WTA Eastbourne: Pliskova ready to dominate on grass

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TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) returns with his best bets from this week’s WTA Eastbourne Open.

WTA Eastbourne | 26th June – 1st July 2017 | Eurosport

This week’s biggest tournament takes place in Eastbourne, as the top WTA players battle it out in the final Premier Level grass event of the season.

Several of the leading WTA players take to the grass for the first time this season, having opted to rest since the gruelling clay swing. This is particularly true of French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, finalist Simona Halep and semi-finalist Karolina Pliskova.

Also returning to the tour is the out of form world number one Angelique Kerber, who is way short of the player that won two Grand Slams last year.

There’s a 48 player field this week, and plenty of betting opportunities to be had.

Early Wimbledon value

With Wimbledon in mind, there are a couple of players and prices that you must consider in the outright markets of the women’s draw. Those who follow me on Twitter will be aware that I took a position on Coco Vandeweghe last week at a big 23/1.

The American is a cocky character with a big game tailor made for grass. After blasting the tournament’s third favourite – Johanna Konta – off court for the loss of only four games last week she can now be found at 20/1 (188BET).

Despite retiring against former Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza last week, in a match in which she looked the superior player, I wouldn’t put anybody off backing her.

The other player is Karolina Pliskova, who can be found at a comparatively skinny 11/2 (888). However, she looks the player best equipped to win that tournament and her price will only narrow if, as I predict, she has a successful week in Eastbourne.

Last week’s Queen’s Club did not go according to plan as Nick Kyrgios retired hurt in the first round, whilst Milos Raonic badly disappointed losing as a sub 1.2 shot to Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Let’s hope for better this week. As ever I use statistics that I have compiled and interpreted to analyse the draw quarter by quarter to discover the best value bets. Using this method I am over 100 units up for the season. You can track my progress here.

Quarter 1

Doubts exist over the wellbeing of Angelique Kerber, who withdrew from last week’s event in Birmingham. If the world number one has overcome her troubles she should go well this week.

Kerber is an abysmal clay courter but loves the grass and tends to start the grass court season with a bang. She won Birmingham in 2015, was runner-up at Wimbledon 12 months ago and made the Eastbourne final in both 2014 and 2012.

This week the bookies suggest she is second favourite to Johanna Konta to even make it out of the quarter. Konta is the second highest seed in the quarter, and oddsmakers overrate her potential ability on this surface.

The Brit lost a final on grass in Nottingham in a field where she was by a distance the highest ranked participant. This does not equate to form. Konta has finished as a semi-finalist and quarter-finalist here in the past two seasons but I would not favour her over Kerber should they meet.

Outside of Kerber and Konta stands French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. I have studied player performance on the WTA tour following a breakthrough slam win, and there is usually a substantial form dip in the following weeks and months.

This was true for even Serena Williams, and so it is better to treat Ostapenko with caution in the coming weeks. Ostapenko has won the Junior Wimbledon singles title previously but the emotional effect of winning the first major title only two weeks ago is the more important factor.

Bet365 price Kerber to escape the quarter at 7/2. Given her record and ability on the grass this is a more reasonable price than Konta at 5/2.

Quarter 2

Karolina Pliskova has opted to start her grass court season a week later than was advertised but she should have fully recovered from what should be considered as a French Open overachievement, and fresh to do some damage on a surface that in theory fits her game well.

Pliskova has done well on grass before, and has a big opportunity to become the world number one in a couple of weeks time. She has never been beyond the second round at Wimbledon, which seems unthinkable given her style of play and the elevation in her game in the past 12 months.

Last year’s Eastbourne runner up has a tricky first round meeting with Alison Riske, who plays her best ball on grass courts. Beyond that though it would be a surprise to see Pliskova lose before the semis.

Timea Bacsinszky can be hit off a grass court, Kristina Mladenovic looks uncomfortable on this surface and Svetlana Kuznetsova hates both wind, which is certain to blow hard in Eastbourne, as well as performing poorly on this terrain.

Considering Pliskova is the outright favourite for Wimbledon at 11/2 (888), to find her at the same price to win this event especially with her draw seems decent value to me.

Quarter 3

The third quarter looks open, and provides a possibility for one of several decent grass courters to fine tune their Wimbledon preparations with a good run this week.

Agnieszka Radwanska has struggled badly this season and her lack of tennis in recent months suggests some ongoing injury problems. Some commentators have predicted that grass offers a perfect chance to return to form but an examination of her career history on this surface suggests otherwise.

Radwanska has made a Wimbledon final, and the Eastbourne final in 2015 but outside of these results she has some consistently underwhelming surface form for a player of her ranking.

Garbine Muguruza is another Wimbledon finalist but it is very hard to predict exactly when she turns it on. She followed a fortunate victory over Vandeweghe with a poor defeat to Ashley Barty in Birmingham to cast further doubts on where the Spaniard’s game is right now.

There are hazards in the early rounds for both Radwanska and Muguruza who will have to overcome the likes of Julia Goerges, Cici Bellis, Eugenie Bouchard or Barbora Strycova. It is better to look in the less crowded bottom section of the quarter for a player to progress.

Dominika Cibulkova is priced at a large 9/1 with Bet365 to get out of her quarter. The Slovakian is in poor form but she is the defending champion and showed signs of life last week in Birmingham.

Quarter 4

Simona Halep is the biggest seed in this quarter and makes a return to action for the first time since her major disappointment at the French Open. The Romanian led Jelena Ostapenko by a set and a break but failed to close out the match against the teenager. There will likely be a heavy hangover for Halep and there is a good opportunity to oppose her in Eastbourne.

Petra Kvitova looks to be building form on her beloved grass, making the final in Birmingham last week, but I would be surprised if she continues this level given the little amount of tennis she has played since the attack she suffered at the start of the year.

Elena Vesnina knows how to play well on grass, and has won Eastbourne before. The Russian has had a poor couple of months and it is better to treat her cautiously until her form shows signs of recovery.

The player I’m supporting to make it out of the quarter is Caroline Wozniacki at 6/1 with Bet365. The Dane likes Eastbourne and after a quarter-final finish at the French Open looks well positioned to get some results on the grass. There is always the danger that Wozniacki gets hit off the court by a player such as Kvitova, but she is worth chancing this week.

Best Bets

WTA Eastbourne – Karolina Pliskova to win outright (11/2 BetVictor)

WTA Eastbourne – Angelique Kerber to win Quarter 1 (7/2 Bet365)

WTA Eastbourne – Dominika Cibulkova to win Quarter 3 (9/1 Bet365)

WTA Eastbourne – Caroline Wozniacki to win Quarter 4 (6/1 Bet365)

Wimbledon – Coco Vandeweghe to win outright (20/1 188Bet)

Wimbledon – Karolina Pliskova to win outright (11/2 888)

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