With the Australian Open completed, we are now looking ahead to the best tennis matches and betting picks for the upcoming 500-level tournaments in Doha and Rotterdam, as well as 250-level tournaments in Lyon and Buenos Aires.
As is usually the case in the week following a major, all three tournaments played last week featured pretty weak fields. This resulted in two very surprising champions in Alexei Popyrin and Juan Manuel Cerundolo and an extremely dominant run in Adelaide for Iga Swiatek. Popyrin is an interesting prospect given that he is pretty athletic and has a big serve. He also looked to be in decent form in the Australian Open and lost a close match to Lloyd Harris there. In hindsight, his outright price in Singapore was probably a little too high at 25-1 given the competition, but frankly I wasn’t very interested in backing someone who had only ever won two Challengers titles.
Cerundolo literally came out of nowhere to win in Cordoba. He started the tournament ranked No. 335 and had never played in an ATP main draw. We have seen some pretty crazy results during the “Golden Swing” in South America, yet off the top of my head I can’t think of a more surprising winner. While winning a title at 19 is obviously impressive, Cerundolo’s serve is Sara Errani-esque and will get obliterated by better players on faster surfaces. He is definitely a name to watch going forward, especially on clay courts.
Finally, we saw yet another dominant run by Swiatek on her way to winning the title in Adelaide. Just like in the French Open, she managed to win the title without dropping the set. At no point in the tournament did it ever seem like she was in danger of losing, and frankly her winning this title seemed pre-ordained. As I posited to the masses of twitter.com, I think Swiatek will end this season ranked in the top five at worst, barring injury. When she is in form, I’m not sure there’s a player I would favor over her on clay, and there are very few players I would make her an underdog to on hardcourts. In recent seasons on the WTA tour, we have seen wide-open fields and 15 to 20 players with realistic chances at major titles. I would not be surprised to see the WTA become more like men’s majors, with only a handful of players (Swiatek, Naomi Osaka, maybe a few others) that could possibly win the tournament, and all at really short odds.
Tennis Betting Picks: March 1 Outrights
ATP Rotterdam: The field in Rotterdam is very loaded with Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Alex Zverev. The top half of the third quarter looks attackable to me, with David Goffin maybe not even showing up after he won the title in Montpellier this morning. Ugo Humbert gets a qualifier, Goffin/Jan-Lennard Struff, and then Rublev in the quarters. My model sees value here on Humbert, and I think we have a pretty good chance of at least being able to hedge in that quarterfinal match against Rublev. In the fourth quarter, I really wish Hubert Hurkacz got a better draw than Adrian Mannarino, Tsitsipas and then Stan Wawrinka/Karen Khachanov. I don’t mind backing Hurkacz as a long shot, though, as he’s already beaten Tsitsipas before and lost a very close three-setter to him in this tournament last year.
ATP Buenos Aires: This tournament field looks much weaker than the one in Rotterdam and thus looks to have a few more opportunities to look at. The first quarter features Diego Schwartzman and Frances Tiafoe, so it is off limits to me unless you just wanted to take the Schwartzman outright pre-tournament. In the second quarter I am looking at backing Thiago Monteiro at long odds. Miomir Kecmanovic won a title on clay last year and is improving quickly, but he is prone to bouts of inconsistency. I like getting Monteiro in altitude and on clay at 18-1. Finally, even though this is his first tournament since Delray Beach, the fourth quarter looks especially primed for a Cristian Garin title. His 5-1 odds imply far too much of a home-court advantage for Schwartzman as well as uncertainty about Garin’s health, especially when he may have just not wanted to go to Melbourne and sit in a hotel room for two weeks for quarantine.
WTA Doha: What to do with Madison Keys? She hasn’t played in a tournament since last year’s French Open because she tested positive for COVID-19 prior to heading to Australia. My model has her being very underpriced, probably due to uncertainty about her form and its respect for Aryna Sabalenka. I’m a simple man, though; I see Keys at 28-1 on hardcourts in a 32-person field and I bet it. My other play from this tournament comes in the form of Karolina Pliskova. I’m not sure what to call her exit from the Australia Open in a two-set loss to Karolina Muchova. It was definitely absurd — at one point in the second set Pliskova was up 5-0 before double faulting her way out of Melbourne. It’s sort of a “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” situation where prior to her third-round disaster Pliskova looked like a serious threat to claim her first major.
WTA Lyon: This is a pretty rough field with a ton of question marks throughout the draw. For me, this tournament is Ekaterina Alexandrova or pass. In the bottom half Oceane Dodin and Xiyu Wang aren’t terrible longshot plays if you’re looking for a big score.
Outright Picks: Humbert +2500, Humbert quarter +500, Garin +500, Keys +2800, Keys quarter +750, Pliskova +900, Pliskova quarter +175
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First Round Betting Picks
Oceane Dodin +135: Dodin returned last season after a long, injury-induced hiatus and generally performed pretty well. Her form has been pretty up and down in various Challenger tournaments after failing to qualify for the Australian Open. I think the faster indoor hardcourts she’s playing on in Lyon will favor her against Caroline Garcia, who suffered some pretty disappointing losses in Australia.
Xiyu Wang +141: I’m still waiting on the Wang breakout season. She did not return after the break last year, as she stayed in China during the pandemic, which is especially disappointing after she starting the year out really well and made it to the semifinals of Acapulco in 2020.
Svetlana Kuznetsova +198: This is more of a fade of Victoria Azarenka, who has not been impressive at all to start the year.
Madison Keys +111: Belinda Bencic is flying in after losing in the finals to Swiatek in Adelaide. Assuming Keys is in form I heavily favor her against Bencic, who is still working her own way back against injury and now may have tired legs.
Francisco Cerundolo -4: Cerundolo is the older brother of the aforementioned Juan Manuel Cerundolo. He has posted a 42-19 record on clay courts in Challenger events and has posted an impressive 109% hold/break in those matches. This is also a home match for him in Buenos Aires.
Ekaterina Alexandrova -3.5: As I touched on above, Alexandrova should be heavily favored in just about every match in Lyon. Every match on these courts will be on her racket, and she will be able to blow through her opponents if she’s able to keep the ball in play.
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