Back to basics today, focussing on only plays that have previews attached instead of simply posting on twitter. I will add to this throughout the day, and I intend on having Thursday’s plays up later tonight.
Elise Mertens vs Daria Gavrilova
Last match of the night, and what a match it promises to be on Rod Laver Arena. Both players have played a LOT of tennis to start 2018, with both players playing in the Hopman Cup, before playing different lead up tournaments in the week before the Australian Open. Mertens managed to defend her Hobart title in what is one of the softer fields you will see for the year (not a surprise the week before a Slam). I think Mertens form is a tad overrated to be honest, and I would much rather take the form around Gavrilova in Sydney and how she looked on Monday as a better indication, especially when you consider she has a few less matches under her belt and some extra rest between her tournament last week and the Australian Open this week.
Mertens made her way through Nara, Haddad Maia, Watson and Buzarnescu to defend her Hobart title, and backed it up with a 6-2 6-1 win over 125th ranked qualifier in Kuzmova, managing to get the job done serving only 55% of first serves in and serving 6 double faults. Gavrilova was equally, if not more dominant, losing only 2 games to Irina Falconi on Rod Laver Arena at night, the same conditions that will be experienced today.
The last few matches from Gavrilova (vs Stosur, Barty and Falconi), we have started to see that spring in the step of Gavrilova, and I think, as long as a solid chunk of the crowd hangs around, that Gavrilova will use her experience on Rod Laver Arena from Rd 1 and previous years, combined with her improved form of late to get the job done here. This match has a very similar feel to Gavrilova’s match a few years ago against Ana Konjuh, where Gavrilova was completely outgunned strength wise, but used her tenacity, speed and court coverage to get the job done.
If Gavrilova plays like she did against Falconi, she will be meeting Alize Cornet on Friday. I think this is her match for the taking, and she should NOT be an underdog to Mertens on home soil. There has been a massive overreaction to the Hopman Cup result, and I am more than happy to take these massive odds.
5 units Gavrilova to defeat Mertens at $2.09 at Pinnacle
Matt Ebden vs Alex Dolgopolov
More than happy to ride the Matt Ebden bandwagon again tonight, however once again I am going to take the safer option of the games handicap as my plan of attack. When you look at the Dolgopolov stats from the first round vs Haier-Maurer, and observe that from a ground stroke only perspective, Dolgopolov had 13 winners and 30 unforced across his forehand and backhand. He also managed to drop his serve 4 times in his straight sets victory, and if he plays to that same level again tonight in front of the all Australian crowd, he is going to have a horrible time on the court.
Ebden did exactly what he needed to do in his opening round match with John Isner, prevailing in 4 sets in a match that didn’t involve a tiebreak, which is quite uncharacteristic for a match involving Isner. Ebden kept his unforced errors to a minimum, and really hounded the serve of Isner as much as he possibly could.
Looking through the historical data dating back to the start of 2015, Dolgopolov has a 5 win and 3 loss record in Grand Slams against players ranked 51-100, right in the Ebden sweet spot.Weirdly, Dolgopolov also holds a 3 win and 4 loss record to players ranked lower than him. Not the best for a player who really had all the makings of beating top flight players on a regular basis.
I trust Ebden here to, if not win, cover the +3.5 games here. I think it is a very tidy start, that will be very hard for Dolgopolov to cover unless he is ‘on’ for the entire match. I backed Ebden in on Monday and he delivered, and on his form, I am more than happy to trust him here again with the home crown.
3.5 units Ebden +3.5 game handicap at $1.96 at Pinnacle
Timea babos vs carla suarez navarro
We can talk all we want about how CoCo Vandeweghe said she felt on Monday, but what I can tell you is Timea Babos played exceptionally well, especially in the key moments throughout the match. Babos was an exceptional 9/10 on break point saves, and 3/4 on break point conversions, which is a very high quality. I don’t buy into CoCo being that under the weather, because she came out quite strong with an early break, before losing the plot and going absolutely off the boil (partly due to the lack of banana waiting for her after the first set. What was most impressive from Babos was the way in which she stepped up in the big moments, particularly behind her seriously impressive backhand. If she plays like she did on Monday again today, she will be in the third round.
I cannot quite fathom why Suarez Navarro is the price she is today. She was gifted passage into the second round thanks to Frech’s inability to pressure the CSN 2nd serve (CSN had a higher 2nd serve winning % than 1st serve), however when you comb through the stats, CSN had more UE’s than winners on both the forehand (17 vs 15) and backhand side (7 vs 6) in general ground stroke play. Unless something dramatically changes and CSN completely reverses the form of the last few months, Timea Babos will deservedly find herself in the third round after their meeting tonight. She has the power and the shotmaking to hit through CSN, and the match is on her racquet. As always, I much prefer to back the player that will dictate (see Allertova earlier today), and I have no reason to change things up today.
4 units Babos to defeat CSN at $1.88 at Pinnacle ($1.90 at Bet365 also)
Marcos Baghdatis vs Andrey Rublev
I obviously underestimated Marcos Baghdatis on Monday, and on reflection it was a really poor mistake from myself. Whilst I was sitting up in the stands watching Simon vs Copil, I was spending more time casting my eye over to the left hand side, over the Andrey Rublev vs David Ferrer. I saw a man really struggling to overcome his mental demons (of which he has personally admitted to having – see his comments after his loss in Doha to Gael Monfils). Rublev should have led 2 sets to 0 after holding a *6-5 tiebreak advantage, before losing both points on serve to drop it 6-8. Rublev then led 2 sets to 1 and with a double break for *5-2, and somehow found himself down a break in the 5th set. Alas, it was as if the pressure valve released when Rublev was finally back as the “underdog”, and Rublev finally got the job done 6-2 in the third set. What you can know is that after 5 sets against the terrier that is David Ferrer, Rublev’s energy reserves will have taken a bit of a hit.
What I am keen to oppose here is the situation of Rublev coming off a 5 setter vs Ferrer, playing in the heat of the afternoon, against a player with arguably the most vocal fan base to be present at Melbourne Park in January. Baghdatis was far too good for Bhambri, and if he plays at that level again, I think the $3 on offer is incredibly exceptional value here. Alas, there is always this lingering thought that Baghdatis may retire as his body isn’t exactly known for always holding up, so i would recommend a play at a bookmaker that will cancel the bet in the event of a retirement
3 units Baghdatis to defeat Rublev at $3 at Bet365
Petra Martic vs Irina-Camelia Begu
Happy to oppose Begu coming off her VERY long 3 setter vs Makarova on Monday. Coming onto the court in the heat of the day, after spending over 3 hours on court vs Makarova on Monday, is a recipe for trouble here, especially when you consider just how well Martic played on Monday as well, defeating Van Uytvanck in straight sets. Martic has been a bit of an anomaly in the last 12 months, playing only 11 tournaments. When you look closer though, you see she has certainly made the absolute most of her opportuities, reaching the 4th round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Some may remember she in fact served for the match vs Svitolina in their 4th round meeting at Roland Garros, before ultimately falling 5-7 in the third set. Long story short, Martic is a big game player, and is not phased by the pressure that comes with being on the Grand Slam stage.
Begu must be hurting after Monday, and coming of what I would consider to be a pretty poor 2017. I think she is ripe for the picking her, and my eyes lit up as soon as I saw Martic put up as an underdog. If Begu gets through here, I am going to have to reconsider her moving forward, as this situation does not present as a friendly one for her.
3.5 units Martic to defeat Begu at $2.21 at Pinnacle
Luksika Kumkhum vs Belinda bencic
Don’t sleep on Kumkhum here. Bencic has had a stellar run over the last few months, but Kumkhum’s 39-13 win/loss record over the last 12 months, including the semi final appearance in Seoul, where Kumkhum went on an absolute rampage, defeating Alexandrova, and Cirstea in straight sets, and taking the first set off Ostapenko before falling in 3. Her last 12 months have yielded wins over the likes of Vesnina, Cirstea, Bogdan, Wickmayer and Diya when she was in some very solid form. Her crafty double forehand and backhand makes for some interesting viewing, but she is incredibly solid, and when she tees off, she really tees off with an exceptional amount of accuracy.
I don’t think Bencic is going to get this all to go her own way today. Yes she did play exceptionally well against Venus on Monday, however the best time to play Venus is in the first round of a tournament, as she can take a little while to blow out the cobwebs.
Whilst I acknowledge just how well Bencic has been playing, there are still some question marks around the second serve in particular. Kumkhum is crafty, and incredibly smart, and I think she has what it takes to win here today. Alas, I am happy to settle on Kumkhum having a 4.5 game start here, in what I believe will be a very competitive match of tennis.
3.5 units Kumkhum +4.5 game handicap vs Bencic at $2.11 at Pinnacle
Caroline Wozniacki vs Jana Fett
Two players I really enjoy to watch, with very differing styles of tennis, meeting on Rod Laver Arena. A pretty good match-up if you ask me! Now I will keep this one quite brief, as there isn’t too much to explain. Wozniacki should win this match-up, as I think this is a level above Fett’s level at present. That being said, I do think Fett has the ability to cover the games total, mainly due to her playing style. When you scroll through all of Wozniacki’s losses over the last 12 months, the common theme is Power. Wozniacki is arguably the fittest player on tour, and she can comfortably run all day long (including her New York marathon about 18 months ago!). The players that have had success against Wozniacki are the likes of Goerges, Garcia, Kvitova, Pliskova, Vandeweghe, Rogers, Ostapenko and Mladenovic, who who can hit with a stack of power. Who else fits this desription? None other than Jana Fett.
Now as much as I would love Fett to win today, I cannot see it happening. Instead, I think she has the ball striking and power to take this match over the 18.5 game total that is currently on offer. She will have patches where she may go off the boil and lose her serve to 0 and 15, but I also think she has the power and the shot making to break Wozniaki a couple of times, as well as hold her own serve. I also look back to her match in Linz last year vs Stycova, a very similar, get-everything-back-and-make-you-play-another-shot type of player, where Fett actually came out all guns blazing and was able to take the first set 6-2, before being overun in the end 3-6 3-6 in the final 2 sets. She has wins over Mladenovic, Barthel, Wang, Cepelova and Hibino, and although they are all a level below Wozniacki (and in some instances many levels below), I think there are signs there that Fett has what it takes to take this match over the games total.
3 units Wozniacki/Fett over 18.5 total games at $2.08 at Pinnacle
Shuai Zhang vs Denisa Allertova
I don’t think Zhang won her first match, I think Sloane Stephens lost it. Zhang really struggled to beat Stephens, who has been terribly out of form since her US Open victory. Stephens at one point actually served for the match, before dropping a tiebreak and ultimately going on to lose the 3rd set 2-6.
Zhang REALLY struggled on serve, something you just cannot do against some of the bigger hitters going around. Zhang won 4 of her first 10 service games, before she had broken the spirit of Stephens, which I don’t think is going to cut it today against Allertova. In fact, 7 of her first 10 service games went to either Deuce or ulitmately Zhang losing serve. Zhang isn’t one of the most powerful hitters on tour, and she does struggle against some of the taller players on tour as well, as shown with the following stat:
- Since the start of 2015, Zhang has a 10 win / 17 loss record against players 5ft10″ and taller (has a 106/73 record in that time span) – Losses have come from players spanning from Pliskova to Barthel/Lepchenko/Shvedova.
In enjoyable news, Allertova is 5ft11″, which fits well into that category, and she is playing some seriously impressive tennis this week. Yet to drop a set (including 3 rounds of qualifying), Allertova is riding a wave of confidence, and will be looking to match her career best 3rd round appearance here two years ago (where she lost to Konta). Allertova was clinical in her first round match, dropping only 3 games to Parmentier on the way to a 6-3 6-0 victory. She served a high percentage, and that was the catalyst for a great performance.
The one thing you really need to go against Zhang is take time away from her. She is a great retriever of the ball, so to beat her and put her on the back foot, you really need to step in behind your serve and groundstrokes to maintain that pressure. When you have a player like Allertova come up against Zhang, it is a really good match up that I think justifies a really solid play at the price on offer. Zhang’s forehand can be a bit of a barometer for her at times, and when Zhang had 14 winners and 22 unforced errors on the forehand side against Stephens, and only generated 2 winners on her backhand during the match, I really cannot justify Zhang being at her current price.
Playing a big striker of the ball against a player who has notoriously struggled against the taller opponent? Seems a match made in heaven for mine.
4 units Allertova to defeat Zhang at $3.31 at Pinnacle