Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Viktoria Azarenka
- We have WTA hard court action on Monday with the inaugural Silicon Valley Classic, which has a loaded field.
- Serena Williams (+300) is listed as the favorite, but the past two Stanford champs loom in her half of the draw.
- If Victoria Azarenka (+900) can get by a tricky second round match, she can make a deep run on her best surface.
The lead-up to the U.S. Open begins with two hard-court tournaments kicking off on both U.S. coasts today. In the Bay Area, the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic will take place in San Jose. It will replace the Bank of the West Classic, which Stanford hosted since 1971.
Highlighting a star-studded field, Serena Williams (+300) will return to hard-court action for the first time since struggling in Miami and Indian Wells. The loaded draw also includes Garbine Muguruza (+650), Venus Williams (+800), Victoria Azarenka (+900) and defending champion Madison Keys (+700). Here are the winners and runners-up at Stanford since it became a Premier tourney in 2009.
Handicapping motivation is critical for futures (and daily) betting in this tourney. Who’s just warming up for upcoming hard-court tournaments? And who’s primed to win four or five matches this week?
Before we get into two futures I bet and Monday’s betting outlook, let’s break down the draw.
Draw Analysis: Top Half
No. 1 seed Garbine Muguruza (+650) has a likely second-round showdown with Victoria Azarenka (+900) — who will be playing on her favorite surface. Azarenka (1-0 vs. Muguruza) made the semis in her last hard-court tourney in Miami earlier this year. Muguruza tends to lose in bunches when her confidence isn’t peaking, which I think is likely this week. If Azarenka can win that match, she should make a deep run.
No. 3 seed Venus Williams (+900) arrives in San Jose in terrible form, having lost five of her past eight matches. That said, a fairly easy draw with Timea Babos (+3300) as the other seed in her section should get the American to the quarterfinals.
Draw Analysis: Bottom Half
The bottom half actually has more intriguing names and looks more difficult on paper. Serena Williams (+300) is the deserving favorite after her run to the Wimbledon final, but it’s tough to gauge the No. 6 seed’s motivation. She did win three of the past seven tourneys at Stanford, but sometimes she goes through the motions in non-majors when she’s focused more on conditioning and fitness.
I could see the argument for Serena at 3-1, but the draw isn’t kind. Serena opens the tourney against Johanna Konta (+1400), who won Stanford in 2016. She’ll also likely need to get through Elise Mertens (+1400) and 2017 champ Madison Keys (+700) just to make the final.
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Mertens is a very intriguing option. The Belgian is having the best year of her career, notably making the Australian Open semifinals. She would be the benefactor of a not-so-focused Serena — or if she can get job done on her own.
No. 2 seed Keys has a potential second-round land mine against Ajla Tomljanovic (+2800), who has the game to play with Keys. In fact, Tomljanovic beat Keys three years ago in Stanford.
Dr. Mihaela Buzarnescu, a very tricky player seeing a late-career renaissance at age 30, could also trouble an erratic Keys. However, Buzarnescu lost her last two U.S. hard-court matches to Jennifer Brady and Kirsten Flipkens. That’s concerning.
Other Names to Watch
Qiang Wang (+2800): I worry about her fatigue and travel after winning a $250K WTA event in China on Sunday, but she’s a proven hard-court player.
Kristina Mladenovic (+3300): Not in form, but has the talent and flair to win big matches. She’s also in Venus’ section and could certainly pull off that upset.
Sofia Kenin (+3300): The American teenager has game and has previous wins over top names on tour, notably Caroline Garcia on grass and an in-form Daria Kasatkina in Miami (hard court) earlier this year.
Amanda Anisimova (no odds): The most talented American teenager, the 16-year-old qualified Sunday in an epic three-set win over Anna Blinkova. This is her first tournament since a foot injury, but she could make major noise this summer on hard courts if healthy and fit.
Victoria Azarenka (+900): As mentioned above, I really believe she’s been gearing up for the summer hard-court swing this entire year. Azarenka may also be in in her best place mentally — with her off-court issues hopefully in the rearview. A win over Muguruza would give Vika a favorable path to a potential final against Serena. Yes, please.
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Elise Mertens (+1400): I only put a half-unit on the Belgian, as I’m worried about a motivated Serena in her half. I still love Mertens’ style and can’t fully pass up 14-1 when I make her closer to 9-1.
Monday R1 Outlook
I will pass on what looks like a pretty straightforward first day in San Jose, but here are some quick thoughts:
- Maria Sakkari (-170) vs. Christina McHale: The enigmatic Sakkari can beat top talent when on, but that’s hard to predict. McHale has been in poor form all year and is nearly impossible to back. They are 1-1 head-to-head, with McHale winning the most recent meeting, a 2017 6-0, 6-4 drubbing on a hard court in China.
- Victoria Azarenka (-400) vs. Kateryna Bondarenko: A fit Vika should roll. While Bondarenko does prefer a hard court, she hasn’t won more than three games in any of her five matches vs. Azarenka. That’s problematic.
- Alison Riske (-550) vs Ashley Kratzer: Kratzer, who received a wild card here, just doesn’t have enough game or pace to keep up with the talented Riske.