Anything you can do, I can do better!
It should come as no surprise that Serena Williams leads the pack of favourites in Rome. Listed at tennis odds of 5/4 to win the title at Ladbrokes, smart money is on her to make it back-to-back titles before we head into the French Open.
Somehow Serena’s draw never looks threatening, throw in whatever mix of players into her section and invariably she looks to be the value play throughout. She begins her campaign against Laura Robson, who is after a good turnout in Madrid but who will be hard pressed to duplicate it. Certainly, not when Serena looms large and intimidating and nigh unbeatable.
In the third round, Serena could face either Melanie Oudin or Dominika Cibulkova (a long shot for the title at 150/1) or Kristina Mladenovic – none of which however strikes an alarming enough pose on paper to give the American any pause.
The quarterfinal round is where it could get interesting if Serena comes up against Nadia Petrova or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a pair of Russians on offers of 100/1 at Ladbrokes. Both are big hitters that could at least test Serena, if not give her a run for her money. Any other quarterfinal combination though and it should be a cakewalk for Serena into the semis.
Speaking of the semis, Agnieszka Radwanska (20/1) or Li Na (10/1) are slated to emerge however both are after disappointing first round exits in Madrid, so it remains to be seen whether they’ll find the kind of form to spell trouble for Serena in Rome.
Check out our Tennis Picks for the Mens' Draw of the Rome Masters
Can Sharapova recover from yet another Serena beat down?
That is the burning question in Rome as Maria Sharapova looks to rebound from her straight set defeat to Serena in the Madrid Open final and refocus on the task at hand.
For the self-professed “cow on ice,” Maria Sharapova’s mid-career reinvention on clay is quite remarkable. Suddenly, instead of biting the dust, she’s gliding as gracefully as a swan, reeling off victories and clinching titles on clay before our eyes and that nobody would have predicted during the early days of her career short of a crystal ball, not the least of which winning the 2012 French Open.
Yet in one fell swoop, on Sunday last, Serena dismissed all those accomplishments and, in turn, made Sharapova look rather pedestrian.
How Sharapova can recover from her 12th straight defeat to Serena is hard to imagine. And then for what? To make another solid run into the final only to (more likely than not) be rewarded with another Serena beat down? But that’s what it’s about. That’s what she’ll have to do. And if she’s lucky, minus the beat down. So on to her half of the draw.
Sharapova, listed at 3/1 to win outright at Ladbrokes, is a good choice for your tennis picks at this stage of the tournament because it’s early days yet. Anything can happen, even as unthinkable as a shocking upset of Serena – if Djokovic can fall in Madrid, it stands to reason so can Serena in Rome. In such an eventuality, Sharapova would become the de facto short-odds on favourite to win the title, and given she’s the second best player on clay right now behind Serena the title then would be hers to win or lose.
Already things are looking up for Sharapova in her section of the draw with the dismissal of former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round. Now standing in Sharapova’s path to the quarters is a betting-odds lightweight in Mathilde Johansson up first, followed by either Kiki Bertens or Flavia Pennetta or Sloane Stephens.
The first real stumbling block is a potential showdown against Sara Errani, listed at 20/1 at Ladbrokes to win outright, in the quarters. Errani goes into Rome on form, having reached the semis in Madrid (l. to Williams in straight sets ), and she has home ground advantage over Sharapova. Arguably, on paper, based purely on form, she has the best shot to deliver on early upset of Sharapova.
If Sharapova reaches the semis a whole slew of ladies could emerge to challenge her, including Victoria Azarenka who is listed at future betting odds of 6/1 to win outright. Azarenka suffered an early exit in Madrid so she’ll be looking to do better in Rome. Petra Kvitova, listed at 25/1 is another potential dangerous floater in Rome, as well as the tandem of Ana Ivanovic and Samantha Stosur, both of whom are listed at 50/1 to win outright at Ladbrokes.
Tennis betting Verdict: Last week’s Madrid Open fell in line with market expectations on two counts: when it yielded a Serena-Sharapova final and then yielded Serena as the winner. This week, despite market expectations remaining exactly the same, punters aren’t as confident the results will be exactly the same. Well, not where Sharapova is concerned. The overriding opinion is that surely Sharapova will be suffering some hangover effects from Madrid which would make her ripe for the upset somewhere down her path. What do you think?Tennis Free Picks: Serena Williams over Li Na in the semis; Azarenka over Sharapova in the semis. Williams over Azarenka in the final.