CLOSE to a 450/1 winner for us last year in ladies tennis, Mark Stinchcombe (@markstinchcombe) is here with his view on the Australian Open.
Womens's Australian Open | 18th January – 31st January 2016
The women's draw at the Australian Open looks set to be one of the most open in recent memory with no fewer than the top 7 seeds already withdrawing from tournaments this season.
It is nearly four years since Serena Williams was not the favourite and she arrives here as the 10/3 jolly. Serena has won eight of the last 14 slams and in normal circumstances the 10/3 would be piled into but the reason for the price is it has been four months since she's completed a competitive match – the shock US Open semi-final defeat to Roberta Vinci – as she withdrew from the Hopman Cup with a knee injury and recent reports suggest she's still struggling.
Other seeds with injury issues are include Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber. These are all players that I want to avoid given their fitness problems.
Other negative factors include Halep's ability to seemingly ‘choke' at slams despite her consistency – last year she lost as 3/10 favourite in the US Open semi, 1/18 in round one of Wimbledon, 1/20 in round two of the French Open and 1/3 in the quarter finals this time last year in Australia.
For me Radwanska will never have the game to win a slam. Her consistency in winning matches is somewhat admirable but her limited weapons don't make her a threat, particularly given the speed of Australian courts.
Looking further down the seeds we come across second favourite Victoria Azarenka at just 4/1. The previous two time winner and recently crowned Brisbane champion justifies her 4/1 price but I'm not fully convinced she's back to her best despite her efficient looking 6-3 6-1 victory over Kerber in the final.
Vika is 6-0 v Angelique now and reports suggested it wasn't the mauling the scoreline suggests and given the head-to-head one could assume the result was inevitable anyway.
Her serve is still inconsistent and even she seems to admit she isn't back to her best. “I don’t really call it comeback. I don’t think there is a name for it,” she said. “I think it’s more for you guys to put it as a headline. For me, it’s like you’re reading a book and you just turn the page. That part of it was over. You just flip the page. I think that’s exciting. I can’t wait the to read the next page.”
Another thing that has held Vika back at slams is given her drop down the rankings meaning she doesn't always have the easiest draw and enters as 14th seed.
Wonderkid and number 12 seed Belinda Bencic is most certainly one to keep and eye on but her start to the season hasn't been the best. Defeated by Sally Crawford in round two of Brisbane by Sally Crawford as a 1/16 fav then having to retire against Monica Puig in the semi's of Sydney having lost the first set 6-0.
With all the negativity surrounding the top players in the betting and seeds, it's slightly further down this pecking order I'm looking towards with two players who both have course form.
Firstly Sloane Stephens at 50/1. Semi-finalist in 2013, the recently crowned Auckland champion has the power to hit her opponents off the court.
In-fact it's Azarenka that's defeated her in all of the last three tournaments here and with the Belarusian in the other half that isn't anything we have to worry about until potentially the final. She's also more than capable of beating the best here having taken down both Serena and Halep.
My other pick in the women's section is in the opposite half of the draw and comes in the form of one of last year's semi-finalists Madison Keys at 66/1.
Again like Sloane, Madison has the power to cause her opponents problems and pushed Serena last year in her straight sets defeat. Again she's capable of beating top players here with the straight sets defeat of Kvitova noticeable and once again only Serena preventing her going further at the other hard court slam in USA.
As already mentioned the Women's tournament is one of the most wide open in recent memory so take a chance on a couple of big odds each-way both of whom are young and upcoming and have previously just been one round away from at least landing a huge place price.
Women's Australian Open 2016 – Sloane Stephens each way (50/1 Sportingbet)
Women's Australian Open 2016 – Madison Keys each way (66/1 Sportingbet)
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