US Open 2019 WTA Preview

The 4th and final grand slam is upon us, it’s US Open time! For the last time this season we get a fortnight chock full of the very best tennis the sport has to offer. The US Open is special for me, because it’s in my home country just a few hours away from where I live. Being in the United States, I often forget how many fans of tennis there actually are. For the next 2 weeks people at work, family, friends, and almost anyone I run into will be happy to chat about tennis and excited to watch some of the world’s greatest players display all the skills, talent, and (hopefully) mental fortitude that make them the top players in the world. There’s tennis in the air and it smells oh so sweet!

Unlike their male counterparts, the women should have a very exciting tournament that is wide open for anyone to win. Last year’s champion, Naomi Osaka, comes into the event in less than good form and hasn’t won more than 3 matches in a row since the Australian Open. Serena Williams continues to play well but has retired/withdrawn from several events and one has to question her body’s ability to play two consecutive weeks of top level tennis. In a year with few repeat champions you would be foolish not to consider any and everyone to win this tournament. With that, let’s look at some historical data and break down each quarter to see what value there might be and hopefully pick a winner.

HISTORICAL GAME TOTALS & MATCH SPREADS

The tables below show what % of matches have gone over certain totals at the US Open and hard court tournaments in general. For example, in the top table you can see that in the round of 64 at the US Open 51.4% of matches have gone over 19.5 games versus 51.8% of your average hard court match that goes over 19.5 games in the round of 64. The idea is to give us a feel for how the US Open compares to the average hard court tournament and get a feel for match length in the US Open in general. As you compare the “All Rounds” line you see things at the US Open are pretty close to your average hard court event, but as you look round to round you can see some slight differences. The earlier rounds look to be a little shorter than average and markedly shorter in the later rounds. Perhaps the better players know they have a long fortnight in front of them and do their best to win their early matches in short order to save energy, but this is simply conjecture. I’m going to be careful taking overs, but just avoiding smaller edges, not avoiding them entirely.

The tables below show what % of matches were within a certain spread at the US Open and hard court tournaments in general. For example, in the top table you can see that in the round of 32 at the US Open 21.5% of matches finished with a spread less than 3.5 games versus 21.2% of your average hard court matches that finished with a spread less than 3.5 games in the round of 32. Here we hope to glean an understanding of how tight matches tend to be at the US Open and how they compare to your average hard court event. Take a look at the all rounds row for 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5. All 3 numbers occur at lower rates, between 10% & 20% lower, at the US Open versus your average tournament. Said another way, fewer match spreads were lower than 3.5. This lines up with what we saw in the totals. In general, when matches are shorter it means that someone won by a lot. I rarely, if ever, take an underdog spread lower than +4 games, but for the next fortnight I will be even less likely than normal to do so.

QUARTER 1

The top half of the quarter features Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff, and Belinda Bencic amongst other good players, but let’s focus on these 3. I led this piece with my misgivings about Ms. Osaka. She is the defending champion and won the other hard court slam this season, but hasn’t looked her best in weeks if not months. She withdrew from her last match with a knee injury and although I haven’t seen anything about that being a problem it is less than ideal. Looking at my various books, I’m seeing a price on her around 11-1 pricing her as the 3rd to 6th most favorited player in a tier with Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova, and Bianca Andreescu. I’m not ready to jump on board with her being one of the 6 most likely candidates to win this event. I’ll pass on Naomi.

I’m going to say this very slowly, because I want you to pay attention. In fact, let’s even give it’s very line:

DO NOT BET ON COCO GAUFF TO WIN THE US OPEN

You know, one more time just to make sure we’re clear on this:

DO NOT BET ON COCO GAUFF TO WIN THE US OPEN

I know that she’s in her home country and she was super dee duper dee fun to watch earlier this year, but we need to be smart when it comes to our money. I’m seeing her in the 40-1 range ahead of a long list of players that have this event, a slam in general, or are clearly more likely to play 2 great weeks of tennis than the 15 year old. 16 year old Martina Hingis & Tracy Austin did win this event, but those were in 1997 & 1979 respectively. The WTA has too much talent to really believe a 15 year old will win this event, so please

DO NOT BET ON COCO GAUFF TO WIN THE US OPEN

***FULL DISCLOSURE – I really hope she does win and I’m bombarded of screen shots of the previous section***

Now for someone I actually want to bet on, Belinda Bencic. Now, some of you should be saying to yourselves, “but she retired in her last match too!” and you would be correct. She had a left foot injury against Victoria Azarenka. The difference between her and Osaka? The price! Bencic is 45-1 at Nitrogen and at least 40-1 elsewhere. She has a very similar profile, but has 4 times the value. The two seemed destined to meet in round 4 for a chance to make the quarterfinals. I like Bencic in that match. She’s got the same level of talent in my opinion and has already beaten Osaka twice this season. I’m going to put half a unit on Bencic to win the tournament. I also like Benic to win this quarter. She’s priced at 12-1 behind Osaka, Sabalenka, Bertens, and Gauff (BAHAHAHA). I’m going to add another half unit on her to win the quarter.

The bottom half of the first quarter is very problematic for me. My very favorite, although maligned, player Aryna The Amazonian Warrior Princess Sabalenka sits at the top and Kiki Bertens, on or against whom I haven’t won a bet probably ever, sits at the bottom. Sabalenka faces Victoria Azarenka in round 1 which makes either woman hard to bet on in the outright market. The market likes Sabalenka, she’s priced 30-1, more than Azarenka, who’s priced at 70-1, but at those numbers Azarenka would be my pick, but I’m staying away from either. It’s just better for my healthy & sanity to not bet Kiki Bertens, so I’m going to hope she gets knocked out by Pavlyuchenkova, Goerges, or Vekic knock her off before she gets to Ms. Bencic.

QUARTER 2

I see just 2 names that matter in the top half of this quarter, Bianca Andreescu & Simona Halep. They both have very manageable draws and seem destined to meet in the 4th round.  Halep is one of the best players in the world and Andreescu is 35-4 on hard courts this year with titles in Auckland, Newport Beach, Indian Wells, and Toronto. Halep will be favored when they meet, but I’m going to happily bet Andreescu as the underdog. She can do just about everything anyone needs to do a tennis court. She can serve well, has power, moves well, and most importantly, she is one of the mentally toughest players on tour. Stores of her meditation have been spread far and wide and regardless of how you feel about that her performance on court all year has been astounding. She is only 19 years old and is able to focus herself and channel her energy into positive play. I love Halep, she is one of the 3-5 best players on tour, but on hard courts I don’t think she’s as better than Andreescu as the market thinks. Halep is 1.5-1 to win the quarter while Andreescu is 3-1. I’m going to put a full unit on Andreescu to win the quarter at 3-1 and another full unit on Andreescu to win the tournament at 14-1. I expert her dominance on hard courts to continue.

On the surface, there’s so big names in the bottom half of this quarter, but at a deeper look I think this half is pretty wide open. Sloane Stephens just reunited with Kamau Murray, her coach when she won this event in 2017. There’s a lot of hype around that, but as Serena Williams reminded us last year there is no on court coaching at grand slams. Murray will be able to help her before and after matches, but the most critical help for Stephens is during matches and she won’t have access to that. She’s priced around 30-1 to win the event which would normally be an appealing number, but she hasn’t looked close to her best all season and I’m hard pressed to think she’s going to suddenly find her form. Like Coco Gauff, I would love to be wrong about this.

Petra Kvitova is also in the bottom half and if healthy could be a threat. That is a particularly big if these days, so there is a great chance to find a value pick in the to win the quarter market. Alison Riske isn’t the same off grass. Svetlana Kuznetsova has been on fire, but at 16-1 I’m not thrilled to bet her since she gets Stephens in round 2. Elise Mertens is the name that sticks out to me. She plays a clay courter, Pliskova the lesser, maybe Kvitova/Petkovic/Buzarnescu and then Kuznetsova/Riske/Stephens to make the quarterfinals. That’s a very manageable draw and at 22-1 I think there’s great value on her to win the quarter. I’m going to put half a unit on Mertens at 22-1 to win the quarter. Let’s hope she can take advantage of her spot in the draw and build on her 4th round finish last year.

QUARTER 3

The top half of this quarter is extremely tough. Svitolina, Yastremska, Kenin, and Keys all sit in this half of the 2n quarter. Svitolina’s troubles in grand slams are well documented. She has never made it past the 4th round at this event. Even at 26-1 to win the tournament and 7-1 to win the quarter I can’t place a wager. Madison Keys was in excellent form winning Cincinnati last we saw her. She made the semifinals of this event last year and the finals the year before losing to Stephens. She’s 14-1 to win the event and 4-1 to win the quarter. Those numbers are just about right given her draw. She gets a rematch with Kenin in round 3 and the winner of Yastremska/Svitolina in round 4 and that only gets her to the quarterfinal. I’m going to pass on Madislam at those prices, but I do think she has a shot to finally win this event. Kenin’s pricing is about the same as Svitolina and she has the same tough draw as Keys. The pricing I do like is for Dayana Yastremska. She’s 55-1 to win the tournament and 10-1 to win the quarter. She has cheaper pricing than Keys & Kenin with a slightly easier draw. She does have to get past Svitolina, but she has the game to do. She moves well, is a tremendous returner, and has enough smarts to get past Svitolina. After that she gets whoever comes out of Kenin/Keys and I expect the winner of that match to be fatigued. She’s in a good spot to get to the quarterfinals and I like her chances to beat whoever comes out of the bottom half and at those prices I can hedge anyway. Half a unit on Yastremska 50-1 to win the event and 10-1 to win the quarter.

Karolina Pliskova is the biggest name in the bottom half and one of the 3 to 6 highest favorites to win the event, but I hate her draw. We’ll see what qualifier she gets in round 1, but that should be someone in form then Pera in round 2, and Brady or an in form Garcia in round 3. That is a rough first 3 matches and she still has to win 1 more to make the quarterfinals where she’ll face the aforementioned 4 good players from the top half. I can’t touch her at that pricing. Jo Konta has lost in the first round in her last 2 US Opens and has never made it past round 4. Pass on her. The name I do like is Ekaterina Alexandrova at 33-1 to win this quarter. She should walk into the 4th round and should have a real chance to beat Pliskova and at 33-1 I can probably hedge there and the quarterfinals if I’d like. She has some great numbers on hard courts and a manageable draw. Half a unit on Alexandrova to win the quarter.

QUARTER 4

This is the Serena Williams quarter. As I’ve written before and mentioned on the @NetWorthPod, Serena’s involvement creates some great prices. She is playing better each tournament as she gets into better shape, but you cannot trust her body to hold up for 2 weeks at this point. She has some tricky matches along way too. Sharapova, McNally, Hsieh, and Swiatek/Martic sit in her way to the quarterfinals. At her best, Serena should dispatch of them all with ease, but all 4 have enough talent to make her work and if you can survive to the 3rd set who knows what happens. On top of all that she is favorite to win the event and quarter and I will not get involved in either. Of course, her presence also precludes me from betting anyone in the top half of the quarter. I’ll watch plenty of Serena this week to see what her form looks like, but I’ll be hard pressed to wager on her.

The #2 seed Ashleigh Barty is in the bottom half of this quarter and is in a great spot to win this tournament. She’s been playing better each hard court tournament and her losses have been to talented players. Diyas, Davis, and Sakkari should be no problem and I think she handles Angelique Kerber if that’s who’s waiting in round 4. Then in the quarterfinals she might see Serena Williams who she should be able to move around and slice to death. She’ll be favored over whoever wins the 3rd quarter and probably even favored in the finals. Thanks to Serena’s presence here she is 10-1 to win the tournament and 3-1 to win the quarter. Full unit on each.

RECAP

Outright Picks

·         .5 unit – Bencic to win at 45-1

·         .5 unit – Bencic to win the 1st quarter at 12-1

·         1 unit – Andreescu to win at 14-1

·         1 unit – Andreescu to win the 2nd quarter at 3-1

·         .5 unit – Mertens to win the 2nd quarter at 22-1

·         .5 unit – Yastremska to win at 55-1

·         .5 unit – Yastremska to win the 3rd quarter at 10-1

·         .5 unit – Alexandrova to win the 3rd quarter at 33-1

·         1 unit – Barty to win at 10-1

·         1 unit – Barty to win the 4th quarter at 3-1

HEDGING

Good news everyone, we’re in position to lock in some profit. Thanks to Bianca Andreescu, Elise Mertens, and Belinda Bencic we can cover our losses, cover our open futures risk and still walk away with some winnings. I’m going to place 2 wagers on matches to be played September 4th:

5 units to win 2.5 units on Bianca Andreescu at -200 (1,50) odds

2.6 units to win 3.9 units on Donna Vekic at +150 (2,50) odds

This will create at least 8.4 units in earnings to cover our 3.5 units in lost wagers and our 1.5 units in open wagers. So even if Belinda Benic & Bianca Andreescu fail to lift the US Open trophy we still net 3.4 units of profit. Check out the tables below for all the math and feel free to ask me any questions on Twitter @_Noops.