Welcome to Melbourne, mate! One of the very best parts of tennis is that we get a grand slam tournament in just the 3rd week of the season. Winning one of the 4 biggest tennis tournaments of the year is a life changing event for any player and will be the first or second event for most of the field. The Australian Open offers us fast courts, hot temperatures, and fresh bodies. The latter can cut both ways. Is someone refreshed and ready to go after a few weeks away from the courts? Or will we see rust and unforced errors that come with lack of time playing competitively? Most of the field has a few matches under their belt from the warm up events in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne, but a handful of players, even seeded players, will be playing their first WTA tennis of the year. Let’s take a look at the draw, see if we can figure it all out, and hopefully find some value in the betting markets.
The #1 seed this fortnight is a woman who very sneakily has been the #1 ranked player at the end of the season 3 years in a row. Although the WTA remains fairly wide open, especially in comparison to the ATP, Ashleigh Barty is a consistent winner and potentially building the first sustained run of dominance in a long time. In 2021, Barty was 42-8 in her matches and won 5 titles in her 6 finals appearances, including a Wimbledon title, in only 13 tournaments. To no surprise, she is the betting favorite to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup this year at 3 to 1 odds. Her best finish here is a semifinal loss to eventual champion, Sofia Kenin in 2020. Last year, Barty blew a set lead to Muchova in the quarterfinals. The Australian crowd has made her nervous and her highly skillful style of play is less of an advantage on hard courts, especially quick hard courts. This could certainly be her year, but as you’ll see in a few paragraphs, she got no favors in the draw which makes 3 to 1 in a WTA grand slam even more distasteful than it would normally be. Barty is more than capable of beating the talented path that lies ahead, but I’m just not betting on it at that price.
Belinda Bencic is a dark horse to win any tournament. She won 3 events in 2021, including a gold model and a title down under in Adelaide. Bencic made the semifinals at the 2019 US Open and the quarterfinals in the 2021 US Open which are her best grand slam finishes to date. At 50 to 1, she might catch your eye, but be careful. As will be a theme for the next page or so, this quarter is brutal and you’ll do better backing her match to match.
My apologies to anyone who listened to my advice to back Amanda Anisimova at 50 to 1 or better odds before the draw. Pocket aces(AA) had as tough of a year of anyone in 2020. She picked up an ankle injury in February that kept her from playing WTA events until late August. Just before her return to tour her father, also her coach, died of a heart attack. 2021 was filled with injuries and coaching changes that led to more disappointing results. She won all 7 of her World Team Tennis matches winning 69% of the total games she played. In her first event of 2022, Anisimova dropped just 3 sets on her way to a title in Melbourne, part 2. She’s still 50 to 1, but starts the tournament playing a qualifier, Bencic, Osaka, and then Barty. If your parlay her price in those matches, you’ll get close to 50 to 1 in just 4 matches. I don’t regret my early grab, but certainly can’t advise anyone back Anisimova with this draw.
At the bottom of this eighth, not quarter, is Naomi Osaka a 2 time Australian Open winner, the defending champion, and the second betting favorite to win this year at 6 to 1 odds. She retired in her 4th match of this year due to “body fatigue.” If Osaka can make it that far this fortnight, she will face Barty. Can the former #1 player take advantage of days off and 2 matches against inferior competition to snap back in the form that made her the best hard court player in the WTA? Sure, but are willing to bet on it at a 14.3% break even probability? I’m not willing to do that and I certainly don’t think you should either. I will be keeping a close eye on Osaka in the hopes of betting her as underdog against Barty, but nothing until then. She’s being priced as if she were playing close to her best tennis.
Ons Jabeur is one my favorite players on tour. She has one of the most versatile games on tour, but struggles with injuries. Jabeur has done better over the last year with her fitness, but picked up an abdominal injury a few days ago. She is only 40 to 1 to win her maiden grand slam from the same quarter as the 2 market favorites with an injury. Do I need to keep going?
Speaking of players I love, Jessica Pegula has found a really soft spot in a tough quarter. I’m not thrilled that she enters this tournament 0-2 on the year, but one was against a qualifier and the other was her first match of the year. The young American has shown marked improvement in her game season to season, especially on hard courts. Pegula lost to Jennifer Brady in 3 fantastic sets in the quarterfinals here last year. She built on that throughout the hard court season with a semifinal in Doha, quarterfinal in Dubai, semifinal in Montreal, and quarterfinal in Indian Wells. I would be shocked if she won this event and definitely won’t bet on it at 50-1, but I do see value in her price to win this quarter or maybe in “Player to Reach Round X” markets that we see at several books for grand slams should she be on the list. I don’t see any of the latter as I write, but I do see Pegula 16 to 1 win this quarter. Do I expect her to beat Barty, Osaka, or even Anisimova in the quarterfinal? No, but at that price we can easily hedge for a profit or lock in a big number risk free when Pegula makes it that far. I’ll grab some of that now and update you later in the tournament on how best to leverage our equity.
Maria Sakkari is one of the more consistent players in the WTA. She won over 65% of her matches since 2020, but has no titles and just one finals appearance in that time. Sakkari did make the semifinals at the French Open and the US Open in 2021, but it’s become apparent that she lacks the top level of the very best players in women’s tennis. Her floor is as high as anyone, but her very best tennis isn’t close to the very best tennis of as many as 20 women on tour. Sakkari’s price of 25 to 1 is one of the worst values on the board given her lack of titles, poor record against the WTA’s best, and her position in the draw in the same quarter as Barty & Osaka.
Sitting at the top of this quarter is 2021 French Open champion, Barbora Krejcikova. She had one of, if not the, best years of anyone in the WTA. Krejcikova opened 2022 with a finals appearance (possibly a title?) in Sydney. She is one of the more difficult players on tour to evaluate because before last year, she hardly played any high level singles events. Instead, she was dominating doubles with Katerina Siniakova. The Czech is #2 in the world in doubles just behind her teammate and has been #1 several times. That experience in doubles gives her more versatility than most singles players and a slightly different style. Krejcikova had never won a WTA title before 2021 when she won 3 events, including the aforementioned grand slam. She’s 20 to 1 to win her 2nd grand slam title and I’m happy to back her that number. Krejcikova is the best player in her quarter and avoids Barty or Osaka until the semifinals if either makes it that far. There are some great players in the bottom half, but Krejcikova can beat any of them.
A decade ago, Victoria Azarenka won this event 2 years in a row in 2012 & 2013. The conditions here suit her game well, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen her best tennis in Australia. Vika made the 3rd round in Adelade 1 to start 2022, but that’s her first 3rd round appearance in an tournament down under since 2016. To her credit, she played very well in Adelaide and almost won Indian Wells in October. It’s a tough quarter, but if Azarenka can summon her very best she can win it, but I can’t see her going much further. At only 30-1, you would do much better back her match to match than putting money down now.
Elina Svitolina has won just 1 set in her 2 matches this season. She has only made it to the semifinals or better in a grand slam 1 time in 38 appearances. She is 65 to 1, 1.5% breakeven probability, to win her first grand slam title and some, like me, would argue even that low of a number is much too high. Of course, a player of her consistency and intelligence has a great than 0% chance, but it’s effectively 0%.
The 2020 Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin, would love to turn back time and find that form once again. She also won Lyon and finished 2nd in the French Open that year. 2021 was a much different story. Kenin won more than 2 matches at only 2 events and won just over 50% of her total matches. At 2-2 to start 2022, things don’t look much different than last season and things aren’t going to be any easier this fortnight. Her first opponent will be Madison Keys who is playing in the Adelaide 2 final, Cristian, Gauff, and Badosa just to make the quarterfinal. Even at 50 to 1, I can’t bet on her to find the form needed to win this tournament let alone from this spot in the draw.
Coco Gauff just keeps getting better. Still a teenager, Gauff won her first WTA title and 69% of her matches in 2021. She’s already 4-2 this season, both losses in 3 sets to Barty and Keys. It’s becoming less about “can she be great?” and more about “when will she be great?” Gauff has already tasted a little success in this event. She made the 4th round in 2020 and was up a set on eventual champion, Sofia Kenin. The draw hasn’t done her many favors after the 3rd round where her path looks like Badosa, Krejcikova, Barty, and then the final. 25 to 1 looks more right than wrong to me, but either way, it’s not worth a wager. Gauff will be a comfortable favorite until round 4 and then we can pick off some nice underdog prices against the higher seeded players. I’m excited to see what she can do this fortnight and I will bet on her, but not right now.
Paula Badosa started last year ranked in the 70s and made it all the way to the top 10 and the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. The Spaniard won 72% of her matches, a title in Belgrade, a title in Indians Wells, and is in the final in Sydney this week to start her 2022 season. At 18 to 1, the market has great respect for her potential to win her maiden grand slam, but she’s in a slightly tougher spot than Gauff. Similar to Coco, I can’t back her in the outright betting market, but will keep an eye on her first few matches with the goal of backing her as an underdog against Krejcikova and the winner of quarter 1 should she make it that far. Again, nothing now, but more to come later.
The second half of last year was dominated by Anett Kontaveit. Starting in June, she finished 2nd in Eastbourne, won Cleveland, won Ostrava, won Moscow, won Cluj-Napoca 2, and finished 2nd at the WTA Finals. She carried that momentum all the way to the semifinals of Sydney this week where she won the 1st set 6-0, but lost the match to Krejcikova. You have to wonder how blowing a match like that will sit with her, but she finally found consistency to pair with the great power of her game. At 14 to 1, she is 5th/6th favorite to win 7 matches in a row over the next 2 weeks. Kontaveit was lucky enough to avoid the top half of the draw, but has arguably the toughest draw in this quarter. I expect her to win her 1st match comfortably, but then it looks like she’ll face Tauson, Collins or Konjuh, Rybakina, and then Muguruza or Halep just to get out of this quarter. She’s more than capable of beating all of those women at her best, but there’s certainly no value in any number less than 20 to 1 for Kontaveit.
Another early outright play by that is no longer of any value was my wager on Danielle Collins. She won back to back titles after mid-season surgery. Collins looked much better on the court from that point forward and sustained a very high level of play before a few nagging injuries forced her to retire during matches in Cincinnati and Indian Wells. I was confident that if healthy, she could find something even close to that top form of last year, but Collins has played no warm up event, faces a difficult opponent from round 2 onward, and is only 50 to 1 in the outright betting markets.
Elena Rybakina withdrew from her last event, but all signs point to that being a move to prepare for this event and not a serious injury. She is another player I back regularly and will be doing so again in this tournament at 20 to 1. Her first 3 matches should be comfortable victories, I would make her the favorite over Kontaveit, and she has the game to best Muguruza, her likely quarterfinal opponent. She won Hobart in 2020 and finished 2nd in Adelaide this season showing Rybakina can succeed in Oz. Her strong serve and game works very well on these faster courts and the heat doesn’t seem to bother her. Rybakina will be our 2nd outright bet to win the tournament and why not also back her to win this quarter? As mentioned, she has an easy start, could be favored to make the quarterfinal, and is priced at 4 to 1 to win the quarter. Rybakina is in a great spot to make that far and I think she can beat any woman in this quarter. Let’s grab that price and worst case, we can buy out before the quarterfinals.
It’s hard to figure out where Simona Halep is in the timeline of her career. She struggles with back injuries and some calf/achilles issues as well. I’m not a doctor, physical therapist, or even that knowledgeable about the human body, however, I would posit that tennis is not a great activity for someone with back and calf problems. On the other hand, she finished 2021 with a 9-4 record that included a quarterfinals in Moscow, a semifinal in Linz, and a 2nd place finish at Cluj Napoca 2. Halep started 2022 by dropping only 1 set in her 5 wins and a title in Melbourne 1. Her first few matches should allow her to continue to build form while recovering on her off days, but starting in round 3 her path looks like Raducanu, Muguruza, and Rybakina or Kontaveit just to win her quarter. The outright betting markets have her at 14 to 1 to win the title which is much to small of a number. It implies that she’s going to play close to her best tennis for 7 consecutive matches which is something I can’t trust without even considering the potential for an injury. I would love to see Simona make a deep run, but let’s save our money for something else.
I’m going to be perfectly honest, I have no idea what to do with Emma Raducanu at all. Before 2021, she had only played 2 matches at a WTA level. Both were qualifying matches for Wimbledon and she lost both. Raducanu started last season 3-3 across Nottingham, Wimbledon, and San Jose, but proceeded to win the WTA125 in Chicago and the US Open. In her 5th WTA main draw of her career, she won a grand slam and she won it without dropping a set. What? How does that happen? What do I do with that? I have no clue. She was among the favorites to win this event just a month ago, but is now 40 to 1. Her path starts with a few beatable opponents, but it gets rough from there onward. I’m not saying you shouldn’t bet her, but I don’t think should you although all I really know is that I don’t know.
Garbiñe Muguruza was among the favorites to win every event she entered in 2021 and nothing has changed this year with her priced as the 3rd favorite to win this event at 10 to 1. She won 71% of her matches with titles in Doha, Dubai, Chicago, and the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. Mugruza has won the French Open, Wimbledon, and led the final at this tournament by 1 set over Sofia Kenin in 2020. She is absolutely more than capable of winning this tournament, but I see no value in her price. For the first few rounds, she’ll be a comfortable betting favorite, but from the quarterfinals through the finals she will be a small favorite if not underdog. You’ll do much better betting her match to match than backing her at this price. All that said, I do see value in her price to win this quarter at 4 to 1 or better. I know we have Rybakina already, but at these prices we can profit if only just one of them make the quarterfinals.
Sitting at the top of this quarter, in of the softest spots in the draw sits Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion. The young Polish player has won over 70% of her matches for the last 2 seasons and shown a level that only a handful of women on tour can match. Although known mostly for her success on clay, she is one of the few players who has a game that works on all surfaces. Swiatek lost in the 4th round here in 2020 & 2021, but is also 8-1 in Adelaide over the same time frame with her only loss being to Barty. It’s not a huge sample size of tennis down under, but it’s most good tennis. Given how shaky the #2 seed this year has been, Iga may face just one challenging opponent before the semifinals. At 12 to 1, she’s in the in the mix for 4th favorite to win this year’s Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. I have her as the second favorite and will happily bet on her to win the title, make the final, and win this quarter.
Daria Kasatkina won 3 titles on hard courts in 2021 in what was easily her best season on the surface in her career. She continued that success this year with a semifinal in Melbourne 2 and a semifinal in Sydney. If the Russian can beat Swiatek in round 3 she inherits her easy draw, but Kasatkina is 7-7 since 2020 against top 20 players and only 2-6 against top 10 players. Her price is around 65 to 1 and you’ll do much better backing her match to match if you think she can beat a few top 10 players over the next 2 weeks.
I can’t remember the last time Petra Kvitova was 50 to 1 to win a tournament, but here we are. She won Doha last year, but didn’t win more than 3 matches at any other event. Kvitova picked up a few injuries in 2021 on and near the court and hasn’t looked herself since then. 2022 started with blowing a set lead to #263, Priscilla Hon, a 3 set win over Rus, and a 4 & 4 loss to Jabeur. Until we see her play good tennis for a few weeks, let’s assume her best tennis is behind her avoid betting on her.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova made the semifinals in Madrid, finished 2nd at the French Open, made 2 other quarterfinals, and is now ranked 12 in the WTA. The Russian has made the quarterfinals here 3 times since 2017 but hasn’t played a WTA level match since October. Do you really want to bet on someone who hasn’t played a competitive match in months after her best season? I know she’s 65 to 1, but that sounds like a bad idea to me.
Speaking of players who we haven’t see play on tour in months, Angelique Kerber is the 16 seed this year. The 2016 Australian Open champion has done very well on quick courts like this in her career, but has only won more than 3 matches at a hard court once twice since 2019. The days off in between matches will help her recovery time as she starts her season, but starting with Kaia Kanepi in round 1 she faces either a grinder or a player who will be favored over her. Even 50 to 1 isn’t a big enough number to get me to bet money on Kerber to win her first hard court tournament since Sydney in 2018.
Leylah Annie Fernandez played in 19 tournaments in 2021 and won more than 3 matches just twice. One was a title on Monterrey in which the Canadian didn’t drop a set, but only played one player ranked below 100. The other was a 2nd place finish at the US Open with 4 of 7 matches going to a 3rd set. I do love her spot in the draw, but is 40 to 1 really a good enough price for you to bet that this fortnight Fernandez will win her 2nd WTA title and first grand slam title? Hopefully you didn’t have to read this far, but the answer is NO.
Now, the moment I’ve been dreading for days. Thankfully, Aryna Sabalenka is the #2 seed which means she is literally the last name in the draw. That means I got to wait as long as possible to acknowledge the thing that has made more sad, upset, and generally bummed out than anything in a long time. If you haven’t seen it, well, HERE IT IS:
Sabalenka is greater than 20 to 1 to win a tournament for the first time in a long time, but if you’re considering betting her to win this event watch that video, go for a walk, watch it again, and if you still want to make that bet, please close out all of your betting accounts and reach out to your local gambling support group. In all seriousness, I would LOVE to believe whatever that was ends up being the final stumble before a bird takes flight, but I KNOW that it took a lot of time, effort, and hope to type that.
Quarter 1 – Barty over Pegula
Quarter 2 – Krejcikova over Gauff
Quarter 3 – Rybakina over Muguruza
Quarter 4 – Swiatek over Fernandez?
Final – Swiatek over Krejcikova
RECAP OF WAGERS
0.5U – Krejcikova 20 to 1 or better
0.5U – Rybakina 20 to 1 or better
0.75U – Swiatek 12 to 1 or better
0.25U – Pegula to win Q1 16 to 1 or better
0.5U – Muguruza to win Q3 4 to 1 or better
0.5U – Rybakina to win Q3 4 to 1 or better
0.25U – Swiatek to win Q4 2.5 to 1 or better
0.25U – Swiatek to reach the final 6 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