Although Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are giving this event a skip, rest assured the 56-player draw is stacked with depth and talent and that promises an exciting week of tennis. In fact, tennis bettors can look at their absence as a good thing because without them in the draw (well, Serena in particular) the event becomes a wide open affair, the title up for grabs by any of the top favourites, or better yet an outside shot entirely. To put it simply, there are plenty of angles for profit.
Betting on the tournament winner
Top seed Victoria Azarenka becomes the de facto top favourite to win the tournament in lieu of Serena and Sharapova’s absence. Yet, she doesn’t have the market cornered as her odds are listed just long of even money at +138 at Bet365 to win outright. The good thing about that price tag is it does make her a value bet as well as the favourite. So those looking to shade in Azarenka as their tennis pick to win outright should do so with measured confidence.
It helps as well that she is one of the more consistent players on the WTA Tour and that she’s only lost a handful of matches this year. Translation: she regularly promises value.
There is no question that Azarenka is the ‘on paper’ favourite and that she is a good bet to win this tournament. But is she the best bet in Tokyo?
It’s hard to ignore what the price tag partly reflects; that is, her treacherous draw which is littered with threats and dangerous floaters right from the start and through which navigating a course to the quarterfinals, never mind to the title, is going to be a test of her fortitude and merit as the favourite. Add to that a possible intangible effect of post-US Open hangover: losing to Serena in the final for a second straight year could not have been easy for the Belarusian and it remains to be seen how motivated she’ll be for Tokyo after missing so narrowly on a most coveted prize. And you have a recipe for a possible upset of Azarenka happening particularly in the early goings.
If you are inclined so there are several players that leap off the page with a good shot at the upset. In fact, right off the bat. Azarenka opens her campaign against Venus Williams, who is a long shot for the title at +6600 but, conversely, is deemed a modest and viable threat in match betting markets. Venus is listed at +350 at William Hill whilst at +400 at Bet365. Former World No.1 Venus is always a dangerous floater even if her heyday is behind her, make no mistake.
A couple of other players that loom threatening are Simona Halep (+3300 to win outright) and Sloane Stephens (+1600 to win outright), in the third round and quarterfinals respectively. The Romanian is a revelation this season in winning three titles across several surfaces and rocketing up the ranks. While Sloane Stephens has earned the moniker of giant slayer for her penchant for upsets – her most memorable was beating Serena at the Aussie Open quarters to send seismic shockwaves through sports betting markets around the world.
In fact, if this blockbuster quarterfinal does emerge, putting down a wager on Sloane Stephens to beat Azarenka could be a savvy side choice for your sports picks.
Granted the American has yet to reach a WTA final let alone win a title. She’s still going through the maturation process, learning how to deal with expectations and pressure and how to convert big upsets into a sustainable title-winning run. Reaching her full potential however is really only a matter of time. The important thing is she has the potential and who is to say that potential won’t be realized in Tokyo this week?
That said if all goes to form and Azarenka overcomes all obstacles to reach the semis, the opposition perceptibly thins on the ground from then onwards which only means one thing: her odds will shorten as her chances of winning the title greatly improve.
Potential top semifinalist picks such as Kvitova (+1000), Svetlana Kuznetsova or Sara Errani appear to be manageable opposition for Azarenka. That is not to say they couldn’t beat her – well, Kvitova and Kuznetsova on a good day could do so convincingly. Errani however would be a long shot. In any event, all have been too inconsistent of late to earn our serious consideration as value picks.
Finally, the finalists that could emerge from the bottom-half of the draw are mostly modestly attractive options, hardly worth their quoted price tags save for an in-form Agnieszka Radwanska (tipped at +400 to win outright at Bet365) and maybe even US Open semi-finalist Flavia Pennetta and Angelique Kerber. Radwanska has the best shot to beat Azarenka of the lot, making her a good choice for your sports picks for the outright win. The other two mentioned above would be best served (in our opinion) in each-way bets if they tickle your fancy.Verdict: Strictly speaking this is Azarenka’s tournament to lose and hence she is indeed the best bet to win outright at +138 at Bet365. Yet as she has the toughest draw of the lot the possibility for an outside pick does open up. Towards that end Radwanska looks like great value because of a recent surge in form, a favourable draw and tempting +400 odds. If you are looking for a quintessential outside pick to win the event, Stephens looks like the one for outright value here at +1600.