John Isner enjoyed a career-best season in 2018, winning his first Masters 1000 title and achieving a career-high ranking of 8th. Isner also reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final and ended a six-year drought to become the first American to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals since Mardy Fish in 2011. Nevertheless, the 33-year-old suffered a 7-6(3), 7-6(5) defeat at the hands of fellow American Taylor Fritz in the season-opening match at the ASB Classic in Auckland.
Looking now at Isner’s draw in Melbourne, the No.9 seed will kick off his Australian Open campaign against Reilly Opelka. The 21-year-old is one of the players to keep an eye on in 2019 after winning back-to-back titles on the Challenger Tour at the end of 2018 to finish the season inside the Top 100. This will be the tallest Grand Slam match in tennis history between Isner (6’10’) and Opelka (6’11’). The two Americans will face each other for the second time in their careers with Isner emerging victorious in their previous encounter at the Atlanta Open in 2016.
Isner is the favorite but at -222 with 5Dimes it’s impossible to find any value on his tennis betting odds. Opelka is one of the best servers in the game and it will be extremely difficult to break his serve. Having said that, we expect a close contest with tie breaks taking place, which makes the Over 45 at +101 with Pinnacle a good option. On the other side, placing a bet on Isner to win the first set 7-6 at +240 with William Hill is also an interesting line. For those who are looking for in-play betting opportunities, backing a player to win his service game when facing 0-30 should be a profitable approach for this contest.
Returning to Melbourne Park brings back many happy memories to Ekaterina Makarova. Known as one of the greatest counter punchers in the game, the fast court conditions in Melbourne suit Makarova’s style. The 30-year-old is a former semifinalist at the Australian Open and made it into the fourth round in seven of her last eight appearances in Melbourne. Adding to this, Makarova also reached the doubles final last year at the Australian Open together with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina.
Makarova will open her Australian Open campaign against Katie Boulter on Monday. Boulter will play her maiden Grand Slam main draw after breaking into the WTA’s top 100 for the first time in 2018. The former junior world No.10 is part of a promising group of young British women starting to make a real mark. However, it won’t be easy for the 22-year-old to make the transition from the ITF to the WTA Tour.
The sportsbooks are expecting a close encounter with Makarova as the slight favorite at 1.73 with Pinnacle. Despite Ekaterina’s poor results in recent months, it’s impossible to go against the Russian in Melbourne. Makarova has always been a terrific investment at the Australian Open and for that reason, our suggestion is to follow the trend by adding Ekaterina’s moneyline to your betting picks.