 to 1 and I would bet on that with my worst enemy’s money.
Unless Petra Kvitova can find the form she had in March when she beat a strong field to lift the trophy in Doha. She made a few quarterfinals on clay, but Petra usually makes at least 1 final or even wins a tournament on the dirt and finished the French Open with an injury she picked up during a press conference. She was 4-1 on grass in the 2 events she played, but lost to Sloane Stephens in round 1 of Wimbledon, Sramkova in round 1 of Prague, and to Alison Van Uytvanck in round 2 of the Olympics. She can be the best player in this quarter, but it’s just hard to expect that to happen. She’s 18 to 1 to win the tournament and I’m happy to pass on that.
There are a few names in the middle of the quarter that caught my eye, but each has something holding me back from a wager. Elise Mertens did make the semifinals in San Jose which means she’s been in North America and played a few hard court matches, but looked terrible in that semifinal match against Kasatkina. Elise is also destined to meet a fate with which she is very familiar, having to beat at least 1 woman who has more talent and physical gifts than she can overcome. She is one of the most consistent players on tour and does almost everything well, but lacks the power or elite fitness of the very best WTA players. She’s 25 to 1 and I would need 50 to 1 to back her in the outright markets.
Coco Gauff is likely to make me wrong sooner rather than later, but can I really expect a 17 year old to win a WTA1000 event with this strong of a field? I’m saying no, but she continues to get better at a rate that exceeds almost anyone we’ve seen over the last few years. She won her 2nd WTA level title this year in Parma beating 5 players in the top 100. She lost only 2 sets at the French Open and those were to the eventual champion. I know that was all on clay, but it speaks to how quickly she’s improved. I won’t be surprised if she wins this quarter, but she’s only 18 to 1 there’s no value in backing her now. I’ll betting her overs and looking to back her on the ML whenever she’s an underdog.
Elina Svitolina, or Monfils as you may know her, gets the bye at the bottom of the quarter. She won the bronze at the Olympics and has done well in her last few trips to the Great White North. She won Toronto in 2017, made the semifinals here in Montreal in 2018, and the quarterfinals in Toronto in 2019. I expect her to win her first match, but then she faces Gauff and then Kvitova or Mertens just to win the quarter. At only 20 to 1 I can’t bet on her given her spot in the draw.
Simona Halep is playing her first tennis since her calf injury in Rome. She is the defending Montreal champion from 2018 and if healthy could win this tournament although it won’t be easy. Danielle Collins hasn’t lost a match in her last 2 tournaments and is in the final in San Jose. Halep’s 2nd match, albeit in the 3rd round thanks to a bye, could be Pegula, Kontaveit, Pavlyuchenkova or a qualifier all of which are great on hard courts or will be in form. We’ll get to quarterfinalist from the bottom section soon, but it’s not great for Simona. She’s as high as 12 to 1, but that still puts her as the 3rd favorite. That’s how she’s priced on hard courts in good form, so we can’t back her at that price with all these question marks.
Although I like all of the women who could face Halep in round 3, 1 sticks out to me above the rest. Jessica Pegula made the quarterfinals in the Australian Open, the semifinals in Doha, and the the quarterfinals in Dubai earlier this year. Now, she has never played a WTA main draw match in Canada, but is from the United States and should be comfortable with time zone at least. She did make a quarterfinal on clay and another on grass, but has been under the radar the last few months. 50 to 1 is value given how well she played on hard courts earlier this year and the market’s optimism around Halep. She will be our 3rd outright selection.
Remember that player I wanted to circle back on from the Halep paragraph? That was Bianca Andreescu. After the 2019 season there was talk of how many grand slam finals we might see with Andreescu facing Naomi Osaka. She won Indian Wells, Toronto, and the US Open that year. Then she didn’t play any tennis in 2020 and has played sparingly since winning Miami. This is her home country and her best surface, but can we expect her to snap back into from and beat a challenging field having only played 4 matches since June? This might be the last chance we get to back her at 13 to 1 on hard courts, but I’m going pass on that opportunity. She can be the best player in this field and is my pick to win, but I don’t the chance of that happening is high enough to warrant an outright wager.
Leylah Fernandez faces Andreescu in the 2nd round if she can best the qualifier she faces in round 1. The winner of Ons Jabeur vs. Daria Kasatkina(maybe Petra Martic?) would see Andreescu in round 3. The former is in her home country and did win Monterrey earlier this year, but is just 7-8 since then. The latter group are very talented, have played good tennis this season, but will be overmatched against Bianca. Fernandez is 80 to 1, Ons is 33, and Kasatkina is also 33. Those just are not big enough numbers for us to bet.
Quarter 1 – Badosa over Sakkari
Quarter 2 – Muchova over Muguruza
Quarter 3 – Gauff over Mertens
Quarter 4 – Andreescu over Pegula
Final – Andreescu over Muchova
RECAP OF WAGERS
0.44U – Badosa 33 to 1 or better
0.57U – Muchova 25 to 1 or better
0.29U – Pegula 50 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