2022 Australian Open Women’s Betting Guide: Where to Find Value With Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka, Emma Raducanu, Other Contenders
Icon Sportswire/Getty. Pictured: Anett Kontaveitt celebrates at the Sydney Classic.
Another Grand Slam has arrived as the Australian Open is set to begin on Sunday, so it’s time to break down the women’s draw.
It feels like the first couple weeks of the season have lasted months, with nonstop talk about COVID, quarantines and vaccines. Well, it’s finally time to get back to the tennis.
Can Ashleigh Barty win her first Australian Open title in her home country? Are there any dark-horse players to consider for the title? How will defending champion Naomi Osaka fare?
Speaking of Osaka, let’s look back at her run during the 2021 Australian Open.
Osaka’s 2021 Australian Open Campaign
A part of me wants to say that Osaka had an easy ride to the title last season. In six of the seven matches she played, she lost a maximum of seven games in a given match, despite a fairly brutal draw.
In the first three rounds, Osaka had to face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Caroline Garcia and Ons Jabeur. Osaka won at least 74% of her first-serve points in those matches and was broken twice in those three matches combined.
Then, came the match. A brutal, three-set battle against Garbine Muguruza which saw her come back from *3-5 15-40 in the third set to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. It was a top-class battle between two Slam champion powerful baseliners, with Osaka having just a touch more controlled aggression, which made all the difference.
From there, Osaka didn’t come close to losing, beating Su-Wei Hsieh, Serena Williams, and Jennifer Brady from the quarterfinals onward to take the title.
In that final against Brady, Osaka played a steady match where she was in total control of her game and let a first-time Slam finalist in Brady falter.
Brady has a good serve and her forehand had been controlling the baseline all tournament, yet she only won 52% of her service points in the match and was broken four times in Osaka’s 6-4, 6-3 victory.
Osaka’s Australian Open victory was the fourth Slam of her career, an extraordinary feat for the (then) 23-year-old.
But, enough about last year. Let’s look more closely at this year’s draw and try to find some value.
Ashleigh Barty (+300)
Yes, this isn’t the most enticing price, but there’s a reason Barty is priced this way. In a draw where unpredictability runs rampant, Barty’s consistently solid, high-level game can be relied upon match after match.
When the Australian’s brutal backhand slice is skidding low in the court, her forehand is firing with impressive controlled aggression and she’s able to come to the net on her terms, then Barty is an absolute nightmare to play.
Because while so many other WTA players have hills and valleys throughout their matches, Barty’s level is top-flight, and it stays top-flight.
The draw is manageable. Barty has a relatively easy first three rounds, but then will (likely) have to play one of Amanda Anisimova, Belinda Bencic or Osaka. The good news for Barty is that only one of those three that can survive and Barty still has enough time to ease into the tournament.
Yes, Osaka being in her section is scary, but I’m not sure Osaka will be mentally engaged and she did pull out of her previous tournament with an injury. This is not the Osaka of last year.
If Barty can make it through that round-of-16 match, there would be very few players in the draw with a legitimate shot to beat her.
No, she has never won the Australian Open before, but she comes into this tournament with one more Slam (and the experience that comes with it) than she did last year, as she won Wimbledon 2021. This feels like it could be her time.
Anett Kontaveit (+1600)
Anett Kontaveit has continued to play the same brand of tennis so far in 2022 that saw her go 22-4 in her matches post-US Open last season.
Throughout this stretch, she has played with controlled aggression and did a great job controlling the baseline. Kontaveit also has a very high tennis IQ and knows the right time to pull the trigger.
With all of this said, Kontaveit’s draw is not easy. She will most likely have to face Clara Tauson in the second round, Danielle Collins or Shelby Rogers in the third round and Elena Rybakina in the round of 16. And this murderer’s row of opposition on hard courts is just to make the quarterfinals.
However, at +1600, especially given the fact that Muguruza is +1200, Iga Swiatek is +1400, and Simona Halep is +1400, it just feels a little disrespectful that Kontaveit is behind those three, given her form.
While Kontaveit did lose in the semifinals of Sydney last week in a third-set tiebreak to Barbora Krejcikova, it might be a good thing for her long-term that she doesn’t have to play another match after spending more than 2.5 hours on-court in the semifinal. A little rest is needed.
Tennis is such a confidence-based sport, and, regardless of the Sydney loss, few players will have as much confidence right now as Kontaveit.
Madison Keys (+5000)
I wanted to throw one long-shot in the mix, and I never would have expected it to be Madison Keys before the season. Yet, given her form in Adelaide last week, Keys has a real shot to go on a run if she can maintain this form.
In Adelaide, Keys has registered impressive wins over Elina Svitolina, Terez Martincova, Ludmilla Samsonova and Coco Gauff. Keys has won at least 74% of her service points and has been broken three times in the four matches.
Keys is serving so well and making the court so small for her opponents, playing a hyper-aggressive game, yet unlike in the past, she doesn’t seem to be giving up her consistency nearly as much as she has in the past.
Of course, there’s a chance Keys’ level of consistency she has found this past week goes down the sewer next week and I look like a fool. But, the two seeds in her 16th of the draw are out-of-form Sofia Kenin and Gauff, who she just beat.
If Keys can make the round of 16, then I don’t doubt that she can hit through eight-seed Paula Badosa in the round of 16 and give herself a real chance to win the tournament.
Keys was a semifinalist back in 2015, even giving Serena Williams a huge fight in the first set before eventually falling 7-6(5), 6-2.
Even so, that type of experience at this tournament means something and I think Keys is undervalued here.
Leave: Aryna Sabalenka (+2800)
There’s a reason the No. 2 seed is +2800 and it’s not worth betting on her, even at that number. Aryna Sabalenka is going through the mental yips right now and cannot even be trusted to win her first round match against Storm Sanders.
In Sabalenka’s first two matches in 2021, she has hit a combined 39 double faults, and has won 22/79 points on her second serve. For a player who, when she’s on her game, can dominate with her typically huge serve, getting broken 15 times in two matches is a bit disturbing.
There’s no value here in Sabalenka until she can prove that her serve is at least somewhat back on track.
Leave: Emma Raducanu (+5000)
Typically, a +5000 underdog wouldn’t be someone who I would advise ignoring, because you would be ignoring it anyways. But, given Emma Raducanu’s incredible US Open run, which saw her qualify and win the title without losing a set, I feel that there would be some temptations to say, “Why not the Australian Open too?”
I don’t want to bash on the 19-year-old, but it’s just best not to expect anything close to what she did at the US Open.
The Brit has gone 2-4 since the US Open and, in her most recent match against Elena Rybakina, won 40% of her service points and 28% of her return points in an 0-6, 1-6 loss. Raducanu is finding that if her timing isn’t perfect against WTA-level players, then she struggles to hold the baseline.
While Raducanu got a good first-round draw against the recently-married Sloane Stephens, it’s very hard to see her going any further than the third round against (most likely) Halep.
Quarter 1 Winner Best Plays
For a full look at the draw, click here.
Ashleigh Barty (+175)
Again, I know she might have to play Osaka, Bencic or Anisimova in the round of 16, but her draw is manageable until then, and I would still have her as the clear favorite against Bencic or Anisimova. I wouldn’t be shocked if Osaka bowed out before the round of 16 anyway.
In the first three rounds, Barty would have to most likely play Tsurenko, Gracheva and Martincova. None of those players have the weapons to make her uncomfortable. A player like Martincova will get a lot of balls back, but Barty is so patient and smart out on the court, she will wait for her chance and take her openings.
In the quarterfinals, if Barty plays nine-seed Jabeur, that would be a relatively straightforward matchup. Jabeur also has a good backhand slice, but Barty’s is better. Barty is steadier from the baseline and has a better serve, as well.
If Barty were to play Sakkari, she would extend rallies and use her forehand to move Barty around the court. But again, there’s nothing Sakkari can do to hurt Barty.
If we’re getting +175 for the best player in the draw with a straightforward path to the round of 16, I think there’s value there.
Leave: Naomi Osaka (+350), Amanda Anisimova (+1200), and Belinda Bencic (+1200)
It pains me to put these in the “leave” section, as all three are ultra-talented, strong on hard courts, and could have gone far in other areas of the draw.
Unfortunately, Bencic and Anisimova will almost certainly play in the second round and the winner likely takes on Osaka, with Barty looming in the round of 16. And that’s only to get to the quarterfinals, let alone win the quarter.
And, as I mentioned before, Osaka pulled out of her last tournament with an injury, has barely played since the Australian Open last year, and who knows where she is mentally.
Do I want to hope and pray that Osaka kicks it into gear when she hasn’t done that in a year? Nope.
Quarter 2 Winner Best Bets
Barbora Krejcikova (+450)
The No. 4 seed Krejcikova has started off 2022 very strongly and is currently in the final of Sydney after an impressive win over Anett Kontaveit.
After 2021 ended with a bit of a dud, this is the type of result that inspires confidence that she’s back on track.
Krejcikova does such a good job of hitting her spots on both her serve and her groundstrokes. She has great depth on her shots and is so tough to break down.
In addition, having won the French Open in singles along with three doubles slams, she has the experience at the end of huge tournaments which will be huge.
She’s also in the other half of the quarter compared to Keys and Badosa, so she’ll only have to play one of them (if any).
Madison Keys (+1200)
I don’t want to be redundant from what I said above, but Keys’ play in Adelaide has been inspiring. She’s always had the power, but this past week she has really brought a level of control to her shots that tennis fans haven’t consistently seen from the American.
This recommendation is under the assumption that she continues to bring her Adelaide form with her to Melbourne, which is no guarantee. But, she has the power to rip through a player like Badosa and make a player like Krejcikova very uncomfortable in the quarterfinals.
At +1200, it’s not a bad play.
Leave: Paula Badosa (+300)
It hurts me to put Badosa in this category, as she’s so improved from a year ago and does a great job holding firm on the baseline, and when she needs to defend, finding ways to turn points around.
I just don’t trust her at Slams just yet. The pressure of being the favorite in a quarter of the draw when you’ve never made a semifinal before (and lost a brutal match 8-6 in the third when you were there) can be tough to deal with mentally.
Combined with the notion of having to play seasoned veterans in Keys and Krejcikova to win the quarter, I just don’t see it for Badosa. Yet.
Quarter 3 Winner Best Bets
Anett Kontaveit (+450)
Kontaveit’s tougher draw is almost certainly driving this number up, but again, given what I’ve seen from Kontaveit over the past 4-5 months, the value feels like it’s there in this case.
The No. 6 seed Kontaveit’s baseline game is among the best in the world right now. She’s confident and she’s serving well, too. In eight sets this past week in Sydney, she’s only been broken five times.
Like Badosa, Kontaveit has never made the semifinals of a Major before. But I think Kontaveit’s baseline game is better than Badosa’s and there’s really no one in this quarter who can take the racquet out of Kontaveit’s hands, which is not the case for Badosa.
I trust Kontaveit in this spot with this line.
Elena Rybakina (+550)
I loved how Rybakina opened the season in Adelaide. The Kazakh made the final, playing with great intensity from the baseline. Like Keys, the six-foot, 22 year-old Rybakina has the ability to take the racquet out of her opponents’ hands with her powerful first serve and huge groundstrokes.
In Sydney this past week, Rybakina destroyed Emma Raducanu 6-0, 6-1. In that match, Rybakina won 77% of her first-serve points, wasn’t broken herself, and broke serve five times.
And while it’s a little worrisome that she pulled out of her next match following the Raducanu win, if Rybakina can replicate how she started out the year, there’s no reason — if she can get by Mertens and Kontaveit — that she wouldn’t be able to rip past whoever wins Muguruza and Halep’s match, as well.
The winner of the Kontaveit-Rybakina (projected) round of 16 should win the section.
Leave: Emma Raducanu (+1000)
I’m not going to harp on Raducanu’s form. I just want to reiterate that there is no value here, despite the seemingly-good price.
Raducanu has not shown the ability to back up her US Open title and playing in her first Major since the US Open, will have all eyes on her. This means that she also has the pressure that comes with such attention.
Again, stay away from Raducanu until she shows that she can consistently win matches at the WTA level, beyond last year’s US Open.
Quarter 4 Winner Best Bets
Iga Swiatek (+225)
Swiatek has the best odds in this section, and for good reason. The Pole’s play in Adelaide, making the semifinals and beating Fernandez and Azarenka in the process, was very impressive.
The loss to Barty in the semifinals is also nothing to be worried about, as Barty is the best player currently in women’s tennis.
What’s been so great to see is how well Swiatek is hitting the backhand this week. We all know that Swiatek’s heavy forehand can give opponents fits, but her backhand really looked like a legitimate weapon in Adelaide.
And, given this is probably the weakest quarter of the draw, +225 doesn’t sound like a bad price to pay for Swiatek to win the section.
Marketa Vondrousova (+1800)
Yes, conditions in Australia are generally faster, but this price is hard to ignore. Vondrousova knows what it takes to go deep in a Slam (she was the French Open finalist in 2019). She also made the Olympic final last year on hard courts.
Even on a faster surface, Vondrousova has a way of getting opponents to play her game, massaging heavy shots around the court with her lefty forehand, and showcasing great counterpunching skills.
The one worry is that she might have to play Liudmilla Samsonova in the second round, but I think with Vondrousova’s defensive skills, she could defuse the Samsonova power game.
And given the fact that the closest seed to Vondrousova is out-of-form No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, and she wouldn’t have to play Swiatek until the quarterfinals, at +1800, this seems like some great value.
Leave: Aryna Sabalenka (+500) and Petra Kvitova (+1000)
I know it might be tempting to try your hand at a couple of these bigger names in the section, but they both are suffering greatly right now from inconsistency and it’s best to stay away from both of them.
Sabalenka has a massive double-faulting problem (as I mentioned before) and both players just can’t seem to keep the ball in the court.
If one of them catches fire? So be it. I’m going to take my chances that nothing is going to magically change in Melbourne for Sabalenka nor Kvitova.
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