Aryna Sabalenka vs Storm Sanders: WTA Australian Open Round One Odds & Analysis (Jan. 18)
Andy Cheung/Getty. Pictured: Aryna Sabalenka practices her serve ahead of the Australian Open.
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Aryna Sabalenka vs Storm Sanders
|Time||3 a.m. ET (subject to change)|
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Aryna Sabalanka has certainly not had the start to the season that she was hoping for. Sabalenka is 0-2 on the year, playing some of the worst tennis of her career.
In her Adelaide 1 opening-round match against Kaja Juvan, Sabalenka was a disaster on her serve. Serving at only 48% first-serves in, Sabalenka won 59% of her first-serve points and 26% of her second-serve points. She hit five aces compared to 18 double faults and was broken six times.
The 6-7(6), 1-6 loss to Juvan felt self-inflicted.
Now, if that was a one-off match and Sabalenka snapped back into gear during the Adelaide 2 tournament and beat Rebecca Peterson, then there wouldn’t be too much concern. But that didn’t happen.
In the 7-5, 1-6, 5-7 defeat to Peterson, Sabalenka again struggled to serve. Putting 54% of her first serves in play, Sabalenka won only 47% of her service points. For a player who typically has a punishing, huge first serve that sets herself up perfectly to construct points on her terms, the lack of accurate serving is a huge detriment to the Belarusian’s game. Sabalenka was broken nine times in the match, hitting eight aces compared to 21 double faults.
Yes, you read that right. In the past two matches, Sabalenka has hit 39 double faults combined.
Storm Sanders has been solid to start the season but isn’t doing anything spectacular out there.
She battled well but lost in three sets to Elena Rybakina in Adelaide 1. It was a fairly impressive returning performance, as Sanders was able to break the big-serving Rybakina four times and hold her to 42% won on her second serve.
In Adelaide 2, Sanders qualified for the tournament, beating Qiang Wang and Kirsten Flipkens, but fell in the first round of the main draw to Jasmine Paolini in straight sets. Sanders was only able to win 53% of her first-serve points.
Now, do I put much stock in that Paolini loss in relation to this match? Absolutely not. If I were thinking of opposites on the tennis court, Sabalenka and Paolini would come in mind. Sabalenka plays a huge, serve-dominant, aggressive game where she’s hitting massive groundstrokes and imposing her will on opponents. Paolini is much less serve-centric, plays longer rallies from the baseline, and her game involves less risk.
Despite only being ranked world number 135, Sanders can punch above her weight class at times. Whether it be her 6-1 second-set against Rybakina, taking down Elise Mertens at Billie Jean King Cup late last season, or making a WTA Tour quarterfinal last year in Prague, Sanders has the ability to play up in class.
And with “home court” advantage in Australia with the crowd behind her against an opponent with service yips, I expect her to seize the opportunity.
Speaking of the yips, this isn’t a technical issue for Sabalenka, but rather it’s a mental concern for her. I will live with the results if Sabalenka comes out of the gates and blow the doors off of Sanders. I just don’t see her, on this huge stage playing an Aussie, all of a sudden figuring out her service rhythm and playing with the control necessary to comfortably beat Sanders.
And if we’re going to get a 4.5-game cushion for Sanders, I consider that a steal.
Pick: Sanders +4.5 games (+102 at PointsBet)