WTA Australian Open Picks & Futures

Nila Amerova

Sunday, December 8, 2013 6:19 PM GMT

Let’s look ahead to the 2014 Australian Open Futures currently in full swing on the WTA Tour and analyse where the value tennis picks can be found. 

With the curtain dropping on 2013, an exciting year in tennis brimming with drama and intriguing plotlines converging, and tennis players enjoying a well-earned respite, we look ahead to the 2014 Australian Open and the early WTA futures odds currently in full swing.

It should come as no surprise that the 17-Grand Slam champion and ‘Player of the Year’ in 2013, Serena Williams, has the Australian Open 2014 market cornered. By all accounts, 2013 was one of her best seasons ever – even she coyly agrees with that assessment, “I can’t say it’s the best season. I can’t say it’s not the best.” [Quote Source: tennis.com.] And bookies firmly expect she will continue that momentum into the new season with fancied early odds across the board for all the majors.

Save for a few naysayers who trot out her age (32) as a mitigating judgement for their ominous predictions on the year, there is no reason to believe Serena will not continue on that momentum. When the evidence deposited in 2013 contradicts such ageism and when she’s established she is the player to beat in 2014. That and the lack of credible “hunters” lurking amongst the delicate flowers of the WTA Tour, players with the requisite consistency and hunger for winning to thoroughly challenge Serena’s place atop the game and at the vanguard of tennis betting markets.

Overwhelmingly regarded as the greatest player of all time (GOAT), Serena started and finished the year as the No.1 player, won 11 titles of which two were Grand Slams (a second French Open and fifth US Open, second straight) and stared down just about every blossoming starlet and established flora to tot up a 78-4 mark on the season.

Serena won the Australian Open five times and sportsbooks list her as the -110 odds on favourite to win her sixth title. Only Victoria Azarenka is considered a viable threat amongst pundits and odds makers who list her as the second favourite at +333 at Bet365. Azarenka is the two-time defending champion and she will be aiming to make it three in a row at the upcoming Melbourne showpiece, where she does play some of her best tennis arguably. 

The last Grand Slam Maria Sharapova won was the 2012 French Open and although she did reach the 2013 French Open final (lost to Serena) she didn’t reach any other Grand Slam final that year. She did reach the Australian Open semis last year and, as such, sportsbooks enter her into the 2014 Australian Open market as the third favourite at +800 at Bet365.

The one tiny problem (quite minor really, only the keenest eye for detail would have noticed it) is the Russian starlet hasn’t played since Cincinnati when she went out in the first round. Injuries forced her to throw the towel in during the second half of 2013. Therefore it remains to be seen where her form truly lies at the start of the season and whether she can underscore those rather favourable odds (given all the question marks hanging over her) at all. That she might she pull a Rafael Nadal on 2014 is a lovely thought but highly unlikely; it’s a feat within Serena’s domain rather than hers.

After the dual-ova threat, there is a significant spike in the odds which in tennis betting terms symbolises a demarcation line between the contenders and pretenders. Players like Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska fall into this group of pretenders and you’ll find them listed (in above listed order) anywhere from as low as  +1000 to a high of +2500, depending on the online sportsbook of choice.

After the group of pretenders the outsiders come into play, an attractive bunch with loads of talent but all of which flattering to deceive in one way or another. Of this lush group Sloane Stephens is the player that practically leaps off the page. Many experts hold high hopes for the rising American star that did reach the semis in Melbourne last year (l. to Azarenka) and is on offers of +3300 to win the title.

Another promising hopeful is Sabine Lisicki who was a Wimbledon finalist, beating Serena en route to the title match. But at staggering tennis odds of +6600 she’s quite a long shot bet at the moment; incidentally, her price-point is shared by Caroline Wozniacki, a former World No.1 but now on the brink of the Top 10 and no real quantifiable signs of improvement in her game to make her add value to her stock.

Tennis betting Verdict:

It’s true that the women’s game is more wide open than the men’s game and has been so for some time and there are some standout pretenders, but considering them as your tennis pick at this early vantage point wouldn’t be prudent, no matter how tempting the odds are. In fact, it’s a bit of a disservice really to have such tempting tennis odds nestled next to their names because only a handful has championship credentials (mostly one-offs). And not until the season gets underway will we get a sense of their form going into the Australian Open and thus potential to actually launch a concerted challenge. It also helps to know the draw before piling onto any of these tempting morsels. The better it is the greater the chance of a Cinderella run a la Bartoli there is. The case is made even stronger against pounding one of the outsiders, not least because it would be a bold move indeed to consider without anything tangible.

That neatly brings us back to the top trio in the women’s game, the only triplet in today’s game that can be truly trusted to compete at a Grand Slam. No matter the draw, no matter their form ahead of the majors, they just know how to raise their games when it’s needed most. Simply put, these are no wilting flowers. They play at a much higher level than the rest of the field of flora and that trust kind a trust correlates to value in tennis betting.

Sensibility in sports betting is something we encourage and so towards that end, we’d suggest either Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka as the best tennis pick of the lot. Or better yet throw them into an each-way bet and cover both bases. Sharapova because of the injury question mark we’ve put on the back burner for now. And not until the season gets underway and the draw is out are we prepared to flirt with the idea of a pretender or contender winning the 2014 Australian Open.