TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) makes his 2020 bow and highlights top two seeds he reckons will start the season well in Brisbane this week.
WTA Brisbane | 4th -12th January 2020 | Amazon Prime
The 2020 women’s tennis season begins in Brisbane this week amidst the tragic fires that have overwhelmed parts of Australia over recent months. This has encouraged a positive reaction from the great and the good of the tennis tour as several top stars have committed to donating cash for various achievements over the course of their stay Down Under.
Australian sporting idol and the world’s number one ranked player Ash Barty is leading the charge to support ongoing efforts by promising to donate the entirety of her winnings in Brisbane to the cause – a potential £202,000 pay cheque should she lift the title.
Ending the week as champion is not an unrealistic proposition given Barty’s position at the top of the sport. In recent years this Premier level event has been won by a player in the top tier of the women’s game – the winners since 2013 are Serena Williams twice (2013 and 2014), Maria Sharapova (2014), Victoria Azarenka (2016), Karolina Pliskova twice (2017 and 2019) and Elina Svitolina (2018).
Barty starts as 3/1 (BetVictor) outright favourite – an entirely justifiable position given her current ranking and 2019 elevation to the top of the sport, which arguably started with a similar title in Sydney at this stage of the season last year.
The 2019 Australian Sports Personality of the Year constantly states her love for playing in her homeland and I am sure she will be fully motivated to win this event, even if a Grand Slam is on the horizon in just a couple of weeks time.
The path to victory for Barty is tricky but not unmanageable. She may encounter Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova or Sloane Stephens to make the semi-final stage, but she would be considered favourite against any of those players, even before considering that there are specific reasons to doubt each of the three aforementioned players ability to reach the winner’s platform this week.
Perhaps the biggest potential challenge for a dream Barty victory in her homeland will stand in the other half of the draw, where the two standout names are Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova.
Osaka revealed recently that her off-season preparations were hampered due to a shoulder injury, and I would not recommend backing her from the off in Brisbane as her current condition is unknown – even though she has stated to the media that all is well.
The Japanese player is one to watch this week as she is my pick to win the Australian Open at current prices. I am hoping for a healthy but unsuccessful week for the 2019 Australian Open champion.
I therefore think that two-time champion Pliskova is a better bet to win in Brisbane. The big-hitting Czech tends to find a very consistent and high level in Australia, and at Premier events generally. Given her draw, it would be considered an upset to see Pliskova fall before the semi final stage.
As it is early in the season – and only two weeks away from a Grand Slam – an element of caution must be considered, and I do not encourage a breaking of the bank at this event. A small play on both the 3/1 Barty and 6/1 Karolina Pliskova is recommended.