Tennis Breakdown – August 22nd

After a week-long absence, fantasy tennis is back with a massive slate covering both Women’s and Men’s competition at the esteemed Western and Southern Open. In preparation for Draftkings’s huge $35k Overhead GPP, I have an exhaustive breakdown of all of the competitors’ chances of victory. Most of my writeups were done prior to checking any Vegas lines in order to both avoid bias and to help look for value plays that might be stronger than the lines suggest. 

Format:

Player Name (Draftkings Salary, American Betting Odds (At time of publishing, UTR Rating) 

(UTR is a weighted ELO rating system. These particular ratings are based on recent performance (or recent-ish, in this case) and are surface agnostic. They are a fine basic indicator of talent, but take them with a lump of salt. You can find them on myutr.com.)

Recent Form: A look into recent matches of both competitors to check on their current form

Talent: A year long or longer view of player performance to create a more complete picture of a player’s overall performance on the relevant surface. I lean heavily on each player’s dominance ratio, which is their number of return points won divided by their opponents’ return points won. 

Verdict (My feelings about how the match will play and/or what players should be favored. In cases where my predictions do not line up with Vegas odds, I will update with further analysis on the discrepancy.)

TL;DR: A quick overview at the end with my favorite plays at each salary threshold for those that do not have the time to go through this whole breakdown.

Nikoloz Basilashvili ($5,400,+290, 15.00) vs. Felix Auger-Alliassime ($10,000, -350, 15.24)

Recent Form: Aliassime played three matches in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in early August, going 1-2. He beat Gasquet handily and was narrowly defeated by Alexander Zverev twice. Basiliashvili played in a couple German exhibition matches, losing to both Mischa Zverev and Struff in straights. 

Talent: Most keen followers of tennis are familiar with the 20-year-old Canadian phenom Auger-Aliassime (FAA for short). His record vs. top 100 opponents (past 52 weeks on hard courts) is a mixed bag considering his rank. He is about even against top 100 opponents in both record (12-13) and dominance ratio (0.99), but he has been roughed up by top-10 ranked players to the tune of a 0-5 record and 0.69 DR, diminishing the stats of his well above average tour level play. 

Fortunately for FAA, Basilashvili is no top 10 player, and his numbers suggest he might not even be ranked 27 material. Basilashvili’s numbers under the same constraints are even less exciting: 7-10 with a mediocre .89 DR. Even ignoring three losses to elite opponents, his DR is in the low .90’s and not even close to FAA’s. 

Verdict: FAA has a non-zero edge in recent form and has performed considerably better than Basilashvili stats wise over the past year. He should be considered a rightful favorite, though not quite unbeatable. 

Dusan Lajovic ($5,900, +220, 15.00) vs. Pablo Carreno-Busta ($9,800, -260, 15.30)

Recent Form: Busta played 5 matches over the break, winning 3 matches against weaker opponents and losing 2 to the formidable Bautista-Agut and De Minaur. He played primarily on clay and has not played a pro match since July 19th. He has an easy edge on Lajovic here, who went 0-5 to Dimitrov, Thiem, and some randos. He had a withdrawal, has not played since June 24th, and has not played a hard court match since February. 

Talent: The good news for Lajovic is that he has been about even in record (7-8) and DR (0.99) against hard court opponents the past year. However, take this with a lump of salt, since a lot of his performance rests on a great run in the exhibition caliber ATP Cup and is not backed up by his poor 2018 and 2019 results. (He has historically been more comfortable on clay, which helps to explain his high rank.) However, Busta has just been on another level, even on hard courts. If we ignore some brutal losses to top 10 opponents, Busta has gone 17-7 with a 1.11 DR the past year against top 100 opponents. 

Verdict: Busta has been the far better player over the past year and looks to have fewer question marks regarding form. Despite his opponent’s higher ranking, Busta is rightfully a sizable favorite. 

Jan-Lennard Struff ($6,400,+160,15.52) vs. Alex De Minaur ($8,800, -180,15.70)

Recent Form: Struff played plenty of tennis over the break, finishing 7-7 in exhibition play. His results were really a mixed bag, but he did not embarrass himself. Most importantly, he mixed 5 hard court matches at the end of July and should be fairly comfortable early on. De Minaur played a mere two matches over the break, both on clay. Even if Struff did not dominate, it is easy to see him having a fitness edge when De Minaur has not played a pro match on hard courts since his loss in Acapulco on February 24th. 

Talent: Alex De Minaur is a heck of a tennis player. Arguably, he is top 10 in the world caliber. We do not have to look hard to see that dominance. Against top 100 players, he posted an awesome 17-8 record and 1.13 DR. 

While De Minaur is excellent, he was probably not ecstatic to draw Struff as his 1st round   opponent. Struff did alright for himself during the past year: a 11-12 record and 1.09 DR on hard. A couple especially dominating performances against Basilashvili and Barrere likely juiced his DR a little, but Struff is still an above average tour-level competitor. 

Verdict: Alex De Minaur should be the easy pick here with his transcendent talent level, but it is hard to say when we just have not seen a whole lot of him this year. (His match in Acapulco was his sole tour level match of the year aside from ATP Cup play.) He is still favored for sure and could dominate, but backing Struff side is reasonable considering De Minaur’s relative lack of match play.

Kevin Anderson ($6,300, +170, 15.03) vs. Kyle Edmund ($9,100, -200, 15.42)

Recent Form: Kyle Edmund has gone 9-2 in the Battle of the Brits tennis series, dropping 2 out of 3 matches against the formidable Daniel Evans and beating Andy Murray, Cameron Norrie, and several randos. We have not seen Anderson since February, where he had an unfortunate loss to the very average Jason Jung.

Talent: Edmund has gone 14-9 with a 1.09 DR on hard courts the past year. There is little doubt he is a formidable hard court opponent, but he is more very good than he is elite. Kevin Anderson is almost elite. At least, he was, until he was taken down by injuries. Back in 2018 and 2019, his numbers have been even better than Edmund’s, but he’s mostly been sidelined by injury since early 2019. Outside an encouraging (as well as dubious) performance at the ATP cup, Anderson has been average at best.

Verdict: Anderson has had the tools and the serve to beat Edmund, but there are so many question marks here that his victory seems speculative. Perhaps giving his body some additional rest did him some good, but Edmund’s fresh form and good recent track record means Edmund should win this more times than not.

Cameron Norrie ($5,600, +110, 14.96) vs. Reilly Opelka ($10,200, -130, 15.46)

Recent Form: Cameron Norrie was quite active over the break, going 11-3 in the Battle of the Brits exhibition series. Going 1-2 against Evans and 0-1 against Edmund, Norrie did a very fine job beating down scrubs he was expected to beat while being at least competitive against higher tier players he was expected to lose to. He also had to qualify for this tournament, so he appears to be fresh and in fine form. Opelka played 9 exhibitions over the break, putting up a mixed 5-4 record. He also has not played a pro match in a couple months, so he will have to overcome a rust deficit to beat Norrie.

Talent: Norrie is about as average as it gets at the ATP Tour level. His 8-9 record and 1.00 DR on the hard courts against top 100 opponents is about in line with his stats from the past couple years. He was a bit below average to start 2020, but his solid play in exhibitions and qualifying makes me think he is still a competent opponent.

Opelka’s numbers on the year are comparable: an 11-7 record and .99 DR. However, Opelka is arguably on a cusp of a breakout. His 2020 ATP results have been great, thanks to a title at Delray. 

Verdict: Opelka seems to be the more talented player and the match should be his to lose if he can execute. However, Opelka still does not have that much of a track record and is not nearly as fresh as Norrie. Opelka has an elite service game and will be a great play for fantasy, but keep in mind that Norrie has a real shot at upsetting Opelka here, albeit without enough break point upside to make for an enticing contrarian play.

Update: This match’s massive mispricing on Draftkings makes Norrie an incredible value at $5,600 as only a slight underdog. Do not sleep on an overpriced Opelka, since his service game will score him lots of points regardless of win quality, but do not go crazy on him.

Borna Coric ($7,800, -125, 14.95) vs. Benoit Paire ($7,300, +105, 15.16)

Recent Form: Benoit Paire played a healthy dose of Ultimate Tennis Showdown over the break, but performed terribly. He went 3-8, with two of his three wins coming from the stylish yet outmatched Dustin Brown. Coric went a more palatable 3-4 against (very) mixed competition, but his losses to Lazarov and Dzumhur are a cause for concern.

Talent: Geez, where do you even start with Coric? Well, let’s start with Benoit Paire. He’s so inconsistent and temperamental that he has landed on a number of tennis bettors’ blacklists. He’s talented for sure, but he definitely does better on Clay. Against top 100 opponents on hard, he did at least put up a respectable 13-11 record courts the past year with a .98 DR. Back to Coric. How about that 3-8 record and .84 DR? He went 20-5 with a 1.26 DR as recently as 2018, but since then he has been a wreck on hard courts. It is hard to trust him right now unless he’s on clay.

Verdict: Benoit should probably be favored here because of his more recent competence on the surface. However, he is still going to have consistency issues despite the favorable matchup on paper. Plus, he was terrible over the summer. This match could possibly go in all sorts of directions. Unfortunately, a lot of them are not pretty nor good for fantasy.

Lloyd Harris ($6,500, +220, 14.85) vs. Taylor Fritz ($9,000, -280, 15.31)

Recent Form: Taylor Fritz only went 1-2 in standard exhibition matches, but he was the easily the best men’s singles player at World Team Tennis, where he went 11-4 in mini sets while showing off an even higher ace rate than usual. He has not played since August 1st, but all things considered, he has looked solid this summer. Harris did not compete over the break, but his wins over Mikael Ymer and Andrej Martin in qualifiers inspire some confidence.

Talent: Late last year, Fritz appeared to be in a downwards spiral towards mediocrity. Then, he got hot in Acapulco this year and played spectacular tennis on his way to a finals loss. Overall, he turned in an 8-14 record .90 DR line, but his extended slump masks his ability as an average to above average tour level player.

Lloyd Harris has not fully established himself at the ATP level. He did play 10 matches against top 100 players over the last year, putting up a respectable 5-5 record and .96 DR. He made it all the way to the finals in Adelaide and could arguably be on the cusp of a breakout. He should be considered a contender to be an average tour level regular.

Verdict: Fritz’s established talent and amazing World Team Tennis performance make him an easy pick to win this match, but Harris is fresher and playing solid tennis. Harris is a live dog here, but there is plenty of reason to roster both sides of this match in fantasy thanks to the pair’s relatively high ace rates. That being said, Fritz’s price tag of $9,000 is the most appealing here due to a heavy backing by the odds.

Filip Krajinovic ($11,400, -330, 15.48) vs. Salvatore Caruso ($4,400, +260, 14.71)

Recent Form: Krajinovic had a solid offseason, going 10-3 against mostly established opponents. Notably, he took down Djokavic himself in an Aria Tour exhibition. Kraj played a solid mix of hard and clay courts and seemed to be in good form, with the reservation that he has not played in nearly a month. Caruso did not compete over the break, but seemed solid in finals, beating both future star Nakashima and established veteran Jordan Thompson in straight sets.

Talent: Excluding some losses to top level players, Krajinovic has shown well above average game, with a 14-7 record and 1.08 DR against top 100 on hard courts. He has established himself as a more than capable tour level player.

Caruso was abysmal under the same constraints: a 1-7 record with a .86 DR. Caruso is 28 and has enough matches under his belt to demonstrate that he is a well below average competitor at the tour level.

Verdict: Based on the numbers alone, Krajinovic can and should dominate here. However, Caruso’s qualifying performance is intriguing and could hint at a breakthrough due to adjustments over the break. I still expect Kraj to win if Caruso plays well, but this could at least be closer than the matchup looks on the surface. With Krajinovic’s astronomical salary and Caruso’s questionable chances of winning, this will probably be a match to avoid on Draftings.

Francis Tiafoe ($7,600, +105, 15.09) vs Andy Murray ($7,700, -125, 15.33)

Recent Form: Murray went 2-2 in the Battle of the Brits back in late June, winning easy matchups against Ward and Broady and narrowly losing to Edmund and Evans. Tiafoe won a single exhibition match against Querrey in early July. Both had their activity somewhat limited by injury, so both are entering the Open with question marks despite a small sampling of competent play over the break.

Talent: Tiafoe has demonstrated the ability to be a reasonable tour level player, but we have not gotten to see a lot of it recently. He went 4-8 (4-6 if you don’t count his Warinka beatings) with a .91 dominance ratio against rank 10-100 opponents during the past year, though he was a much more palatable at 12-10 1.00 in 2019. 

Talent is no question for Murray. The past year, he went an excellent 8-2 against rank 10-100 opponents with a 1.16 DR to boot. Whether he can play at that same level post hip replacement is the question here, though his reasonable play at the exhibition series at least demonstrated he has something left in the tank.

Verdict: I slightly favor Murray here due to his higher potential ceiling and Tiafoe’s history of being about average. However, fitness is a real issue for both sides and the range of outcomes could be relatively high as a result.

Tommy Paul ($9,700, +100, 14.97) vs. Ricardas Berankis ($6,000, -120, 14.91)

Recent Form: Tommy Paul played a lot during the break but never really found his groove. He went a savage 0-7 in exhibition play and a disappointing 5-8 in World Team Tennis mini sets, being competitive but often outmatched. He may not enter this tournament in good form unless he has made drastic adjustments the past few weeks. Berankis went 7-2 in exhibitions over the break, but his competition level was so low that they do not tell us much about Berankis’s play. However, he did beat two top 100 players in Uchiyama and Fokina and can be expected to be on his game.

Talent: Tommy Paul is not quite established at the tour level, but he is starting to break in as evidenced by his #57 world ATP ranking. Against top 100 competitors, Paul has gone 6-5 with a .97 DR on the year, going on a decent run in Adelaide and upsetting Dimitrov in the US Open. He seems to have the stuff to succeed as a tour level regular.

Berankis was mediocre the past year just as the 30 year old has been his whole career. His 4-9 record and .92 DR against top 100 players more or less matches up with his career totals.

Verdict: I really want to back Tommy Paul here, but he has arguably just not been the same player since his awesome and grindy upset over Dimitrov. Berankis is fresh and in form and is not in a bad spot to upset the more talented Paul. Considering the huge price discrepancy here, it makes sense to play some Berankis on Draftkings and avoid Paul for the most part.

Sam Querrey ($7,400, +105, 15.05) vs. Milos Raonic ($7,900, -125, 15.67)

Recent Form: Querrey was very active during the break. He participated in World Team Tennis singles and played 8 scattered exhibition matches. He went 5-9 in mini sets, owing mostly to dropping 6 of the 7 tiebreakers, and 4-4 in regular matches. While not dominant, Querrey’s average showings over the summer give him a potential fitness edge over Raonic, who has not played a match since Delray in February. 

Talent: Querrey definitely has some game, but he has not been all that exciting overall after his awesome 2018 campaign. During the past couple years, he has settled on a near even record and DR against rank 11-100 opponents, which is reasonable does not stand out. Raonic has shown a much higher ceiling as of late. While he has not played a lot the past year, he went 9-6 with a remarkable 1.20 dominance ratio in 2019.

Verdict: If Raonic enters the opening round at the top of his game, this will be his match to lose. Unfortunately, we have not seen much of Raonic during the summer or at all in general. He probably deserves to be a decent favorite here, but there is a real shot he doesn’t show and Querrey takes him down with merely good tennis. Also note, both of these players have a high hold and ace rate, giving both players a relatively strong bump in median and floor scores for fantasy (assuming Raonic doesn’t get bitten by the double fault bug and Querrey does not get blown out). 

Dennis Shapovalov ($8,000, -130, 15.47) vs. Maron Cilic ($7,500, +110, 15.36)

Recent Form: Cilic played briefly in June, losing 2 competitive matches to Rublev (understandable) and Alexander Zverev (okay), then dropping to Petrovic in straights (yikes). Shapovalov has not played at all since a disappointing loss to Bublik in February. 

Talent: Cilic showed off some tremendous ceiling in 2018, but it seems the magic has worn off and he has not been all that spectacular since then. His 8-9 record and 1.01 DR against top 100 opponents during the past year pretty much sums it up: he’s capable, but not much more than that at the moment. 

Shapovalov checks in with similar figures: an 18-14 record and 1.01 DR. The 21 year old notably had an excellent 2019, but has yet to find his groove in 2020. (Coincidentally, one of his two non-ATP cup wins was off of Cilic.) 

Verdict: Given the conditions, this seems like a fairly close match. Shapovalov and Cilic have shown the ability to be standout ATP players, but they have merely been fine as of late. Shapovalov seems more likely to find his ceiling given his career arc, but with a lack of quality 2020 results and no summer exhibitions, Cilic should be given the nod as a slight favorite here.

Ekaterina Alexandrova ($7,000, +120, 12.94) vs. Elena Rybakina ($8,200, -140, 13.12)

Recent Form: Alexandrova has played 3 matches on clay and was predictably disappointing. While she edged out a struggling Mladenovic, she lost easily to a red hot Ferro and a middling Tsurenko. The talented Rybakina, however, has not played since a withdrawal in February.

Talent: Both of these ladies have excelled on hard courts the past year. Alexandrova went 16-9 with a DR of 1.07 against all top 100 opponents the past year, while Rybakina went 22-10 with a 1.08. I believe it is safe to say these two share a high caliber tennis game and both are unlucky draws for a 1st round matchup.

Verdict: This is an air tight matchup, but I have to give Alexandrova a bit of an edge here on form alone. While she has not been wonderful lately, she has at least been active and has a historically weak clay game to excuse her under-performance. Meanwhile, Rybakina is coming in completely cold in terms of professional matches, so she seems slightly more poised to under-perform. 

Anastasija Sevastova ($8,400, -155, 12.69) vs. Kristina Mladenovic ($6,800, +135, 12.68)

Recent Form: While Mladenovic played a healthy dose of matches over the break, her performance upon her return was rough at best. She lost 5-7 6-0 6-1 and double faulted 20 times to Alexandrova, who is a fine player in her own right but tends to struggle on clay. Between a withdrawal in late July and this worrying performance, there is plenty reason to believe Mladenovic is not at the top of her game. It’s a similar story for Sevastova. She lost to the underdog Begu 6-2 6-2 despite 6 exhibition matches over the break. (However, none were on clay, the surface she lost on.) 

Talent: Mladenovic is an average to above average tour level player, but she has shown a preference for clay historically. Still, she played well enough on hard to go 15-11 with a fine .98 DR along the way. Sevastova is another player that prefers clay but does fine on hard, but the results have been far less pretty in comparison. Although Sevastova was around as good as Mladenovic in 2019, she has gone 1-6 with a .78 DR on the surface in 2020, only picking up a win in the questionable Fed Cup. 

Verdict: This seems like a toss up with a wide range of outcomes, but I am unexcited about backing either player here. Mladenovic could capitalize on Sevastova’s weak performance early in the year, but she appeared super vulnerable in her return to WTA action on her preferred surface and her double faults eat into her fantasy value. Sevastova was just as underwhelming in her return to action, though she at least had some hard court prep during the down time, which could be a boon to her here. 

Heather Watson ($6,900, +120, 12.89) vs. Bernarda Pera ($8,500, -140, 12.71)

Recent Form: Pera’s only post-Covid match play came in the form of World Team Tennis, but she pleasantly surprised with a 6-3 record in mini sets against the field. She also put up a competitive loss against a rusty Serena Williams in Lexington, further leading me to believe she is in reasonable match shape. Watson went 5-0 against low level competition in the Battle of the Brits, only to serve as easy prey to future champion Brady in the opening round of Lexington. 

Talent: Pera does not have a ton of top 100 experience under her belt, but she seems to be a better fit on clay than hard, where she is 12-7 for her career compared to an ugly 19-30 record on hard. Still, Pera has proven she can at least be palatable on hard courts, going 6-7 with a .96 DR against all top 100 opponents on the surface the last 12 months. 

That being said, Watson is only around average on hard herself even if it is her preferred surface. However, she did go a solid 12-7 with a DR of 1.01 over the past 12 months, which are a step up from her mediocre career marks of 85-107 and .97. 

Verdict: Watson makes sense as a little bit of a favorite here considering her superior recent WTA results. However, do not sleep on Pera. She is not too bad on hard despite her clay preference and played confidently in World Team Tennis. She could easily upset Watson here if Watson is unable to rebound from her loss to Brady.

Update: Watson is actually available at underdog odds, which seems reasonable but not quite what I expected. She seems like a solid salary saver as a result.

Veronika Kudermetova ($6,600, +125, 12.73) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic ($8,600, -145, 12.68)

Recent Form: Tomljanovic was competent if not unexciting over the break, going 2-3 in World Team Tennis mini sets and 3-1-1 in regular play. However, she had little to show for her efforts in Lexington, where she was devastated by Putinseva in a 6-0 6-4 route. Kudermetova skipped out on match play over the summer and scored a miserable loss herself in Prague on clay: 6-0 6-3 to Genie Bouchard.

Talent: Although solid enough 2019, Tomljanovic has not even been average in the past year, going 6-8 with a meager .92 DR against rank 10-100 competition. The young Kudermetova was slightly better over the last year, with a DR closer to average at .97 and a decent 11-8 record that was boosted by a walkover and a withdrawal.

Verdict: Kudermetova has played better tennis overall the past year and could possibly be a slight favorite on paper because of that. However, both players are coming off a brutal loss in the resumption of WTA play and thus have serious question marks regarding form. While it failed to help her in her loss to Putintseva, perhaps Tomljanovic has a slight edge overall thanks to her activity over the break, but it is tough to say for certain.

Maria Sakkari ($6,700, +130, 12.96) vs. Cori Gauff ($8,700, -150, 12.92)

Recent Form: While Gauff did not play any exhibitions over the break, she barely missed a beat in Lexington, going 3-1 with upsets over Sabalenka and Jabeur. It took a red hot Jen Brady to end her run in the tournament. It was a completely different story for Sakkari’s return to Palermo. She entered as a heavy favorite against Kristyna Pliskova and unceremoniously lost 6-4 6-4 to the underdog. While Sakkari’s loss was more disappointing than disastrous, Coco looks to be the one more on her game at the moment by a decent margin.

Talent: Gauff is another player that is difficult to read. Her record of 11-5 against top 100 talent is impeccable, but her DR is actually only an average .98. My gut says she has the ability to take on just about anyone, but she has had a slight tendency towards grindy wins and quick losses. However, that could be a simple case of variance more than her playstyle.

Sakkari has been a solid competitor in her own right. She has shown a preference for clay, evidenced by an 11-5 record vs. top 100 players in 2019 compared to her 8-13 record on hard. However, Sakkari is completely fine on hard and has gone 7-6 with an even 1.00 DR on it just this year against top 100 competition. (Her solid start to 2020 actually enabled her to hit her peak rank of 20 in late February.) While she might not have Gauff’s phenom status, she might not be too far behind in ability at the moment.

Verdict: Sakkari has the skills to match Gauff, but Gauff’s sharp start in Lexington on hard courts makes her a clear favorite over Sakkari, who underperformed in a lone match on clay. Gauff has few dominating victories for the year, but I still like her chances at a clean straight set victory, while Sakkari’s ability to do the same feels speculative at the moment. At least Sakkari’s $6,700 salary is on the cheap side for her slight underdog status.

Alize Cornet ($8,300, -145, 12.63) vs. Caty McNally ($7,100, +125, 12.67)

Recent Form: Cornet had a fine if not uninspiring break, going 6-4 on hard courts against mostly lower ranked opposition. McNally’s recent results are also a mixed bag. She went 2-1 against quality competition in Young Kings Scholarship exhibitions in early April, but she seemed outmatched in World Team Tennis to a tune of a 2-5 record in singles mini sets. She also participated in Lexington a couple weeks ago, where she lost in straights to the competent Ons Jabeur. 

Talent: Still only 18 years old, McNally has a lot of promise but has yet to develop as a tour level talent yet. She has been mediocre at best vs. rank 10-100 players with an 8-8 record and .88 DR. Her opponent Cornet, while an established veteran, has been similarly unconvincing as of late. While her opponent quality was slightly better compared to McNally’s, her 5-8 record and .90 DR are just as disappointing. 

Verdict: This matchup seems surprisingly close. I consider McNally a very slight favorite here, thanks to her stiffer competition over the break and her tune up match through her loss to Jabeur in Lexington. Just remember that Cornet has herself been active over the summer and that any edge McNally has over the veteran in this regard is on the small side. Still, McNally seems like a solid value at $7,100.

Donna Vekic ($9,200, -215, 12.89) vs. Victoria Azarenka ($6,100, +175, 12.61)

Recent Form: Tennis has not been kind to Azarenka since her return to action from injury. She played 2 exhibitions over the break, looking totally outmatched by the admittedly tough Danielle Collins and Jen Brady. She then lost again handily to a sharp looking Venus Williams in Lexington. While it’s nice to see Azarenka back, her previous prowess has yet to shine through in any of her matches. Vekic’s return has at least been mixed. She skipped exhibition season, then stomped veteran Rus 6-1 6-2 then lost to youngster Cocciaretto 6-4 6-2 a couple days later. Vekic also has not played a hard court match since February.

Talent: Azarenka is clearly a solid hard court player, or at least was. She went 10-11 with a solid 1.06 DR against top 100 competitors in 2019. However, she has barely played since then and has lost every contest she has played rather easily. She is likely just not the same player right now. Over the past year, Vekic has been about average on the hard courts, with a 9-13 record and .98 DR in top 100 play. 

Verdict: While questions remain about Vekic’s form, I think she is easily favored against an out of sorts Azarenka. Perhaps Azarenka figures something out or Vekic is out of her groove with the lack of recent hard court play, but the median outcome is likely a straight set performance out of Vekic.

Karolina Muchova ($10,800, -240, 13.03) vs. Ann Li ($4,800, +195, 12.32)

Recent Form: Muchova played in a wealth of exhibition events in eastern Europe over the break, playing well against quality opponents for an excellent 8-3 record on a mix of hard and clay. She is probably about as fit as we could hope for from someone that has not played in a WTA event since February. Ann Li played 3 lower level exhibitions that do not tell her a lot about her current level, but she really showed up in order to qualify for this event, comfortably sweeping more established players in Diyas and Kuzmova. Both players are entering this matchup in great form, though Ann Li does carry the benefit of very recent matches on these very courts.

Talent: There is not much to say about Muchova. She went 13-7 on the year against top 100 opponents on hard courts, with a rock solid 1.06 DR. Her career is still young, but I feel comfortable considering her an above average tour level player. 

Ann Li is only 20 years old and is yet to establish herself at the WTA level. She is about an even 4-3 with a .99 DR against top 100 players on hard the past year, but that is not really a significant enough sample to be reliable. She does have a solid 85-51 career record (albeit at mostly the challenger level), so it’s possible Li is a fine player that has not broken through yet.

Verdict: Muchova is the more established player and likely the more skilled one as well. She deserves to be a reasonable favorite, but Li could at least give Muchova a challenge if she performs like she did in qualifying. Muchova’s expensive $10,800 salary on Draftkings takes out a lot of the appeal of rostering her in fantasy, but I am not confident enough in Li to run her despite her dirt cheap salary.

Venus Williams ($6,200, +170, 12.59) vs. Dayana Yastrmska ($9,500, -200, 13.09)

Recent Form: Venus looked helpless during her 1-4 run in World Team Tennis. I was not sure she had anything left in the tank until Lexington, where she seemed utterly reinvigorated. She beat a struggling Azarenka easily and had a very competitive loss to her sister in round 2. Yas has not been too bad herself. While she did not play any exhibitions over the break, she comfortably defeated Dodin and Tormo in Palermo before narrowly losing a well fought match to Giorgi the round after. My main reservation about Yas is her lack of hard court play since February.

Talent: Still just 20 years old, Yastremska has proven she can comfortably compete at the WTA level. On hard courts during the last 12 months, she went 13-11 with a 1.03 DR, positioning herself as above average but not quite elite. Meanwhile, Venus has gone 3-6 with a .99 DR despite some very tough competition on average. She also performed well in 2019, to the tune of a 14-9 record and .99 DR. Overall, Venus has a slight disadvantage to Yastremska in terms of recent results and her age is a limiting factor, but Venus should have the ability to be competitive against Yastremska.

Verdict: I think Yas will be favored here and deservedly so, but I actually do not mind Venus here as well. Her weak World Team Tennis performance is a red flag and her advanced age presents consistency issues, but Venus looked great in 2019 and proved she still has some game in Lexington. If Yas has any issues transitioning back from clay to hard courts, Venus could poach her way towards an upset.

Alison Riske ($7,200, +110, 13.07) vs. Amanda Anisimova ($8,100, -130, 12.98)

Recent Form: Riske went a competent 3-2 in match play between May and June. While Riske was not particularly dominant and those matches were a couple months ago now, it seems she had a successful tune-up. It’s a similar story for Anisimova, who went an identical 3-2 in the same timespan. Both players enter with a little uncertainty due to their 2 month hiatus, but both should at least reasonably match fit considering their performances.

Talent: It has been a tough ride for Anisimova. After having a true breakout season in 2019 at the very young age of 17, Anisimova has since had to deal with the tragic loss of her father and coach late last year. Her tennis has likely suffered as a result. Anisimova has only been a little above average in 2020, with a 4-3 record and 1.01 DR on hard courts against top 100 competition. (In comparison, she had an 8-7 record yet a more impressive 1.07 DR the previous year.)  Anisimova remains a fine WTA tour player with potential to be a true talent, but her personal loss has made her promising career trajectory a bit less certain.

Now 30 years old, Riske is a true veteran and a late bloomer. She hit a peak rank of 18 in November of 2019, in part thanks to a stellar Wimbledon run, and has played high level tennis since. All-in-all, she is 13-10 with a 1.05 DR against top 100 competition, placing her as an great but not quite elite level at tour level. 

Verdict: Both of these women are solid players and this match has the potential to be extremely competitive. I do favor Riske slightly here, since she had a better 2020 early on the year on the back of a solid Australian Open run. She is the better player right now and even comes at a discount. Still, Anisimova has been more disappointing than actually bad and can definitely pull off a W as well.

TL;DR

Best Elite Plays: Aliassime ($10k), Busta ($9.8k)

Best Expensive Plays: Vekic ($9.2k), Fritz ($9.0k)

Best Medium Plays: Raonic ($7.9k), Murray ($7.7k)

Best Dogs: Querrey ($7.4k), Riske ($7.2k)

Best Punts: Berankis ($6.0k), Norrie ($5.6k)

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