U.S. Open Betting Guide: Keep Fading Sloane Stephens? (Tuesday, Sept. 1)

Credit:

Fred Lee/Getty Images. Pictured: Sloane Stephens

  • Sloane Stephens is a -280 favorite in her first-round matchup against Mihaela Buzarnescu.
  • Should you fade Stephens, who lost in the first round of last year's U.S. Open?
  • Stuckey analyzes Tuesday's match and makes his pick.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I kept my volume low since the restart. The lack of match play during the pandemic break on Tour didn’t allow me to have any read on recent form and little idea as to who was doing what during the time off.

Over the past few weeks, I watched as much as I could to make necessary adjustments and get a form read on the players who at least played prior to the US Open.

With so much uncertainty still surrounding the field, I planned to use that same low volume approach in the first round of the US Open. With that said, I’m willing to make one exception on Tuesday.


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Sloane Stephens (-280) vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu

Start time: Approximately 4:15 p.m. ET, Tuesday

This play goes against everything that I’ve told myself: avoid backing the players who haven’t played since the Tour returned. I’m glad I took this approach as play hasn’t been pretty for those returning for their first match.

However, I have to make an exception here and back Buzanrescu, who we haven’t seen in quite some time. I just can’t pass up fading Sloane Stephens’ current form at this price.

Sloane has lost in the first round in six of her seven tournament appearances in 2020. And her lone win of the season came back in early March against Emma Navarro, who currently ranks outside of the top 500.

And it’s not like she’s lost to top tier competition all year. Here are the American’s seven losses:

  • Liudmila Samsonova in Brisbane
  • Ariana Rodionova in Adelaide
  • Shuai Zhang in Melbourne
  • Renata Zarazua in Acapulco
  • Leylah Fernandez in Monterrey
  • Leylah Fernandez in Lexington
  • Caroline Garcia in New York

Only Shuai currently ranks inside the top 50. Not only is Sloane 1-7 on hard courts in 2020, she finished 2019 on this surface with a subpar 10-13 record. She just didn’t look confident out on the court in her two matches since the restart and wasn’t moving as well as she has in the past.

That’s troublesome as she relies on her all-court coverage. Stephens certainly possesses a ton of power but her defense leads the way when she’s right.

Some may argue that Sloane always steps up her game to another level in Slams. It’s a fair point as the American has previously had underwhelming results prior to success at a Major.

But she’s currently far from the player we saw win the US Open in 2017. The new courts might not suit this version of Sloane, who I also think thrives off the energy of major crowds — a luxury she won’t enjoy this year.

Prior to the draw, I was hoping we would get a more ideal scenario to take on Stephens. Instead, Stephens got matched up with Mihaela Buzarnescu, who hasn’t played a competitive match since 2019. The Romanian took time off to deal with an ankle injury that hampered her all of last season, leading to some poor results.

I essentially threw out her 2019 results and assume she’s now healthy but how much will rust will we see? Nobody really knows. The serve could break down and she could just be totally off her game. I won’t sit here and tell you I know she’s going to be solid, so I completely understand if you want no part of betting on Buzarnescu, who has lost in the first round in both of her career main draw appearances at the US Open.

Stephens has lost in the first round in each of the last two hard court majors, including a straight set loss to Anna Kalinskaya last year at the US Open. There’s a lot of guesswork backing Buzarnescu, but I took a shot fading Sloane at this price. Let’s hope Buzarnescu can shake off the cobwebs and look like the player we saw win San Jose in 2018. Absolutely no result would surprise me, so I’ll give the Romanian a chance at this number.

Bet: Mihaela Buzarnescu +240 (I’d play down to +225)

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