Australian Open Tennis: Women's Quarter Picks & Dark Horses

Nikki Adams

Friday, January 23, 2015 9:48 PM GMT

As we sit on the cusp of the third round of the Australian Open, we look at the women’s front, revisit the tournament odds to win outright and the corresponding odds to win the quarter in futures betting markets. Find out where we’re placing our tennis picks.

1st Quarter: Serena Williams Favored
Predictably, Serena Williams leads the first quarter of the draw as the top favorite at -175 to win outright. But her favorable tennis odds belie a key threat contained within her section, on her immediate path to the quarterfinals. Serena next faces Elina Svitolina, who’s enjoying a standout tournament, but few expect her to pose much of a challenge (the Ukrainian is matched at +2500 to win the quarter) in their third round encounter. It’s the following round that could prove a stumbling block. Should up-and-coming Garbine Muguruza emerge, Serena’s bid Down Under could come under threat. The Spanish starlet represents a new generation of tall, big hitters in the women’s game. She beat Serena at the French Open last year in the second round, quite convincingly 6-2, 6-2 mind. The pair is tied 1-1 lifetime in head-to-heads. If there’s an early threat to Serena’s bid Down Under, certainly Muguruza is one to spot on your top tennis picks.

Should Serena survive the R16, her quarterfinal opponents include one of the following: Alize Cornet, Dominika Cibulkova (last year’s runner-up matched at +1400 to win the quarter), Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova or Victoria Azarenka. Certainly, the name that practically leaps off the page is Victoria Azarenka. She’s the second fave to win the quarter at +300 tennis future odds and one of few players that has beaten Serena in the final of a tournament. That ability to go toe-to-toe with the great Serena in a high-stakes match makes the Belarusian the value tennis pick in this section. Azarenka has won the Aussie Open twice and although she comes into this tournament not seeded because of a fall in the rankings after an injury riddled 2014 she’s a dangerous floater, make no mistake.

Quarterfinal Matchup Verdict and Pick: Serena vs. Azarenka is the top quarterfinal scenario in tennis betting circles. In this scenario, Serena will be favoured over Azarenka but that shouldn’t deter tennis bettors looking to bank on the upset. Serena’s 2014 revealed a chink in her armour. She didn’t do well at any of the majors outside of the US Open. She can be beaten by Azarenka, who’s on good form in Melbourne this week.
Top Pick: Victoria Azarenka
Dark Horse/Upset Pick: Garbine Muguruza
 

2nd Quarter: Petra Kvitova Top Fave
Petra Kvitova is the top favorite in this section, as well she’s a popular outside pick to win it all (currently trading at +650) amongst several tennis experts. Kvitova’s section though is riddled with obstacles and threats, beginning with her upcoming matchup with Madison Keys in the third round. Keys is one of America’s top prospects, currently working with former grand slam champion Lindsay Davenport. Her game is very similar to Kvitova’s, both big-servers with an aggressive brand of first-strike tennis. It’s anybody’s guess which of these two ladies will advance, although the edge goes to the two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova on the tennis betting board.

Two other players not many are talking about in the realm of winning it all are Venus Williams (+2800) and Agnieszka Radwanska (+1800 to win it all). Both are in the bottom half of this section, on course for a R16 clash.

Indeed, Radwanska is the second fave at +250 to win the quarter and she’s off to a solid start to her Oz campaign, with newly hired mentor, the legendary Martina Navratilova. If her 44 min win (fastest win at the Australian Open) over Johanna Larsson were any indication, she’s a dangerous floater in this section. Venus Williams, a multiple grand slam champion, is also enjoying her best start to a season in recent memory and could potentially emerge into the quarters (she’s matched at +400) to win this quarter. Last year, Venus lost an epic, three-set marathon to Kvitova at Wimbledon in the R32, a catalyst win for Kvitova’s eventual title at the All England Club. Venus would love another crack at the Czech, surely.

Quarterfinal Matchup Verdict and Pick: This section is wide-open with three legitimate contenders and several attractive outsiders including Madison Keys, Camilla Giorgi and Coco Vandeweghe. Obviously, the quarterfinal most tennis fans would enjoy is a repeat between Kvitova and Venus. If the billing lives up to its Wimby hype, it could be a memorable showdown. Kvitova has the 4-1 edge over Venus and given her current form she’d be our top pick to advance into the semis. That said, Radwanska is a viable alternative in this section to emerge as well.
Top Pick: Petra Kvitova
Dark Horse Pick: Madison Keys

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3rd Quarter: Simona Halep
Simona Halep is contained within the third quarter of the draw, a rather cushy section that has benefited from a bit of a shakedown through the early rounds with the fall of Ana Ivanovic and Sabine Lisicki in the first round, amongst several others. On paper, Halep is the best bet in this section as the prohibitive -150 favourite to win the quarter. Bethanie Mattek-Sands stands in her way of a R16 spot while either Yanina Wickmayer or Sara Errani would stand in her way of a quarterfinal. Upsets can happen, but on the strength of her last year-and-a-half on the WTA Tour, one has to like Halep to go through.

On the opposite side of this section, Ekaterina Makarova (US Open semi-finalist last year) and up-and-coming Karolina Plishkova could emerge into the quarterfinals. Plishkova is matched at +450 while Makarova is matched at +500 to win the quarter. Julia Goerges from Germany (+1000) is playing some solid tennis this week to reach the third round and could prove a dark horse bet.

Quarterfinal Matchup Verdict and Pick: Halep is by far the most convincing and consistent player in this section, which makes her the top tennis pick to win the quarter at -150. That said Plishkova is coming off a runner-up finish (l. to Kvitova) in Sydney and could potentially shake things up in this section. As could the more experienced Russian Ekaterina Makarova at +500, who’s going quietly through the draw without garnering much attention.
Top Pick: Simona Halep -150
Dark Horse Pick: Karolina Plishkova +450

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4th Quarter: Maria Sharapova Top Fave
Maria Sharapova orchestrated a Great Escape in the second round, rallying from 1-4 down in the third set (even erasing a couple of match points at one point) en route to an epic win over compatriot Alexandra Panova. Sharapova is the consummate fighter in the game, one of the best, if not equal to Serena in that respect. Although she was forced to battle her way into the third round, she still leads the narrative in the fourth quarter as the top tennis pick to win the section at -163. Her section has also benefited from a bit of an early shake down with Lucie Safarova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Cara Suarez Navarro and Angelique Kerber all sent packing. As it stands, her biggest threat comes in a potential matchup with Canada’s No.1 and current Tennis IT GIRL Eugenie Bouchard. Having said that Bouchard is in no way a certain bet to reach the quarters with Carolina Garcia standing in her way in the third round. The French hopeful is a promising prospect with a lot of game and she’s beaten Bouchard in their lone meeting last season 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Quarterfinal Matchup Verdict and Pick: Tennis betting fans are giddy with the prospect of a Sharapova-Bouchard quarterfinal clash, not only because it features a battle between former IT GIRL and current IT GIRL but also because it’ll deliver high quality tennis. It’s a definite possibility, especially given the way the draw has opened up for both these ladies. For our money, however, we’re predicting an upset by Garcia over Bouchard in the third round and a showdown between the French rising star and Sharapova instead.
Top Pick: Maria Sharapova
Dark Horse Pick: Carolina Garcia