Mark Stinchcombe
8 months ago - 10 minute read

Mark Stinchcombe: “I’m taking a chance on a 13.0 shot in the women’s at the Australian Open while Federer is clearly the man to beat in the men’s”

There’s nothing quite as brutal as betting. Last week I backed against a team that’s lost 17 of 19 matches this season only to see them come back from 1-0 down to beat me in the cruelest way possible. I’d even taken a risk-averse approach with a -0.25 bet so with the score standing at 1-1 with 10 minutes to go I thought the worst that could happen was getting half my stake back. Nope.

Sampdoria had a man sent off, and Benevento grabbed not one but two late goals. They’ve now scored 13 goals this season, and three of them were in that game! My luck was slightly better in La Liga with Valencia winning 2-1 from a goal behind despite the absence of Simone Zaza limiting last weeks losses on our -0.75 bet to just half a point. The club had signed striker Luciano Vietto in the build-up and it was a shame he saved his hat-trick for the midweek cup match against Las Palmas.

But that’s enough bad beats and on this week’s blog, I’m focusing on the Australian Open tennis which begins Sunday night. And I’ve lined up a couple of nice looking outright bets in both the men’s and women’s tournaments.

Back the GOAT and he will score

In the men’s draw, there are a number of injury doubts and withdrawals, leaving 19-time grand slam and reigning champion Roger Federer (3.0) out in front of the betting. Federer rolled back the years in 2017, going 60-6 and picking up seven titles including the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

He was unfortunate to pick up an injury in Montreal that ultimately seemed to cost him at the US Open, but returned to win Shanghai and Basel and began this year by helping Switzerland win the Hopman Cup. He’s a five-time Australian Open winner and he’s made at least the semis in 13 of his last 14 appearances.

His main rivals are all recovering from injury with last years runner-up Rafael Nadal (7.6) has been out injured since November with a knee complaint and Novak Djokovic (7.2) out since Wimbledon last year with an elbow injury. Nadal pulled out of Brisbane this week due to soreness in his knee. And Djokovic was due to play Abu Dhabi and Doha but pulled out of both.

Djokovic’s own assessment should be a concern for any backers too.

“For now, I’m in the tournament [Australia]. Ideally, I would have had another tournament before the start of the Open, but it was not meant to be,” he said. And that’s before we get onto his under-par performances in 2017, losing twice in round two and just the quarters in the others.

Nadal meanwhile played in the Kooyong exhibition event but was beaten in straight sets by Richard Gasquet. While normally I wouldn’t pay too much attention to what was clearly a warm-up match as part of his comeback losing to someone he had beaten on all 15 previous occasions is noteworthy.

The best of the rest aren’t much to worry about

As to the rest, with Andy Murray undergoing surgery and out until the summer the other main candidates look to have more negatives than positives against them. And it’s clear these are artificially short prices given the injury problems surrounding most of the top players.

Grigor Dimitrov (12) has taken advantage of player absences to rise up rankings and sits in false number three position.

Sasha Zverev (18) has never been past the fourth round of a slam and isn’t ready for a grueling best-of-five tournament.

Juan Martin del Potro (20) has just two quarter-finals in eight appearances at the Australian Open.

Bulgaria’s finest Grigor Dimitrov comes into the Australian Open ranked as the world number 3.

Nick Kyrgios (18.5) didn’t make it past the second round of a slam last year and has just two quarter-finals in his career.

David Goffin (21) has only two quarter-finals in his career.

Stan Wawrinka (65) had knee surgery after Wimbledon, pulled out hours before Tie Break Tens and is now an enormous doubt for the tournament.

Given the doubts surrounding Nadal, Djokovic and Warwinka’s fitness, as well as no Andy Murray, Roger Federer looks an obvious value selection at 3.0, especially with his aforementioned semi-final record.

Since 2005 other than rest of the ‘big four’, only Andreas Seppi has stopped the greatest player of all time here. It’s an obvious bet for me and I’m having one point here.

Going against the grain in the Women’s tournament

In the Women’s draw, I’m disappointed Serena Williams isn’t quite ready to make a return. Even with no warm-up matches, she would have been an auto-bet for me at 6.0+.

Before her break, she was playing unbelievable tennis and was a level above the field with the only person capable of stopping her being herself.

We’re still without Victoria Azarenka and with 12 players priced from 8.8 to 30.0, it is wide open. So let’s run through the recent usual suspects:

Karolina Pliskova (9.8) continues to underachieve at slams despite her recent ranking of number one in the world, losing at odds of 1.53, 1.28 and 1.23. I also continue to question her mental side with her seemingly lacking any ‘fight’ when required, displaying little emotion on court.

Simona Halep (8.8) has been in the top five players in the world since 2013 but all she has to show from her continued slam ‘chokes’ is two French Open runners-up medals amongst many early exits.

Simona Halep will be fancied by many punters but can she be trusted to perform in the big events?

Garbine Muguruza (11.5) has never been past the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and pulled out of the Sydney International with a thigh injury citing “pain during the match all the
time”.

Elina Svitolina (10) won five titles last year and began this year winning Brisbane but it seems when other players raise their game for slams she isn’t quite there yet with just one quarter-final to show for it.

Angelique Kerber (13) is 2016 Australian Open champion and former World Number one but has a fair way to go to regain that level having gone 29-24 last year.

Typically Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova, Madison Keys, Johanna Konta, Coco Vandeweghe and Venus Williams come next in the betting, but they are a bit of a much of a muchness, and the absence of Serena makes their prices artificially shorter.

And, again like the Men’s, there are far more negatives than positives at the prices, except for one woman: Five-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova.

Betting on a proven champion at a decent price

Sharapova is available at 13.0 and I’m prepared to pay my money and take a chance at that price. Last time she was here in 2016, Serena Williams and Azarenka were both competing, yet Sharapova was just 8.0. She had a stop-start comeback to the tour last year but beat Simona Halep at the US Open and managed to win Tianjin in October.

Last week Sharapova made it to the semis of Shenzhen where she posted above 2017 peak WTA numbers in metrics such as first serve and return points won, but let herself down on double faults and break point conversion. I’m happy to accept those slight flaws given her movement in outright price from 8.0 to 13.0, and with the tournament lacking two of the best players in the game.

Sharapova would definitely have more titles were it not for Serena who’s beaten her four times in the Australian Open, including in two finals and her last two appearances.

She’s made three finals and three semi-finals as well as winning the title in 2008, and this year should add another one. It’s definitely worth a one point bet at the prices.

Recommended bets:

  • Roger Federer 3.0 – 1 point
  • Maria Sharapova 13.0 – 1 point