As the tour moves towards the US Open, which starts in a fortnight, there is action on the US Hard Courts again this week with another Masters/Premier event in Cincinnati.
The courts in Cincinnati have played fast according to recent stats both in the WTA (2012 WTA had 67.1% holds, 2011 WTA 66.5% holds which is a fair bit above the 63.1% WTA hard court average) and to a slightly lesser extent ATP (2012 ATP had 78.1% holds, 2011 ATP 80.0% holds which is slightly above the 78.4% ATP hard court average) so it looks like there will be more service games held here than an average tournament – thus we must be more selective this week with regards to opposing servers in-play.
The men’s event has been dominated by two players in recent years. Roger Federer has won 4 out of the last 6 years (and in 2005 as well) with Andy Murray triumphing on the other two occasions. Novak Djokovic has been runner up in 4 out of the last 5 events here, and hasn’t taken a set in any of those finals.
It would be reasonable to assume that with those three players making up the recent finals that the cream rises to the top in this event but that’s not strictly true. Favourites have a low success percentage with my sample showing 65% favourite success (below the 69% hard court average, 70% Masters average and 69% hard court Masters average). So if those stats are anything to go by I’d definitely expect some surprise results in the opening few rounds.
Novak Djokovic is at the head of the betting, with a current best price of 2.44 on Betfair. Being in the weaker top half of the draw, he has a very easy route to the final with only David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro likely candidates to meet him in the semi-finals. Del Potro appeared pretty tired last week during his defeat to Milos Raonic in Montreal and I can’t see Ferrer testing Djokovic on a hard court. So he would appear to be a viable play here, as I really can’t see him being tested until the final. Should he get that far you can (if you wish) lay him at a price like 1.35-1.6 in the final should he play Nadal, Federer or Murray and create a nice free bet opportunity.
The bottom half of the draw is much more open with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray and Ernests having chances of good progression.
I can’t back Federer having struggled badly in his last few matches and being on the wane. I’m not keen on Nadal having won last week either, thinking he may take it a little easy this week. I also want to oppose Murray, who was unimpressive in Canada last week and also faces his conqueror Ernests Gulbis in the second round before a tough quarter final against Tomas Berdych. We have two options here – either laying Murray at the current 4.9 on Betfair, or by backing Berdych (40) or Gulbis (110).
There has been no consistent winner of the women’s event, and there’s often been a random runner up with two unseeded players losing in the final since 2004. This would indicate that the tournament should be pretty open but statistically Serena Williams should be the overwhelming favourite (and is at 1.91). She’s also in the slightly weaker top half of the draw with Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na the likely threats to her.
I really like the chances of Simona Halep to meet Williams in the quarter final – she faces Su Wei Hsieh in the opening round followed by Marion Bartoli (coming off a retirement) in the second. After that, it’s a winnable clash from the Stosur/Kuznetsova/Pavlyuchenkova/Hampton segment. She can be backed with a view to lay subsequently at 160 currently. Li Na is Williams’ likely semi final opponent to me and I like her chances at an available 23. If Williams was to make a shock early exit her price would contract significantly, and I feel only Agnieszka Radwanska can hinder the Chinese before the likely semi-final meeting with Williams. I’d make Li a decent favourite for a match with Radwanska.
Maria Sharapova has a great draw with her very open segment having no significant threats until a likely semi-final with Victoria Azarenka. But she missed Toronto last week as she still hadn’t recovered from the hip injury picked up during her shock Wimbledon defeat to Michelle Larcher de Brito. On that basis she can’t be backed with any confidence.
With her and Victoria Azarenka being the top seeds in the bottom half of the draw and both with huge injury question marks over them, could a very long priced underdog go deep in the competition? It’s very possible but I just can’t make a confident enough selection, taking the stats and draw into account.
The women’s tournament could be a very open event with some short priced shocks, and one I’m looking forward to.
Back Novak Djokovic with optional free bet creation @ 2.44.
Back to Lay Ernests Gulbis @ 110.
Back to Lay Tomas Berdych @ 40.
Back to Lay Simona Halep @ 160.
Back to Lay Li Na @ 23.
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