THE final major of the year kicks off in New York on Monday and the women’s singles draw for the 2017 US Open looks to hold some good betting opportunities.
Several players in the men’s and women’s draw and courtside observers have mentioned the conditions seem a lot slower this year than normal. Caroline Wozniacki said: “The courts are very different from what they usually are. They're much slower, I think, and the ball bounces higher. It's a big difference from last year so play won't be the same.”
Similarly to the men’s tournament this title is rarely won by anyone outside the top-10 seeds with only two exceptions to this rule in the Open era. Kim Clijsters won her third US Open as a wild card in 2009 and Flavia Pennetta was a big-priced winner in 2015 as No.26 seed beating unseeded Roberta Vinci in the final.
Draw and form – top half
The trends are perhaps a tad misleading in the women’s singles, with long periods of domination from the likes of the Williams sisters, Steffi Graf and going back further Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, but at the moment the women’s majors are much more open.
Jelena Ostapenko won the French at 150-1and while Garbiñe Muguruza’s win at Wimbledon was hardly much of a surprise there are 11 players in this tournament with service hold/break totals of over 110 on outdoor hard at main level in the past 12 months.
So, on that alone there are several in with realistic chances and one is our top seed Karolina Pliskova, who’s drawn alongside Shuai Zhang, Barbora Strycova, Aga Radwanska, Coco Vandeweghe, Anett Kontaveit and Sveta Kuznetsova in quarter one.
Of that little group only Kuznetsova and Radwanska have hold/break marks of 110 or more, but neither have form versus the elite players lately.
The Russian former champion has won only 25% of her matches this season versus top-10 ranked opponents and she hasn’t made a major semi final on a hard court since January 2013, while the Pole is 0-4 against top-10 opposition this year and Aga has never been beyond round four in New York.
Vandeweghe at around 25-1 doesn’t appeal either, with a mediocre hold/break mark of 101.7 and no more than an okay record versus top-10 opponents this season of 50% (44% on outdoor hard).
Last year’s finalist Pliskova seems likely to come through that section, but the two I like in the top half of the draw are Elina Svitolina and Madison Keys, both of whom are in the adjacent quarter.
Svitolina has an excellent hold/break mark of 114.2 and to add to that the Ukrainian has an impressive 79% win mark versus top-10 opposition on all surfaces in 2017 (78% on outdoor hard).
She comes here in prime form having beaten Simona Halep, Muguruza, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki to land the title in Toronto and being drawn in a quarter with Kerber can only be a plus for Svitolina.
Kerber is 0-6 against top-10 opposition in 2017 and looks highly unlikely to retain her title here in New York, with Keys a more realistic prospect at a price of around 16-1.
The hard-hitting American has been working on one of the main issues that has stopped her from succeeding at the very highest level, which is fitness – or the lack of it.
Devastatingly powerful on her day, Keys has often struggled with injury and at times her body has let her down late on in majors, but she says she’s been putting in the hard yards of late.
If that’s the case she should be a contender but I just prefer the chances of Svitolina, who has a slight edge for me, and only one of the pair can make the last four.
Ostapenko’s hard court stats are not good, with a hold/break total of 101.8, and surely she won’t be adding another major to her trophy haul of one this season.
Draw and form – bottom half
The five players who stand out in the bottom half of the draw on the hold/break numbers are Wozniacki, Williams, Muguruza, Konta and Halep and of these I like Johanna Konta at 10-1.
The Brit has not only the best hold/break stats of anyone in the tournament on outdoor hard over the last 12 months, but she also has a strong win percentage of 83% versus top-10 opposition on outdoor hard in 2017.
She’s won her last two meetings with tournament favourite Muguruza (although they haven’t clashed since 2015) and at twice the price of the in-form Spaniard I have to side with the Brit in this half.
Konta's drawn in the same quarter as Halep, who beat Konta in Cincy, but it feels like Halep’s best chance of a major has gone after blowing a set and a break lead in the French Open final and now she’s drawn Maria Sharapova in round one in New York.
The winner of that one would appear to have a nice path through to the latter stages, but if it’s Halep her 25% winning mark on outdoor hard versus top-10 opposition this season is off-putting and her lack of power lets her down too often in these conditions.
Her 1-6, 0-6 mauling from Muguruza in the Cincy final shows how vulnerable Halep can be on hard courts and then there’s her tendency of blinking at the business end of majors to think about too.
She lost heavily as 1.38 favourite in the semi finals here in 2015 to Pennetta and she’s yet to show she has the bottle when it counts in Grand Slams, so Konta is definitely preferred in that quarter.
On current form you’d have to expect Muguruza to win the third quarter, with little in the way of obvious threats in the section of the draw given that Petra Kvitova (who Muguruza has struggled against) is not in the right condition for a title push.
Williams and Wozniacki look the most likely to test Muguruza and of course she’ll need to carry on in the form she’s been in lately to come through, but the Wimbledon champ looks by far the likeliest winner of that section of the draw.
This could be the major where either or both of Svitolina and Konta make their maiden Grand Slam finals and they each have the form and statistics to do it, so taking Svitolina in the top half and Konta in the bottom half looks the way to go.
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