TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) returns to highlight his favourite fancies from the women's side of the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships.
WTA Dubai | 17th-22nd February 2020 | Amazon Prime
Three weeks after the end of the first Grand Slam of the season in Australia, most of the world’s top tennis players will return to action this week in Dubai, before heading on to Doha the following week.
In 2020 Dubai is classified as a “Premier” level tournament, whilst Doha is branded as a “Premier 5” event meaning it will have more ranking points and prize money on offer. That is not to downplay the importance on the calendar of Dubai, which is always keenly contested and this year features 11 of the tour’s top 20 players.
Breaking down the event quarter by quarter I have picked a handful of value bets for Dubai.
World number 2 and 2015 Dubai champion Simona Halep leads the draw and the outright betting markets as a 5/1 favourite with various books. The Romanian should be well rested and is in good form since her semi-final finish in Melbourne, having opted out of Fed Cup duties last weekend.
Halep deserves her market status, but I don’t believe Dubai will excite her too much in terms of priority. The two-time major champion justifiably focuses her attention on peaking for the Grand Slam events, and if she can pick up a tournament win here or there along the way then it is a welcome bonus.
The first quarter is stacked full of talent and it would be understandable to see a less determined Halep fall prior to Sunday’s trophy ceremony.
As alternative options my eyes are drawn to Belgian Elise Mertens – a winner at the Premier event in Doha last year, and Qiang Wang of China, who upset Serena Williams at the Australian Open.
The duo are seasoned, quality hard court players and have been drawn to play each other in the first round. Both will fancy their chances at making a run through this tournament, particularly if they find Halep in a less concentrated mood, and should find motivation easier to come by than the top tier players this week.
I will take a small play on the pair to win the quarter as both offer a value alternative to Halep. Back Elise Mertens to win Quarter 1 at 4/1 with Bet365, and Qiang Wang to win Quarter 1 at 10/1 also with Bet365.
Bear in mind that one of these bets will have lost after the first round.
The second quarter again features a star studded cast, as Elina Svitolina is drawn opposite Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza in the seeded positions. Of the pair it is Svitolina who I believe offers betting value.
The Ukranian has had an underwhelming season to date, losing early in both her Australian events before tanking last week in Hua Hin. Whilst Svitolina has not produced good results so far in 2020, I am not deterred to have a bet on her. She looked disinterested in Brisbane, ran into a better player in Australia, and was only in Hua Hin to pocket marketing money.
Svitolina has made at least the semi-final in Dubai for the past four years, winning the tournament outright in 2017 and 2018. She stated last week that Dubai is her favourite tournament of the year, so I believe we might see a motivated Svitolina, who could do with kick starting her 2020 campaign.
Muguruza is usually a risky proposition outside of the biggest events, and I would be surprised if she has suddenly decided to knuckle down and produce consistent week-to-week tennis in 2020.
The rest of the second quarter appears soft, although it would not surprise me to see Svitolina be challenged by her compatriot Dayana Yastremska, who is making a rapid ascent up the rankings.
I believe the 3rd Quarter is incredibly open with several players in contention to qualify for the semifinal stage. 2019 Dubai champion Belinda Bencic is the bookies favourite at a skinny 13/5 to win this quarter, but I am unconvinced by her current form.
Bencic looks physically fitter than ever, and has shown flashes of top tier level tennis in 2020. However, the Swiss is currently lacking consistency and whilst I believe more than ever that she can hit it big this season, I do not believe she will be doing so this week. Bencic could be a more attractive play at higher profile events going forward.
One player that I believe has improved her level in 2020 is Annett Kontaveit. The Estonian made the quarterfinal of the Australian Open, and did it in style by thrashing the aforementioned Bencic in well under an hour.
Kontaveit should be hungry to do well in Dubai as a decent run this week at a Premier level event would signify continued improvement for her. She can be flaky mentally and is far from a serial winner on the WTA tour having only won one career title. That said, I am impressed by the strides forward she appears to be taking and at 25/1 outright she offers potential value.
Back Annett Kontaveit to win Dubai outright at 33/1 with Bet365.
At the time of writing Quarter 4 is incomplete with three qualifiers to be added to the draw, which will be determined after play on Monday. This quarter features Australian Open champion Sonia Kenin, and Brisbane champion Karolina Pliskova, neither of which I believe offer value for success in the short term.
Dubai Tennis Championships – Elise Mertens to win Quarter 1 (4/1 Bet365)
Dubai Tennis Championships – Qiang Wang to win Quarter 1 (10/1 Bet365)
Dubai Tennis Championships – Elina Svitolina to win outright (12/1 Bet365)
Dubai Tennis Championships – Dayana Yastremska to win outright (20/1 William Hill)
Dubai Tennis Championships – Annett Kontaveit to win outright (33/1 Bet365)