TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) returns to highlight his favourite fancies from the women's side of the WTA Prague tournament.
WTA Prague | 10th-16th August 2020 | Amazon Prime
The WTA made a successful return to action last week in Palermo.Not only was the standard of play high, but more importantly the potential for the Covid-19 pandemic to steal the headlines was more or less avoided. Only one player – who had travelled to Palermo from a red zone – tested positive for the virus at the start of the event and quickly withdrew from the tournament.
The tour rolls on this week to Prague, which throughout recent months has played host to a series of competitive exhibition events.
Czech players have thrived at the WTA tour event in recent seasons. In 2019 Karolina Muchova made the final, in 2018 Petra Kvitova triumphed, in 2017 Kristyna Pliskova was runner-up, in 2016 Lucie Safarova scored the title as did Karolina Pliskova in 2015.
This year however the biggest Czech talents are bypassing the clay event in Prague to better prepare for hard court events in North America. Currently the US Open looks likely to be played at the start of September, albeit without a significant number of the sport’s leading players.
One of the likely absentees from the US Open is world number 2 Simona Halep. The Romanian star is the best clay court player on the planet and if she is in anything like her usual form she should blow the field away and justify the skinny 7/4 for an outright victory.
Halep has been training hard over the past month and had intended to play Palermo last week but viewed travel to Sicily as an unnecessary risk.
Most of the players that you would likely trust to make a run through the tournament have unfortunately landed in the top half of the draw and will probably be swept aside by the reigning Wimbledon champion should they meet.
Anastasija Sevastova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova have claimed victories in exhibition events over the past month so should be positioned to take advantage of any lower standard from Halep, but the Romanian sounds hungry to do well here stating, “I really missed tennis, that’s why I also signed up to play in the doubles event.”
The second quarter is headlined by Dayana Yastremska who in Palermo narrowly lost a high quality hard hitting encounter with Camila Giorgi. The Ukranian should be fresh enough to have a crack at running through this tournament.
The powerful Ukranian landed in a soft draw in Palermo and has been reasonably fortunate in the Czech capital. Palermo finalist Fiona Ferro expended plenty of energy with her efforts last week so I wouldn’t fancy her to follow up her good showing again.
Last week’s showing proved to me that Laura Siegemund is no longer the top tier clay player that she was prior to a series of injuries, whilst Barbora Strycova has hinted at retiring after the Olympic Games – if they are eventually played – and her form in 2020 has suggested that she isn’t long for life on the tour.
In order to oppose Halep I believe the bottom half of the draw offers some value, as an each-way bet would pay out if that player reaches the final. There are some nice priced options at good prices worthy of consideration.
Elise Mertens is the highest seed in Quarter 3, and even though she was far from her best last week in Palermo with a heavy first round loss to Aliaksandra Sasnovich I think this week she could offer some value.
The Belgian thrives on exploiting weak draws and she has lucked out in Prague. First round opponent Jasmine Paolini does not have the weaponry to challenge Mertens, whilst Katerina Siniakova and Camila Giorgi blow hot and cold and would be priced as outsiders to have a good day against her.
The biggest challenge should come from Veronika Kudermetova who has been priced at a ridiculous 66/1 to win this tournament. Kudermetova is destined to become a fixture inside the top 20 ranked players in the world as she possesses a high level playing style that has very few obvious built-in flaws.
Kudermetova’s potential exceeds that of Mertens in my opinion, but I also can’t ignore the 14/1 available on Mertens who is tried and tested in these circumstances. The price is a big enough price to warrant adding to a potential each-way portfolio this week.
The bottom quarter is anchored by two very vulnerable seeded players. Ekaterina Alexandrova unsurprisingly didn’t justify her seeding last week in Palermo, whilst Petra Martic was hampered by injury in her semi-final loss to Annett Kontaveit.
I think there is value to be had in siding with an unseeded player and the name that jumps off the screen is Kristyna Pliskova, who is not only a former finalist in Prague but also was considered the MVP during the various Czech exchibition events that took place in the past couple of months.
At 40/1 Pliskova is also worth an investment.