Australian Open Women's Day Eight Tips: Kanepi a viable game handicap option

Underdogs were the name of the game on Sunday in the women's singles, and following a successful day, Dan Weston returns to preview Monday's schedule...

Keys gets the job done on day for underdogs

On Sunday's preview, I mentioned that all of Madison Keys, Barbora Krejcikova and Jessica Pegula were underdogs with potential pre-match value, with Keys as the formal recommendation. The American easily got the job done over Paula Badosa, dropping just four games in the process, while the other two underdogs also prevailed via a 2-0 scoreline.

The final match on Sunday went in favour of the outright market leader, Ash Barty, who defeated Amanda Anisimova, strengthening her position at the top of the market following defeats for the other pre-match favourites today.

Both Simona Halep and our outright pick, Iga Swiatek, are very heavy pre-match favourites at around 1.15 for their matches on Monday against Alize Cornet and Sorana Cirstea, respectively, and both have a reasonably sizeable edge over those opponents. Swiatek has impressed so far in the tournament and has, at this stage, justified my pre-event confidence in her.

Sabalenka looks short-priced against Kanepi

Of the other two matches, Aryna Sabalenka is the shorter-priced favourite, and the Belarussian faces Kaia Kanepi in the final match of Monday's schedule. Sabalenka is 1.38 to make the quarter-finals, and I'm not particularly convinced about that line.

Sabalenka's numbers on hard court over the last year actually aren't that great - they definitely fall into the solid as opposed to spectacular definition - and she's rather stumbled to this stage, dropping the first set in all three of her matches so far in this event. Sabalenka has also lost to Kaja Juvan and Rebecca Peterson in the Adelaide warm-up tournaments, so her level this season so far is far from convincing.

On this basis, I do think we can look at game handicap options for Kanepi. The Estonian is around 1.85 with a 4.5 game head start, and given Sabalenka's slightly serve-orientated tendency, Kanepi should have decent chances of covering this line.

Collins justified as slight favourite over Mertens

In the final match on Monday's card, Danielle Collins is a slight 1.79 favourite over Elise Mertens, with her service numbers better than the Belgian's, who is a little better on return. Collins narrowly defeated Clara Tauson in round three, and added that win to two straight-set victories in the opening two rounds.

Mertens is yet to drop a set in this year's Australian Open, albeit as a solid favourite in all matches versus opposition ranked outside the top 50, and Collins will be a significant step up from those opponents. When the duo met in Chicago at the end of September last year, the odds were pretty much reversed - Collins won 6-2 6-4 - but I don't see enough data-driven evidence to dispute that the market is particularly wrong in their take that Collins should now be favourite.

Back Kaia Kanepi +4.5 games at 1.85 

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