MARK STINCHCOMBE (@MarkStinchcombe) shares his verdict on four fancies from Melbourne on Monday morning.
Angelique Kerber v Annika Beck | Monday 00.00 | Eurosport
Number 7 seed Angelique Kerber goes into this all-German 4th Round match as 1/9 favourite looking to make the quarter-finals here for the first time in her career.
There's a reason she struggles at Slams, particularly Australia, and I'm keen to test her nerve. This is her 10th year here and to only have made this stage twice is poor for a player of her quality.
After her victory in the previous round she said, “I tried not to think of this as a Grand Slam. Treat it like any other tournament.” – which isn't surprising when you look at her Slam record last year – 3rd Round US, 3rd Round Wimbledon, 3rd Round French, 1st Round Australia.
OK she faced Viktoria Azarenka and two v Garbine Muguruza but all four defeats went three sets, so she proved she was capable of probably winning them. But when she realised she was playing in a Slam it all just went to pieces.
Kerber's last three defeats here have been at odds of 1/7, 4/9 and 1/3. She arguably should have lost in the 1st Round as a 1/28 shot against Misaki Doi, having to save match point and on hard court last year she lost 35% of her matches (15 of 43) at prices including 4/11, 4/7, 4/7, 4/9, 4/7, 1/7 and 1/2.
On other surfaces defeats as a heavy fave included 2/7, 1/3, 3/10, 1/3, 4/7, 3/10, 1/4 and 1/2 odds. She is vulnerable at 1/9 on Sunday night.
Annika Beck arrives at this stage in impressive form having dropped just 12 games in her three matches, handing out two 1st set bagels, not conceding more than three games in a set which includes taking out the 11th seeded Timea Bacsinszky.
Performances against other top players on a hard court last year include taking 1st sets off both Karolina Pliskova (Miami) and Simona Halep (Shenzhen) where she was no bigger than 9/2 in either.
She successfully saw off Jelena Jankovic's conqueror in Laura Siegemund in the previous round, who had fired 50 winners past Jankovic, by forcing her into committing 42 unforced errors in just 16 games. This is an area where she could neutralise Kerber tonight with Angelique only recording a +9 winner:unforced error in the tournament so far (77 – 68).
So far we have already lost 24 of the women seeds (75%) at heavy odds-on prices such as 1/6, 2/7, 4/9, 1/6, 4/7, 2/5, 3/10, 1/6, 1/16, 4/9, 2/5, 2/7, 3/10, 1/12, 1/7, 1/9, 1/2. Beck is 8/1. She certainly looks worth a punt at those odds to me.
Viktoria Azarenka v Barbora Strycova | Monday 01.30 | Eurosport
Viktoria Azarenka looks like she might have finally returned to her high level which has already brought her two titles here and tonight's opponent shouldn't prevent any issues getting through to the quarter-finals having won all four of their meetings without dropping a set, including the last two years here.
Vika is demolishing her opponents at the moment having won all of eight matches this year 2-0 by an average of 9.25 games. The line tonight is 6.5 and that looks to be at least one too short.
This bet would have won in all of her matches this year plus two of their three hard court meetings. I'm prepared to overlook last years narrow 6-4 6-4 win with Vika struggling with various parts of her game.
However, there looks to be no weaknesses at the moment, even having the confidence to introduce variations in her once troublesome serve with the body serve. Viktoria Azarenka -6.5 games on the handicap is 4/5 with William Hill.
Johanna Konta v Ekaterina Makarova | Monday 04.30 | Eurosport
Johanna Konta has had a fantastic six months but comes up against a very tough opponent in last year’s semi-finalist Makarova.
Konta has breezed her way through to this stage but has been helped a lot by a combination of her opponents’ ability/fitness. Both Venus Williams and Denisa Allertova didn't appear fully fit and Konta's tennis has been solid rather than spectacular.
She's a positive in the winner-unforced error count but only by six and when you compare that with Ekaterina Makarova who has much the bigger game it's going to be difficult to stop her.
Ekaterina fired 35 winners past Karolina Pliskova in just 17 games in the last round and her overall count for the tournament stands at 84 to 51 unforced errors – a positive 33 difference.
She's 4/7 tonight but I think the better bet is the 11/10 (William Hill) Ekaterina covers the 3.5 game handicap with her extra fire power. This bet would have won in 18 of Makarova's last 19 victories here (95%).
Madison Keys v Shuai Zhang | Monday 09.30 | Eurosport
Madison Keys is making hard work of things isn't she? She's dropped the opening set in her last two matches before battling back to win the final set and in the 1st Round had to save three consecutive set points against the serve of Zarina Diyas before winning a narrow tie-break.
However, this isn't surprising with her high risk game of going for so many of her shots meaning her opponent always has the chance of nicking a few cheap points if she doesn't find the court.
Madison leads the head-to-head 2-1 at tour level so it points to things looking close again especially with Zhang yet to drop a set impressively knocking out world number two Simona Halep in the 1st round, as well as recent Hobart winner Alize Cornet in Round 2.
The match odds are tighter than would normally be expected but with Zhang's form she's to be respected. However, with the bigger game the match should be on Madison's racket so I'm going to back her to come through another tight battle again at a price on the value side at 10/3 (Ladbrokes).
Angelique Kerber v Annika Beck – Annika Beck to win (8/1 Bet365)
Angelique Kerber v Annika Beck – Annika Beck to win the 1st set (5/1 Bet365)
Viktoria Azarenka v Barbora Strycova – Viktoria Azarenka -6.5 games (4/5 William Hill)
Johanna Konta v Ekaterina Makarova – Ekaterina Makarova -3.5 games (11/10 William Hill)
Madison Keys v Shuai Zhang – Madison Keys to win 2-1 (10/3 Ladbrokes)
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