Serena Williams vs. Danka Kovinic US Open Odds & Analysis: Difficult Opener in Store For Six-Time Champion

Serena Williams vs. Danka Kovinic US Open Odds & Analysis: Difficult Opener in Store For Six-Time Champion article feature image

Elsa/Getty. Pictured: Serena Williams.

  • Serena Williams is favored to take out Danka Kovinic in her final US Open event.
  • Avery Zimmerman breaks down the contest and offers his best bet.
  • Read on for his prediction on the primetime affair.

Williams vs. Kovinic Odds

Williams Odds-425
Kovinic Odds+290
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One of the stories of the US Open will get underway on Monday when Serena Williams faces off with Danka Kovinic in the first round.

The question is, will that story also end the day it begins? Williams will be playing in the doubles draw as well with her sister, Venus, but in terms of singles, she announced that her plan was to retire after the event.

Let's dive into the Monday night headliner.

Williams Entering Slam Without Many Matches

When we entered the year, no one knew, perhaps except Williams herself, whether she would ever play in another US Open.

It was probably a mistake to doubt one of the greatest champions in the sport's history, but she's now had a fascinating season.

Williams first returned with an eye towards Wimbledon, playing in the doubles draw of a grass court event in Eastbourne alongside Ons Jabeur. The duo won two tight matches before withdrawing from the event.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion then dropped her first set back on the singles court at the grass-court Slam against Harmony Tan before appearing to find a bit of a rhythm. She won the second set 6-1 and had a chance to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third, but ultimately she fell in a tiebreaker.

In that match, Williams hit 54 unforced errors and struggled with her movement, but that has improved a bit in the three matches she's played since.

While Williams is only 1-2 in that period — all matches played on hard courts — she struggled to match up with the two comfortable hard court players she faced. Belinda Bencic and Emma Raducanu dispatched of Williams in two sets each, while the American beat Nuria Parrizas-Diaz.

We know that Williams has been training intensely with a goal of performing better in her home-country Slam event, but what version of her we'll see on Monday night is a big question mark. That usually isn't the case when Williams comes to any match, but this is not the same player that once dominated the WTA Tour.

It's hard to argue the 40-year old is making the wrong decision with her retirement. She's very aware that her time has come, and this is one of the more mature decisions you'll see an athlete make.

Nonetheless, it's hard to have an idea of what we will see from her.

Kovinic Familiar With Slam Spotlight

This isn't Kovinic's first rodeo with the center court at a Grand Slam event.

Just six months ago, she stepped on to Rod Laver Arena for a bout with Raducanu at the Australian Open, and she prevailed in that match.

While Raducanu was limited by hand blisters that forced her to severely adjust her game plan, Kovinic showcased high-quality tennis, attacking behind both strokes and drawing errors out of the Brit through long rallies.

Kovinic is best on clay courts, a surface better-suited for those that are more patient and/or don't have big weapons. She fits those qualities and has high rally-tolerance, but on hard courts, Kovinic can be exposed by bigger hitters.

Her 236-122 record on clay courts in her professional career is far different than her 108-142 hard court record, and it's easy to understand why.

Kovinic has found success on hard courts in the past — more so on slower ones such as those at Indian Wells — but her confidence is almost certainly not at its highest place.

She has struggled in recent months, dropping five consecutive matches. Most recently, she fell to Parrizas-Diaz, whom Williams beat, in Cincinnati, and to Magdalena Frech in Granby.

Against Frech, Kovinic hit eight double faults and had a 39% first serve rate while she was at four and 32% in late July in Warsaw. That's a stark contrast from the two double fault/57% first serve performance she found in Melbourne against Raducanu, and it can be the tipping point in her matches.

If Kovinic can't keep the ball in play and force Williams to make extra balls, she's already in trouble, but if she is giving up numerous free points on serve and offering Williams frequent looks at her second – she will be in a near impossible position.

However, if Kovinic shows the type of tennis we saw in Melbourne, she's fully capable of an upset.

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Betting Value

This isn't the Serena Williams of the past, but it also isn't likely to be the iteration of the superstar we saw in London.

Williams has gotten better over the course of the events that she's played, and it's evident that she's taking her results seriously. Nonetheless, both Williams and Kovinic are in uncertain positions.

The American is more suited for the fast hard courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but Kovinic has risen to the occasion already once this year knocking off Raducanu at the Australian Open.

The pressure of facing Williams in Arthur Ashe Stadium will be far greater than what she felt in New York, but there's also significant pressure on her opponent.

Williams will exit the sport she has dominated with losses in four of her last five matches if she can't beat Kovinic, something that will leave a sour taste in her mouth.

It won't come close to tarnishing her legacy, but Williams is simply too much of a competitor not to care about that.

If Kovinic can keep the ball in play and force Williams to hit extra balls and rely on her weakened movement, she has the tools to create an upset.

But if she continues to struggle with rally tolerance and allows Williams to tee off on short or weak strokes – in addition to having service issues – the favored Williams should pull through.

There's value in leaning towards the former, with the idea that Kovinic has the physical capability and necessary mindset to push one of the best athletes of this generation.

Expecting a full upset is a bit of a stretch, but expecting Kovinic to push Williams is more than reasonable.

Picks: Kovinic +5.5 games (-125) 0.8 Units | Kovinic ML (+290) 0.2 Units

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