The second of the back-to-back premier events in the lead up to the US Open on the WTA Tour gets underway this week in Cincinnati, where things should quieten down a bit after the excitement of all the upsets at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Join us as we preview the draw and serve up our choice tennis picks.
Agnieszka Radwanska and Montreal Takeaways
Agnieszka Radwanska claimed the Montreal title on Sunday, prompting a re-evaluation of her US Open Tennis Odds. What’s more, she comes into Cincy riding the momentum of her win as the fourth favourite at +1000 after going into Montreal matched at +2000 to win outright. Indeed, tennis bettors that took a chance on Radwanska coming through last week were well rewarded for the gutsy choice. However, it’s highly unlikely she’d repeat this week in Cincy for several reasons a) the hangover effect, b) it’s unusual to have repeat champions in the women’s game, bar Serena Williams obviously, and c) she’s in a tough section of the draw.
Venus Williams emerged as the feel good story of Montreal but she’s not alone in that heart-warming group. Former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki enjoyed a solid tournament, as well Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova and American qualifier Coco Vandeweghe who reached the quarters in Montreal.
Players looking to find form in Cincy this week include Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic and Eugenie Bouchard, amongst several others. All considered viable contenders for the Cincy title with a whole lot to prove this week before the US Open gets underway at the end of the month.
Top Half of the Draw
Radwanska falls into the top half of the draw that includes World No.1 and tournament favourite Serena Williams, matched at +200 to win outright. Serena Williams comes into Cincy after a semi-final defeat to Venus Williams (runner-up in Montreal). While Serena was chuffed about her sister’s return to good form, gaining credibility as a contender in both Cincinnati this week (+1400) as well the US Open (+3300), she was immensely disappointed by her own performance. Serena moved into good position to win the match when she took the first set, but she squandered the lead to fall 6-7, 6-2, 6-3, marking her first defeat to Venus in five years. That equates to motivation for the American, which most tennis bettors expect will inspire her class to come through this week.
Serena’s section of the draw isn’t without obstacles. Actually, it’s loaded with threats, big-hitters, attractive up-and-comers and seasoned veterans alike. Once again, she could face Samantha Stosur in her opening match, but if the Aussie proves as ineffective as she was last week this match should be nothing more than a warm up session. Flavia Pennetta could emerge in the R16 and defending champion Victoria Azarenka (+2000) in the quarterfinals, if all goes to plan.
The Belarusian put in a gutsy effort in Montreal, despite a heavily bandaged knee and visible lack of match play. Although she can never be underestimated, the injury question marks alone make a title defence campaign challenging enough, never mind the potential of a rematch of last year’s final with Serena in the quarters. More likely than not, one of these following ladies would emerge into the quarterfinals: Andrea Petkovic (+3300), Sloane Stephens, Jelena Jankovic or Garbine Muguruza (all three at +5000).
Potential semi-final threats to Serena include in-form Angelique Kerber (+2000) and Carolina Wozniacki (+2200), the latter of which almost beat Serena in Montreal. Put herself in a good position to pull off the feat did the Dane, only to succumb in three sets. As well, Sabine Lisicki (+4000) who has beaten Serena previously could emerge into the final four and challenge the great American.
Bottom half of the draw
Venus Williams has managed to avoid Serena in the draw until the final; that is, should the older Williams back-up the Montreal runner-up finish with an equally solid run in Cincinnati. Of the two halves, the best conditions for a concentrated push are in the bottom half, in which Venus happens to be and where she could realistically capitalise if fatigue doesn’t catch up to her.
She’s in Simona Halep’s immediate section, which could go either way. Halep (+800) hasn’t played a tournament in a while so she could either be in fine form or match rusty. Others that could emerge into the quarterfinals along with Venus (or in her stead) include Lucie Safarova, who tested Serena in a straight set defeat in Montreal, Dominika Cibulkova (+4000), Madison Keys and Maria Sharapova (+700), to name a few.
Eugenie Bouchard enjoyed a forgettable Montreal tournament. She enters Cincinnati as one of the players to spot according to bookies at +1600 to win outright, mostly because her overall record on the season and good form. That she’ll be fresh as a daisy, having played just one match in her home premier event, also helps her cause in tennis betting circles.
That said her opening match could be against Washington champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, disingenuously priced at +6600. Or dangerous floater Camila Giorgi could give her a run for her money. Home favourite Cristina Mchale or fan favourite Ana Ivanovic (+1800) loom as a potential third round opponent. While Petra Kvitova, the player that demolished Bouchard in the second set of their Wimbledon final at the All England Club last month, looms as a potential quarterfinal opponent, amongst several others.
Tennis Betting Verdict
While most tennis bettors expect the status quo to be re-established this week in Cincinnati – in other words, looking towards Serena to win outright at +200 on their tennis picks – we can’t rule out the potential for upsets along the way. Undoubtedly, Serena is the player to beat. Whether she admits defeat to another notwithstanding, there are players tennis bettors could shortlist in Serena’s section either upset Serena or benefit from an upset of Serena in the top half of the draw, some of which are Azarenka, Stephens, Muguruza, Wozniacki and Kerber. The best bit: most have managed to win against her at least once in their careers.
From the bottom half of the draw, the top picks for finalist have to be Kvitova (+1100), Bouchard and Sharapova over a fatigued Venus Williams and rusty Simona Halep. Then again both ladies have proven to be the class of 2014 so don’t be surprised if they do deliver on high tennis betting expectations.
Recommended to three picks to win outright
Serena Williams @ +200, Sharapova @ +700, Kvitova @ +1100. Big-priced outsiders and long shots: Bouchard at +1600, Ivanovic +1800 and Wozniacki +2200.