Australian Open Match Picks, Predictions: Back These Clean Ball Strikers to Deliver (January 15)
Sarah Reed/Getty. Pictured: Yibing Wu.
- The Australian Open's first round gets underway on Sunday.
- Yibing Wu takes on Corentin Moutet while Jason Kubler meets Sebastian Baez.
- Read on for match picks and predictions.
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The 2023 ATP season is up and running as we arrive at our first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open.
With Rafael Nadal triumphing in 2022 claiming his 21st Slam, this year the tournament will look a lot different. Novak Djokovic is back in the field while the World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz is sidelined with an injury. However, I see the most value in Sunday’s slate on two matchups that don’t boast the household names.
Read on for my picks and predictions as the clean hitting Yibing Wu takes on the quirky Corentin Moutet and the rising Australian Jason Kubler battles the ice-cold Argentine Sebastian Baez.
Note: Match times are subject to change. Read here for tips on viewing Australian Open matches.
Australian Open Match Picks & Predictions
Yibing Wu (-155) vs. Corentin Moutet (+125)
7 p.m. ET
While playing his first matches since 2019, Wu burst onto the radar of the tennis world in 2022. The Chinese phenomenon earned a wild card into the Australian Open for his efforts and will look to continue his success in 2023.
Anyone who watches a match of Wu’s will instantly see that he is one of the purest ball strikers on tour, painting lines and adding pace to almost every shot. Just under a year ago, he was ranked 1749, but he has now risen to 116.
Excluding losses due to retirement, Wu suffered his second defeat of 2022 in the third round of the US Open against Daniil Medvedev – a tournament where he handed Moutet a straight sets loss in qualifying.
Moutet had a respectable year himself. Currently residing at a career high No. 51, the short Frenchman plays a unique game and forces his opponents to hit through his remarkable defense while providing them with little to no rhythm in the process. He often plays on the back foot while throwing in tremendous drop shots, remarkable angles and topspin heavy shots.
Wu has the power to hit through Moutet and the consistency to make it happen despite the curveballs that Moutet implements. I believe Wu is easily playing top 50 tennis and will break that ranking barrier soon.
Look for Wu to make an early statement in 2023 and for his crisp strokes to be on full display.
Pick: Wu -2.5 games (-120 via DraftKings)
Jason Kubler (-300) vs. Sebastian Baez (+245)
11:30 p.m. ET
Kubler’s tennis story is nothing short of a miracle. From six knee surgeries and being restricted to clay courts, Kubler has left these heartaches in the past and become a threat on Tour.
Cracking the top 100 – with a ranking that should be even higher due to his fourth round Wimbledon appearance that earned him no points – he will be looking to show out in his home country slam.
While filling in for Nick Kyrgios, Kubler has already broke the headlines this year. He showed up with an unbelievable comeback from an 0-5 (0-30) deficit to beat Dan Evans at the United Cup. However, the Australian lacks the weapons of a typical top ATP player. Winning games through his solid baseline game and minimal errors, he struggles to hit through defensive-minded players.
On the other side of the net, he faces just that. Baez is likely very happy to start a new year as he ended 2022 with just one win since mid-July. In his first match he suffered a thorough defeat against newcomer Ben Shelton, but due to weather conditions, that match was moved indoors and handed the big-serving American a significant advantage.
Baez is not one to write off as his potential has shown. From having match point over Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros to pushing eventual champion Alcaraz at the US Open before having to retire, Baez is no pushover. His defense is impeccable, his speed and movement is world class and although he is at home on clay courts, he can provide difficulties on all surfaces.
Regardless of his horrendous run of form, expect Baez to turn things around early this year. In a buy low – sell high spot, Kubler is simply getting too many games in this matchup. The home-favorite will struggle in the opening round.
Pick: Baez +5.5 games (-105 via DraftKings)