WTA St. Petersburg Tennis Picks, Predictions: Cornet Will Have Hangover from Australian Open Run

WTA St. Petersburg Tennis Picks, Predictions: Cornet Will Have Hangover from Australian Open Run article feature image

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images. Pictured: Elise Mertens

While there weren't any tournaments on the WTA Tour last week, women’s tennis ramps up again with an exciting week ahead in St. Petersburg.

With both qualifying and main draw matches to play, there are plenty of opportunities for us to find value on Monday’s slate of matches.

In fact, two contests jump out as potential spots for us to target.

Match times are subject to change. Read here for advice on watching tennis matches. 

Ana Bogdan (-140) vs Varvara Gracheva (+105)

4 a.m. ET,  WTA St. Petersburg Qualifying

Ana Bogdan is on fire at the moment. The Romanian dropped only one set in winning the indoor-hard $60k event in Andrezieux-Boutheon. While it wasn’t the strongest field, Bogdan still beat former world No. 54 Ana Blinkova in the final.

Then, Bogdan went to St. Petersburg qualifying and didn't lose a set in the two matches she’s played. After beating Lin Zhu in her first outing, Bogdan took down Ulrikke Eikeri in the second qualifying round. She won 15% more of her service points, compared to Eikeri, and broke serve four times in the two sets.

Varvara Gracheva is putting a rough start to the season behind her. Gracheva went 0-2 to start the season in Australia. While Gracheva has had a very straightforward draw in St. Petersburg qualifying so far, facing Amina Anshba and Irina Maria Bara, she has still done a good job of taking care of business.

In Gracheva’s 6-3, 6-3 win over Bara, the Russian held her to 45% service points won and broke Bara’s serve five times.

These two played twice last season, with Gracheva winning via a second-set retirement in Chicago and then Bogdan beating the Russian in the semifinals of the Limoges Challenger in December.

I think that the Limoges match is particularly pertinent, as it was a recent match in similar conditions. It's important to note that  Bogdan won that match in three sets. And while Bogdan lost the final of Limoges to Alison Van Uytvanck, dating back to December she’s won 11 of her last 12 matches on indoor hard courts.

What makes Bogdan so tough to beat is that she’s so solid from the baseline and a player like Gracheva can struggle to hit through her. We even saw that for Gracheva against Bara, as there were times during the match where Bara’s consistency frustrated Gracheva. Bogdan has an even higher rally tolerance than Bara and keeps the ball deeper in the court.

It’s also worth noting that Bogdan’s overall and hard-court Elo are higher than Gracheva’s.

Overall, Bogdan still isn’t getting the respect she deserves, and at only -140, the value is with the Romanian in St. Petersburg.

Pick: Bogdan ML (-140 via PointsBet)

Alize Cornet (+175) vs Elise Mertens (-230)

6 a.m. ET, WTA St. Petersburg

Alize Cornet heads to St. Petersburg after one of the best runs of her career, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinal round before falling to Danielle Collins in straight sets.

Collins was the only player all tournament that won at least 60% of her first serves against Cornet’s peaking return game. Cornet did such a great job from the baseline, with both her consistent depth and her ability to recognize when it was time to attack, especially from the backhand side. Cornet anticipation was also top-notch and she was truly a wall from the baseline.

Elise Mertens, funny enough, also lost to Danielle Collins at the Australian Open. However, Mertens’ 6-4, 4-6, 4-6 loss to Collins occurred in the round of 16 instead of the quarterfinals.

Mertens was able to hang in there with Collins from the baseline for long periods of the match, certainly doing a better job of matching the American's baseline game than Cornet did. Ultimately, at the end of the day, winning only 38% of her second-serve points throughout the course of the match did Mertens in.

This is a fascinating matchup, but I’m not convinced Cornet will be ready to play. The Frenchwoman’s quarterfinal appearance in Melbourne was the furthest she’s ever gone at a Major, and it was apparent in how physically and mentally worn-down she was at the end of the Collins match.

While it has been a couple weeks since that match, whether Cornet is mentally and physically fresh for her first WTA tournament following such a big triumph remains to be seen.

In addition, it was nice to see Mertens to finally find some form in Melbourne. Mertens was very erratic in the lead-up to the Australian Open. But, once in Melbourne, Mertens was very solid. She won at least two-thirds of her first-serve points and had a positive winner/unforced error ratio of the course of the tournament, hitting 87 winners compared to 83 unforced errors.

When Mertens' baseline game is locked in, she's hard to break down and doesn't have many weaknesses. It's important to note Mertens’ overall and hard-court Elo rating is also at least 100 points better than Cornet’s number.

If we’re only going to have to give 3.5 games here, then Mertens spread is certainly the play.

Pick: Mertens -3.5 Game (-120 via PointsBet)

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