Presse Sports-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Belinda Bencic
Good news for tennis bettors in the U.S., as the second hard-court swing of the season gets underway today with tournaments in Washington, D.C., and San Jose, California. That should mean a more normal sleep schedule, and daytime action to help bridge the gap to the U.S. Open — and football.
Play gets underway at 2 p.m. ET in the nation’s capital, which hosts the Citi Open for the seventh straight year. Take a look at the previous finals matchups in what has been a very entertaining tourney:
Expect the unexpected in D.C., where no winner has been seeded higher than seven. The most accomplished winner, Sloane Stephens, took the 2015 trophy as an unseeded player in her tour coming-out party. This tournament sets up perfectly for another middle-tier or up-and-coming player to break through.
I wagered on two nicely priced futures and also fancy three underdogs on Monday’s card. Let’s get into it.
Draw Overview: Top Half
The top half features No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki (+275), who lost in the second round (Samantha Stosur) in her only previous appearance here in 2016. However, the Dane was in terrible form then, so don’t expect the same performance. Woz does have a very favorable draw with Aleksandra Krunic (+2500) as the No. 5 seed in her section.
The other two seeded players in the top half are Naomi Osaka (+700) and Donna Vekic (+2000). Vekic is in top form, but I would favor Osaka if the two meet in the quarterfinals. Osaka won their only previous meeting in straight sets on another hard court at the 2016 Australian Open.
Osaka’s style should excel on this surface. Strong, flat hitters do well in D.C., and that is exactly what Osaka does best. If on her game, she should have no trouble in her first two matches. She did lose both previous meetings against Wozniacki in straight sets, but I think Osaka can continue her excellent 2018 hard-court play this week.
Draw Analysis: Bottom Half
This more-intriguing half of the draw features plenty of players who can win the tourney. Defending champion and No. 4 seed Ekaterina Makarova (+1600) is in poor form, but can pop at any time. The Russian won last year after also arriving without any form — and has made the semis in all four appearances in D.C.
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However, Makarova has a tricky first-round opponent in Ana Bogdan (+4000) before potentially facing nemesis Svetlana Kuznetsova (+2000) — who is 7-1 vs. Makarova, including six straight wins.
No. 8 seed Yulia Putintseva (+2500) joins Makarova as the other seed in that section. It’s always difficult to predict Putintseva, who can frustrate opponents with her scrappy, defensive style. She has the potential to win big matches, but could just as easily lose in the first round to Tatjana Maria (+2800).
The other two seeds in the bottom half are Sloane Stephens (+400) and Belinda Bencic (+1600). The oft-injured Bencic has all of the tools and looked solid at Wimbledon. Stephens has become more of a big-game hunter, excelling at majors. And while she’s certainly dangerous, I don’t see any value at 4-1. A potential Stephens-Bencic quarterfinal would feature two of the best point constructors on tour.
Other Names to Watch
Sofya Zhuk (no odds): The Russian teenager plays her best tennis on a hard court and soundly beat Deniz Khazaniuk and Mayo Hibi in qualifying. A surprise package who could upset a seed or two.
Natalia Vikhlyantseva (+2800): I’ve always really liked her strong, aggressive play, but she’s just never put all the pieces together. Her game can become very erratic during a match, but she does have a decent draw with Jennifer Brady and then the winner of Putintseva-Maria.