Fantasy Tennis 1/6: Load Up On the Undercosted Kontaveit

That’s right, tennis is BACK, and Draftkings is diving right into it with a small GPP to coincide with the beginning of WTA Abu Dhabi. (Be on the lookout for possible expanded offerings when ATP play starts the next day!) During the brief offseason, I have invented some brand new metrics to add to my player evaluation arsenal, including a basic match win% model! You will definitely want to check them out via our subscriber’s only chat room, but you will at least get a taste of my new offerings in my articles.

Be sure to leave a comment or tweet @GiantOctopus4 if you have any questions. As always, contact @DFSDatalytics or shoot us an email at dfsdatalytics2@gmail.com for a free trial to access our premium chat with plenty of exclusive info from spreadsheets that you won’t find on my articles!

Format: (Draftkings Salary, Draftkings American Betting Odds as of publication)

Anett Kontaveit ($8,200, -165)

I am not normally one to exaggerate, but Kontaveit is really good. Like, really, really good. Against rank 10-100 opponents, she put up a dominance ratio of 1.12 as well as a 13-5 record. That sort of thing does not come by accident or by running hot for a single tournament. Kontaveit is easily a top 20 talent and is a force to be reckoned with. For her to be this cheap, she must be facing someone really good, right?

Well, not exactly. Kudermetova is alright but not great. Sure, she has faced some high quality opponents, but her results just were not quite there in 2020. She had an 8-9 record .93 dominance ratio against rank 10-100 opponents. While I grade her performance as easily that of a tour-level player, she seems totally outmatched against Kontaveit. My model pegs Kontaveit’s odds of victory at about 80%, which is both absurdly high for a player in Kontaveit’s price range and is in the top 5 for the slate. All things considered, Kontaveit is easily a core play, while Kudermetova is very much a fade candidate.

Leylah Annie Fernandez ($9,900, -400)

When facing a low ranked opponent, there is always a bit of uncertainty about what to expect. While we can make adjustments and estimates, challenger tour results are not quite a replacement for tour level results. 

This is why I love this matchup. Paolini has gotten a fair shake at the tour level on hard surfaces, and there is no uncertainty in her results. While she has at times been respectable on clay surfaces, she has been a mess on hard courts, where she had a terrible 0-5 record and .78 DR against rank 10-100 opponents last year. 

Against weaker opponents, Paolini would at least have some chance of victory, but she was unfortunately paired against the talented 18-year-old, Leylah Fernandez. She has not gotten the hype that her fellow youngster, Coco Gauff, has received, but I can assure you that Fernandez seems to be the real deal. Last year, she finished with an enviable 7-5 record and 1.09 DR against rank 10-100 opponents, pegging her as surprisingly one of the better performers on tour. 

I would be interested in matching Fernandez up against any player, but the Paolini matchup is especially tempting, due to the surface conditions (Fernandez performs better on hard, the exact opposite of Paolini) and Paolini’s general difficulties holding serve (disastrous 50% career hold percentage on hard).  This matchup has serious upside, and it should be a fairly safe victory as well. My model predicts Fernandez to win this matchup at over a 90% rate, which places her first even over much more expensive plays. Her only downside is her weak ace-to-double fault ratio of .5, which could end up costing her a few points via double faults. 

Underdog Play:

Bernarda Pera ($6,100, +165)

Unlike the previous two players, nothing about Pera especially excites me. Against rank 10-100 competition, she posted a respectable if not pedestrian 5-6 record and 1.01 dominance ratio. However, her price tag immediately grabs my attention, and nothing about Vekic’s 2020 numbers really changes my mind. 

Vekic, too, had a pedestrian 2020: a 6-7 record and an even 1 dominance ratio, placing her statistically almost dead even with her opponent. Universal Tennis Ratings of the players agree with this sentiment: Vekic’s 12.29 rating is practically identical to Pera’s 12.28. Overall, my model has this match as a virtual toss-up, making Pera an absolute bargain and Vekic a dart throw when salaries are considered.

Punt Plays

Anastasia Potapova ($5,500, +290)

Potapova did not play a whole lot last year. She ended her season in March and never returned, putting up huge question marks regarding her current fitness and level of play. That being said, she was really good when she did play: a 4-2 record and formidable 1.09 dominance ratio. If she comes out in good shape and plays at that same level, Potapova has at least a shot against just about anybody.

She will need that shot, as she matches up against the highly skilled Maria Sakkari. Sakkari’s numbers are both better than Potapova’s and span the entire year, giving her a slight skill edge and potentially a serious fitness edge. This is reflected in the vegas odds, but not necessarily in my prediction model, which grants Sakkari a mere 55% shot at victory. I do think oddsmakers are more correct on the odds of this match than my model, but at $5500, Potapova remains an intriguing punt play that should come in at very low ownership despite a very real upset narrative if things swing her way.

Jamie Loeb ($4,500, +650)

To be honest I do not know a whole lot about Loeb, besides her being a merely okay challenger level player for the bulk of her career. What I do know is the odds are extremely long on this one, which makes Loeb super cheap and almost unowned. Krejcikova is for certain a fine player: she had a 3-4 record and .99 DR against rank 10-100 players on hard courts and had a nice run at Roland Garros. However, I am not sold on her -1000 odds, and think Loeb could come through on this one about 20% of the time. For a main GPP field of only about 800 entries, Loeb is probably not necessary, but there could be some value here if you really need the extra salary or want to get contrarian.

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