Tennis Breakdown – August 23rd

Western and Southern Open action continues and more big Draftkings contests are just waiting to be played. For those looking to dive really deep into this huge 30 match slate, I have an exhaustive breakdown of all of the competitors’ chances of victory. Most of my write-up was 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. Remember to check out my TL;DR picks at the end of the article if you’re pressed for time and need to throw a lineup together quickly!

Format:

Player Name (Draftkings Salary, American Betting Odds, 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.

Gregor Dimitrov ($7,200,+130,15.41) vs. Ugo Humbert ($8,500,-150,15.20)

Recent Form: Dimitrov has gone 2-5 over the break, including a 3 match stint in Ultimate Tennis Showdown just a few weeks ago. It’s fair to say he has been slightly disappointing, but the caliber of his competition has not done him any favors, either. (3 of his losses were to Gasquet, Coric, and Thiem.) Ugo Humbert went 2-1 in some French exhibitions against some much lower ranked players in mid-July. 

Talent: Although Dimitrov has a little bit of a reputation for inconsistency and being injury plagued, his results have actually been very solid. He has gone an impressive 16-11 with a 1.10 DR against top 100 opponents, even picking up wins against Thiem and Federer, backing up his high rank and UTR. Humbert is no slouch himself, putting up a 10-7 record and 1.05 DR, albeit against slightly easier competition. 

Verdict: It is tough to see an edge in recent form here. (Dimitrov’s shaky results vs. Humbert’s low level competition.) However, Dimitrov does seem to be the more talented player of the two and should be a slight favorite. Just don’t count Humbert out. He is a strong player in his own right and this should be a competitive match that could go either way.

Andrey Rublev ($9,100,-240,15.70) vs. Daniel Evans ($6,300,+200,15.40)

Recent Form: Rublev played 8 exhibitions over the break, playing mainly high quality players, and only dropping a match to Thiem. It seems he barely missed a beat during the off-time, with my only cause of concern is he has not played since July 11th. Evans was active as well in the Battle of the Brits exhibition that ended in early August. His performance was good but not exceptional, going 8-3 against a mix of decent and unknown players.

Talent: Daniel Evans is an above average player and is about as good as one would expect from his ranking: he posted about an even record and DR against top 100 players and bumps up to a 13-9 record and 1.05 DR when we exclude top players. However, Rublev is simply an elite, top 10 talent. He has a 27-9 record with a 1.20 DR even WITH top players included. 

Verdict: Evans might put up a fight, but Rublev is a much better player and should not have difficulties winning this in straights. 

John Isner ($8,100,-135,15.32) vs. Hurkacz ($7,600,+115,15.25)

Recent Form: Isner only played 3 exhibition matches, somehow narrowly losing to Eubanks and easily beating Fritz in a period of 3 days. (Tennis is crazy sometimes.) Meanwhile, Hurkacz was one of the more active players during exhibition season, going 6-3 against a mix of both good and unknown players. (Incredibly, he lost to the unranked Kasinowski on clay during his most recent match on July 16th.) Hurkacz might have a slight edge here, but it’s nothing to write home about when we consider his mixed results and Isner’s big serve as balancing factors.

Talent: It feels strange to say, but Isner just has not been stellar the past year. He’s been fine against rank 10-100 players: an 8-9 record with a .99 dominance ratio, but considering his ranking peak of 8 as recently as 2018, he has not lived up to his reputation. Hurkacz is nearly identical in both marks, so it is hard to see an edge in the numbers alone.

Verdict: Hurkacz is younger and likely more fit at the moment, but Isner’s comparable numbers and huge serve are going to keep this one very close. Isner is the preferred option for fantasy due to his elite ability to produce aces and prevent double faults. Hurkacz’s upside will be limited due to the difficulty of breaking Isner’s serve, but he should at least come at low ownership for this reason in addition to Isner’s popularity. 

Karen Khachanov ($8,900,-220,15.30) vs. Alexander Bublik ($6,200,+180,14.87)

Recent Form: Khachanov went a disappointing 1-3 over the break, picking up a quality win over Berrettini and losing a couple headscratchers including Sinner and Novak. Bublik played a staggering 12 matches over the break. However, the matches were all in May, were against much lower ranked players, and he only went 8-4. Both men will be entering the opening round with a lot of question marks.

Talent: Khachanov is the much more talented player, and the disparity of their stats the past year practically tells the whole story. Excluding top 10 matchups, Khachanov has gone 15-11 against top 100 players with an impressive (though not quite elite) DR of 1.09. Under the same parameters, Bublik is a decent 14-13 with a much more meager .96 DR. Khachanov has definitely been the more dominant player here, but we have to give Bublik some credit for his quality 2020, including a quality run in Marseille that ended in a loss to Tsitsipas in the semis. 

Verdict: Khachanov definitely deserves to be reasonably favored in this match due to talent alone, but due to Bublik’s not-terrible play and the amount of uncertainty regarding the fitness of both players, it is difficult to predict what actually happens. Do note that Bublik has considerable double fault downside. While it is cancelled out somewhat by his strong ace ability, it is enough of an issue that it should be considered when rostering him for fantasy.

Adrian Mannarino ($7,500,+110,15.26) vs. John Millman ($8,000,-130,15.30)

Recent Form: Mannarino went 1-1 in a couple of tuneup exhibitions against unknowns in July. Millman has not played a professional match since March.

Talent: Against rank 11-100 players, Millman went 10-7 with a DR of only .94. (In part thanks to a 6-2 6-0 pounding by Rublev) Mannarino, on the opposite end of the spectrum, put up an impressive DR of 1.12 yet only an even 10-10 record. Judging from Mannarino’s record and 2017-2019 results, it seems that this DR is an aberration and both Millman and Mannarino are similar caliber players. 

Verdict: This match is hard to read. Both players are similar caliber and haven’t played in months. 

Casper Ruud ($6,500,+170,15.24) vs Diego Schwartzman ($8,800,-200,15.41)

Recent Form: Ruud played three exhibition matches over the break, predictably posting competitive losses to Rublev, Struff, and Thiem back in early July. Schwartzman has not played since February, which theoretically could give Ruud a fitness bump.

Talent: Schwartzman is a great tennis player. He’s not really a threat to top players at the moment, but he has been as good as anybody against middle ranked players with a 10-5 record and an elite 1.22 DR. He faces off against Casper Ruud, who has been competitive but underwhelming with a 4-7 record and .92 DR on hard courts. At only 21 years of age, Ruud is a true up and comer, and one I expected will be an ATP regular in the coming years. He has both a title and a final under his belt in 2020, but both were on clay and there is plenty of reason to be skeptical of his success easily translating to hard courts. 

Verdict: Schwartzman should be a heavy favorite and could end the match with a runaway victory and a great fantasy score. However, there are a couple potential pitfalls here. First, Schwartzman has not played since February and is a risk to underperform. Second, the relatively slower New York courts and Diego Schwartzman’s grindy playstyle could nudge Ruud towards his comfort zone that he feels on clay. There is a lot of upside to like for Schartzman here, just do not completely sleep on Ruud.

Tennys Sandgren ($8,700,-200,15.04) vs. Lorenzo Sonego ($6,700,+170,14.90)

Recent Form: Sonego played a lot of tennis over the break, but solely on clay during the Italian Championships in late June and early July. He went 10-0 in those tournaments, which is fairly impressive even considering the lower level competition. Sandgren played 10 exhibitions of his own, going 6-4 against decent competition and also going 5-4 World Team Tennis mini sets. While Sonego’s performance was probably more impressive, Sandgren’s exhibitions seem more relevant due to the higher ranked competition, relevant surface type, and evenly spread timeframe.

Talent: Does Sonego even really play on hard courts? Okay, he has a 60% career winrate on clay versus 55% on hard, so it could be worse. However, his performance against top 100 competition is a completely different story, widening to a gap of 49% on clay versus 26% on hard. He has not won a hard court match since September 2019, regardless of rank, and is 0-9 on the surface since then. 

Sandgren is a tough nut to crack. His record and DR on hard are just below average, but he has shown the ceiling to make deep runs in majors and upset much more talented opponents. However, he has also gone on several match losing streaks against less than great opponents. Still, I feel Sandgren is overall a gritty competitor that has been making great strides in his game the past few years and is overall plenty comfortable on the hard courts.

Verdict: If Sonego cannot find a way to somehow translate his summer magic onto hard courts against stiffer competition, Sandgren should win comfortably in straight sets. It’s not impossible Sonego likes the court conditions or that Sandgren does not show up, but I feel neither are especially likely.

Aljaz Bedene ($8,400,-160,15.23) vs. Christian Garin ($7,000,+140,15.14)

Recent Form: Bedene took it easy over the break, going 1-1 against lower ranked players, but he is fresh off of 2 wins in qualifiers. This puts him in a favorable position over Garin, who has not played a match since February.

Talent: Garin is a true up and comer, but performs much better on clay, where he was undefeated against top 100 opponents outside the top 10. On hard courts, he was merely average with an 8-10 record and .96 DR. 

That would normally be fine for Garin, but his opponent Bedene has been low key great on hard. He put up a 12-7 record and awesome 1.11 DR the past year under the same parameters. While he has not replicated that high DR in recent years, he has been a fairly solid hard courter for a while.

Verdict: Between Bedene being warm from qualifiers and having a solid edge in terms of surface preference, he should be decently favored against Garin. His Above average ace rate will help his fantasy score, as well.

Norbert Gombos ($5,800,+240,14.87) vs. Marton Fucsovics ($9,300,-290,15.32)

Recent Form: Fucsovics had limited action over the break, but he was amazing in qualifiers. He beat capable players in Nakashima and Martinez in straight sets, and neither were very close. Gombos played a handful matches over the break as well, going 6-3, but not against high enough ranked players to be interesting. Gombos also qualified against okay opponents, but needed 6 sets and 5 hours of gametime to get through.

Talent: Fucsovics has had a fine year on hard courts, and went 7-5 with a 1.03 DR against rank 10-100 opponents. He has put up solid results the past few years as well and can be considered an established tour level competitor. 

Gombos has been fine, albeit under a limited amount of action. He went 5-4 with about an even DR the past couple years and could possibly hold his own, but he notably has been a couple notches below Fucs over the span of his career.

Verdict: Fucsovics is the better and more established player, played better through qualifiers, and had to work a lot less through qualifiers. He’s a solid favorite to win this matchup.

Sebastian Korda ($5,600,+220,14.69) vs. Emil Ruusuvuori ($9,800,-260,15.26)

Recent Form: Korda kept busy during the break, going 12-3 against mostly low ranked competitors, which is actually fairly impressive considering Korda is outside the top 200 himself. He played a couple qualifier matches and won them both in 3 sets, notably upsetting Simon who seemed to be MIA the 2nd and 3rd sets. Ruusuvuori only did 5 clay matches over the break, going 3-2 against lower level competitors. This proved to be plenty for Emil, as he cleaned through his two qualifier matches with ease.

Talent: Ruusevori has not really played enough at the tour level to have useful stats there. (Though, his 4-5 record and 1.05 DR the past year is certainly promising.) However, Ruusevori has cleaned house against players outside the top 100, going 30-5 with a ridiculous 1.29 DR against such opponents. Ruusevori is a true ATP prospect and a breakthrough as a tour level regular is within his reach.

Korda has a 14-12 record with a .99 DR against his opponents, who were all outside the top 100. While I commend him for qualifying, I do not think he is even close to the same level as Ruusevori unless he has substantially improved during the break.

Verdict: Ruusevori should win easily here, with the upside of a blowout. Perhaps Korda’s 12-3 record over the break and qualifiers performance means he has made adjustments and improved, but I would not read too much into it.

Mackenzie Mcdonald ($7,700,-115,14.76) vs. Marcos Giron ($8,000,-105,14.93)

Recent Form: Giron seems to be in solid form as of writing, going 7-3 in exhibition play against mixed levels of competitors and taking four out of five sets on his way to qualifying. It’s much of the same for Mcdonald, who actually went 16-5, though his level of competition was on the low side. He also won 4 out of 5 sets to qualify, but his matches were tight and he won all three of his tiebreakers in order to do so.

Talent: Giron has not been great at the tour level so far, but he’s at least finding ways to win against top 100 opponents, putting up a 5-9 record between 2019 and 2020. His 20-9 record and 1.20 DR against players outside the top 100 does at least brand him as a high level competitor at the challenger level.

Mcdonald is not a tour level regular, either, but he actually held his own surprisingly well at the level. He has gone 9-11 against top 100 opponents the last couple years, though most of his success came from a solid 8-6 performance in 2016. Unlike Giron, he has not played a wealth of opponents outside the top 100 and seems to be a notch below Giron against them lately, but he has performed well against that caliber of player at least historically.

Verdict: This match feels hard to read since neither player is even average. I lean towards Giron due to his excellent challenger level play, but I doubt he is really much of a better player than Mcdonald.

Jeffrey John Wolf ($5,900,+140,15.26) vs. Richard Gasquet ($9,600,-160,15.18)

Recent Form: Wolf went a solid 4-1 on the break, going 3-1 against Torpegaard and picking up a W against the established Tennys Sandgren. He won four of his five sets in qualifiers, performing well aside from a 6-2 set loss hiccup to Munar Clar. Gasquet was a staple in Ultimate Tennis Showdown, where he performed to the tune of a 10-4 record. He can probably be considered in good tennis shape aside from last playing in early August.

Talent: Only 21 years old, Wolf has not been able to establish himself on tour yet. He is 3-2 with a 1.09 dominance ratio in 5 career matches against top 100 opponents, but he also has not played any competitor in the top 50. Still Wolf is considered a true talent and prospect, posting a 28-9 record and 1.21 DR for the year against mostly lower level opponents. 

Gasquet is a well known name in the tennis world, but he has not been much above average since 2017. Now 34 years old, his 4-2 record and 1.12 DR this year against players not named Gael Monfils is a positive sign after a lousy 2019 where he went 10-17 with a .91 DR against top 100 opponents. He may still be an average to above average tour level competitor if he stays healthy and doesn’t slump.

Verdict: Gasquet will probably be favored here based on name recognition alone, but Wolf seems to be a strong player in his own right and can easily win if Gasquet shows less than his best game. At a salary of only $5,900, Wolf looks to be one of the top values on the slate.

Kevin Anderson ($5,900,250,15.02) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas ($9,900,-275,15.93)

Recent Form: Kevin Anderson played his first match since February against Edmund. His serve was not quite immaculate. He double faulted 7 times and faced 10 break points over 3 sets, but his upset against Edmund is a much higher quality result than his loss to Jung several months back. 

Tsitsipas is playing his first ATP match in months, but he kept busy over the break via Ultimate Tennis Showdown. He went 9-2 against mostly quality opposition and easily looked like the best player in the facility. I think he will be good to go for tomorrow’s match.

Talent: Kevin Anderson is almost elite. At least, he was, until he was taken down by injuries. Perhaps his victory against Edmund will give him a confidence boost towards some high quality tennis, but I have doubts he is much above average right now.

Tsitsipas is a truly elite player and has been one of the best players outside of the big three. He is an astonishing 27-12 with a 1.19 DR against top 100 players on hard courts. 

Verdict: If Anderson serves well, he has the ability to make things difficult for Tsitsipas but I have a hard time believing he can pull an upset. I do worry the big serve will suppress Tsitsipas’s fantasy points ceiling, but Tsitsipas remains a fine play nonetheless.

Borna Coric ($6,600,+150,14.94) vs. David Goffin ($8,800,-175,15.40)

Recent Form: Coric went a palatable 3-4 against (very) mixed competition over the break, but his losses to Lazarov and Dzumhur are a cause for concern. He did dominate a struggling Benoit Paire in round 1, which is a plus. 

Goffin went 5-5 in Ultimate Tennis Showdown in June and July. His record was disappointing, but all of his losses did come against high quality opponents like Thiem and Tsitsipas. He has not played in a little over a month now. Between his time off and average showing at UTS, I have at least minor concerns that Goffin will be 100% entering this match. 

Talent: Coric has only had a 4-8 record with a subpar DR on hard during the past year. 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. However, he could be due for a bounceback at some point.

Goffin has been solid on hard courts the past year. Against rank 10-100 opponents, he had a solid 13-9 record and 1.07 DR. He should be considered a well above average competitor on hard courts.

Verdict: I like Goffin’s chances to cruise here through straight sets, but there is a non-zero chance he no-shows or Coric finds a way to return to his 2018 form. Still, at only $8,800 on Draftkings, you could do worse than Goffin here.

Rebecca Peterson ($6,000,+250, 12.72) vs. Elise Mertens ($10,000,-300,13.05)

Recent Form: After a devastating R1 loss to Sasnovich in Palermo, Mertens eventually found her groove and worked her way to the finals in Prague where she was halted by the elite Simona Halep. However, it is worth noting that Mertens has not played a match on the hard courts since February. Peterson has only played a single match post-Covid: a 6-4 7-5 loss in Prague to an in-form Camila Giorgi. She will thus be entering round 1 play with considerably more fitness uncertainty than Mertens.

Talent: Mertens has been elite on hard courts the past year with a 16-10 record and 1.19 DR against top 100 competition. On the flip side, Peterson went 9-8 with a .97 DR against comparatively slightly worse competition. There is really no comparison here. Mertens is a borderline top player, while Peterson is only about average for the tour level.

Verdict: Coming off a finals performance on her weaker surface, Mertens is likely more fit thn Peterson right now and is vastly more talented to boot. Mertens certainly has the potential to crush here, but that is not without at least minor question marks due to neither player competing on hard courts since early in the year.

Yulia Putintseva ($8,700,-160, 12.84) vs. Shuai Zhang ($6,900,+140,12.97)

Recent Form: After taking a break from match play, Putintseva went an extremely mixed 1-1 in her return to WTA competition. She blew out Tomljanovic 6-0 6-4 round 1, only to be routed by a surprisingly solid Jill Teichman 6-2 6-2 just a couple days later. Still, the two recent matches under her belt could give her an edge over Zhang, who has not participated in match play at all since March.

Talent: Shuai has quietly been a superb tennis player the past year. Her 12-8 record and 1.09 DR against her top 100 competitors on hard courts is commendable and due to a strong run in Hobart. However, she did finish her earlier 2020 season on a sour note, dropping to underdogs Bogdan and Navarro in February. Putintseva has been comparable as of late, holding a 15-9 record and a 1.05 DR against a roughly equal level of competition. It’s safe to say these women are high level competitors and could be very evenly matched. 

Verdict: Both of these players seem strong and this could be a competitive match. Zhang’s lower price point and high talent level make her an appealing play, though Putintseva has the benefit of a couple recent WTA matches under her belt.

Sloane Stephens ($8,200,-120,12.42) vs. Caroline Garcia ($7,300,+100,12.50)

Recent Form: Sloane Stephens could have performed worse over the break. She went an even 1-1 in exhibitions and 6-8 in World Team Tennis mini sets, more or less holding her own without turning any heads. Her return to WTA action could have gone better, as she lost to youngster Leylah Fernandez rather cleanly 6-3 6-3. Still, I would lean towards Stephens being more mediocre than aggressively bad at her current form. This is at least more than I can say for Caroline Garcia, who has not played any matches since March. I’ll gladly take Stephens’s mediocrity over Garcia’s nothing.

Talent: Both of these women have a clay leaning that seems to have only gotten larger lately, as Garcia and Stephens have been brutal on hard courts in recent memory. While solid on hard as recently as 2018, Garcia has only gone 4-9 with a .90 DR over the past year against top 100 players, even when we exclude top 10 competitors, which is just plain bad no matter how you slice it. Sloane Stephens has been arguably even worse on hard, going 4-10 overall including a baffling 1-6 record against players outside the top 100. 

Verdict: Neither of these players have demonstrated a recent ability to play even an average hard court game at the WTA level. I do like Sloane Stephens’s shot to win here with her more recent hard court play, but her floor is so incredibly low that she could find a way to lose to even a less than fresh Caroline Garcia.

Catherine Bellis ($9,400,-220,12.72) vs. Oceane Dodin ($6,000,+190,12.60)

Recent Form: Between her Lexington appearance and “Cincinnati” qualifiers, Bellis has done well for herself, comfortably winning 4 of her matches and only dropping to a Jil Teichmann that would make the Lexington finals. Oceane has been a little more mixed in the return to WTA play. She successfully qualified in Palermo and even upset Zidansek in the main draw of that event and went 3-3 overall on clay court competition in August. She was sharp in the qualifying rounds of this tournament, easily winning in straights against Doi and Badosa. Both of these women seem to be in fine form.

Talent: Formerly a serious rising star, Bellis has had to suffer through injuries the past few years and is basically starting from square one. She has been decent but not amazing in her return, going 5-5 with a .96 DR against top 100 competition the past year. She is a fine tour level competitor with the upside of performing at an at least above average level. 

It’s a similar story for Dodin, who peaked as the world’s number 46 in 2017. Thanks to her dominating qualifying performance, she has a small sample of quality numbers against top 100 players: a 6-3 record with a 1.05 dominance ratio. Still only 23 years of age, Dodin is likely not the prospect Bellis is, but she has done well for herself recently and could maybe make a case for herself as a tour level regular.

Verdict: I prefer Bellis since she has a little extra hard court play under her belt from Lexington and I think her talent level is a little higher. However, Dodin has surprised before and was excellent in the qualifying rounds, so she could very well pull out a win here. Just mind her high double fault rate if you roster her for fantasy.

Marie Bouzkova ($9,000,-210,12.85) vs. Anna Kalinskaya ($6,400,+175,12.38)

Recent Form: Kalinskaya has been surprisingly good since the return, winning 4 qualifying matches so far and only dropping a match to an excellent performing Jill Teichman. Kalininskaya even took down Cirstea in straights, who is generally a solid hard court player. Bouzkova went 2-1 in Lexington, getting wrecked by an on-fire Brady. Overall, Kalinskaya is a little more warmed up due to qualifiers, but I expect Bouzkova will be in good match shape for this tournament.

Talent: Kalinskaya is not a tour level regular, but she has at least shown the ability to somewhat compete at the tour level, going 7-8 vs. top 100 opponents the past couple years on hard, albeit with a DR a hair below .90. 

Bouzkova has established herself as a competent tour level player. She has a solid 8-9 record vs. top 100 opponents with a .99 DR, which included several top 10 opponents. She even beat Svitolina and Halep in 2019, proving herself to be a very dangerous opponent.

Verdict: Kalinskaya is not the worst and has performed well enough over the break, but Bouzkova is a higher level competitor. She should win this one in straight sets unless she substantially underperforms.

Jennifer Brady ($9,500,-280,13.06) vs. Jessica Pegula ($6,100,+230,12.93)

Recent Form: After an excellent 8-1 in World Team Tennis sets, Pegula has only been fine. She won 3 matches that she had no business losing, but dropped 2 sets along the way. She also was not competitive in a 6-3 6-2 loss to Bellis. This would not be concerning if Brady had not won the entirety of Lexington in straight sets.

Talent: Excluding a heap of top 10 matchups, Brady has naturally been very solid on hard courts, going 14-7 with a 1.07 DR against top 100 opponents. This is not just a side effect of her Lexington run, either. She was just as good in 2019. Brady looks to be making her case for herself as a high level WTA contender.

Pegula is a bit more on the average side, sporting a 9-10 record with a DR a little above 1. She should have the ability to be a tour level regular, but currently does not seem to have Brady’s upside.

Verdict: I expect Brady to win this cleanly in straight sets if she plays anything like her Lexington level. Pegula is competent and will make Brady work, so she could theoretically pull an upset if Brady has difficulty making her shots, but Brady definitely controls her destiny here.

Danielle Collins ($7,100,+130,13.02) vs. Jill Teichmann ($8,600,-160,12.85)

Recent Form: Teichmann played in Lexington and performed phenomenally, only losing in the finals to Jennifer Brady. SInce the return of WTA, Teichmann has gone 6-1, with all of her wins coming in straight sets. Historically better on clay, Teichmann may be playing the best hard court tennis of her life. Danielle Collins has not played since July 19th, and her results have been a mixed bag. She went 2-2 against decent level players in exhibition play and went a disappointing 1-4 in World Team Tennis before she had to withdraw due to personal reasons. Collins will be entering the opening rounds with some uncertainty regarding form.

Talent: Collins has been more than solid on the hard courts the past year, with an 8-6 record and 1.04 against all top 100 competition. She has demonstrated some serious high level play, dominating Svitolina, Bencic, and Kenin early this year. While I would not call Collins spotless (she was only about average in 2019), she is a tour caliber player that has serious game when she’s running hot.

Teichman’s numbers on hard court against top 100 players on the year are not good (3-10 record, though a .90 DR isn’t embarrassing). However, I will give her the benefit of the doubt here based on the strength of her Lexington run and say she has made adjustments and can perform at least at an average level.

Verdict: With huge disparities in recent form in mind, I think Teichmann could maybe be slightly favored here. However, Collins is hugely talented and could still dominate if she is on her game and Teichmann regresses. The range of outcomes feels high here even for a WTA match.

Ons Jabeur ($8,100,-130,13.05) vs. Leylah Annie Fernandez ($7,400,+110,12.79)

Recent Form: Ons Jabeur participated in Lexington, where she was fine but unexciting. She beat McNally handily but needed to work in order to top underdog Govortsova before eventually cratering to Coco Gauff in 3 sets. Fernandez has done well for herself in the WTA return so far with a 5-1 against medium level competition. Her lone loss came to Shelby Rogers, who actually played well enough to upset a rusty Serena Williams.

Talent: Only 17 years old, Fernandez does not have much of a track record at the WTA level, but her early results have been very promising. She rode an Acapulco finals appearance on her way to an 8-5 record and 1.09 DR against top 100 opposition this year, which is about as good as you could ask of her. It’s too early to consider her a star, but it’s definitely a possibility she will be one as she matures.

Ons Jabeur has had a solid year as well. Her game was once inconsistent at best, but she hit her peak rank of 39 just this year after solid play in 2019 and 2020. For the year, she is 15-11 with a 1.04 DR on hard courts, which is above average even for a tour regular.

Verdict: Ons Jabeur will probably be considered the favorite here due to her experience and quality quarterfinals run at the Australian Open. However, I have really liked what we have seen out of Fernandez this year and she seems to be in better form after WTA’s return than Jabeur. This should be a competitive match, but I do not mind Fernandez’s chances at an upset.

Anett Kontaveit ($9,700,-265,13.11) vs. Darya Kasatkina ($6,100,+225,12.64)

Recent form: Kontaveit had a nice semifinals run in Palermo, where she won 4 matches before dropping to tourney winner Fiona Ferro. Her performance was not quite spotless, since she did drop sets to Siegemund and youngster Cocciaretto, but she appeared to be living up to her pre-Covid level. (However, she will have to adjust to playing on hard courts again, a surface she has not had a match on since February.) Kasatkina’s play has left a little more to be desired. She lost in 3 sets to underdog Paolini in Palermo and only split her qualifier matches in qualifiers, needing 3 sets to beat Bondarenko while losing to McHale in straights. Kasatkina enters this tournament as a lucky loser and will need to up her level to compete.

Talent: It’s easy to rate Kontaveit. She’s ranked top 20 in the world in women’s singles and has the results to back it up. Her 11-5 record and 1.10 DR against top 100 opponents on hard courts positions her as easily one of the stronger opponents on tour. 

Still only 23 years old, Kasatkina showed some serious game just a couple years ago when she reached a career high ranking of 10. Unfortunately, she is looking more and more like a face in the crowd at best at the tour level. Her hard court play as of late has been subpar. She’s gone 4-12 on the year with a .88 DR against top 100 opponents. It’s worth noting that she is still beating opponents outside of the top 100 with ease, so she is not quite a lost cause on hard, but she is far off her level in 2018 where she was playing above average. 

Verdict: Kontaveit seems to be playing as quality tennis as ever and Kasatkina looks to be average at best and does not even have a quality qualifiers run to her credit. This is Kontaveit’s match to lose and it could be a blowout if Kasatkina does not play her best.

Magda Linette ($8,300,-125,12.93) vs. Vera Zvonareva ($7,200,+105,12.83)

Recent Form: Linette seems to be in okay shape. She beat Lauren Davis easily in Lexington, but unfortunately had to face Jennifer Brady in round 2 and lost easily. She also went 2-2 in exhibition play over the break against middling competition. While Linette’s results recently have been unexciting, I do not see any obvious red flags here. Zvonareva lost to the heavily favored Pegula in the first round at Lexington, but she did well to take a set from her on her way out. She also swept her qualifiers in straight sets, which is always a good sign even if Sharma and Kovinic are not especially tough opponents.

Talent: Linette is just a bit better than a WTA tour regular. Aside from a loss to a top ranked Osaka, she has gone 9-8 the past year with a 1.03 DR against top 100 opponents on hard, which is about in line with previous years. She is running a little cold in 2020 with a 3-5 record and .93 DR, but I expect she will turn things around.

Zvonareva has been competent herself lately, but at the advanced age of 35, she is not getting as many matches as in her prime. Between 2019 and 2020, she has gone 9-5 with a positive DR plus a loss by withdrawal against top 100 players, though with slightly lower opponent quality than what Linette has dealt with. 

Verdict: Linette is probably the better player overall right now, but Zvonareva appears to be a solid veteran and arguably has some better results in 2020. She could be a decent underdog pick if the price is right.

Iga Swiatek ($9,200,-240,12.87) vs. Christina McHale ($6,200,+200,12.57) 

Recent Form: Swiatek has yet to play at the WTA level since her return, but she was great during exhibition season. While she mostly played mid-level opponents, she dominated with a 9-1 record that included a 7-6 6-0 route of Vondrousova. McHale had to go through qualifiers, where she dropped a set as she topped weaker opponents in Kasatkina and Arconada. She was also a regular in world team tennis, where she finished with an average 5-7 record in singles sets. I expect both of these players will show up in solid form, but McHale’s qualifiers do give her the benefit of getting a feel for the court. 

Talent: Iga Swiatek is only 19 years of age, but she is already looking to be a real presence at the tour level. In her young career, she is already 14-9 with a 1.05 DR against top 100 opponents on hard courts, which is enough in itself to solidify her as a high level competitor. 

McHale is really just average. The past year, she has gone 7-9 with a .91 DR on hard courts, and her career numbers suggest that she probably is not much better than that. I consider her good enough to play at this level, but she lacks the skills to excel.

Verdict: Aside from McHale being a little warmer from qualifiers, Swiatek is the hotter and higher caliber player. While I do not quite expect domination, a Swiatek should deliver a comfy straight set victory if she plays reasonably well.

Arantxa Rus ($8,300,-130,12.71) vs. Alison Van Uytvanck ($7,300,+110,12.80)

Recent Form: Uytvanck has only played one match since March, and it was a 6-0 6-3 slaughter at the hands of Martic on Palermo’s clay. Uytvanck has always performed worse on clay, but her lone result at least somewhat concerns me about her play. Rus went 1-2 on clay, picking up a quality upset against Pavlyuchenko while losing to Frech and Vekic. She performed decently to qualify for Cincinnati, dropping 1 set on her two wins. Rus should be in good match shape for this contest.

Talent: Uytvanck has her troubles on clay, but she’s about an average competitor on hard courts. During the past year, she only went 6-10 on the surface, but with a 1.00 DR, suggesting she was perhaps a little unlucky in match results.

Rus was abysmal on hard courts in 2018 and 2019, and could scarcely pick up a top 100 win. She has rebounded quite nicely a short 2020 showing so far, going 4-4 with a .97 DR, which improves all the way up to a 1.05 if we ignore a tough loss to Svitolina. I would hesitate to call her above average using such a small sample size, but she has at least recently demonstrated an ability to compete at this level.

Verdict: Uytvanck is probably a slightly better player here, but her rough performance in Palermo and Rus’s exposure to the hard courts in New York make Rus an interesting option if the price is right.

Katerina Siniakova ($7,900,-115,12.25) vs. Kirsten Flipkens ($7,800,-105,12.67)

Recent Form: Siniakova was quite active during exhibition season, going 11-8, which honestly feels a little disappointing since over half of her matches were against rather low level competition. She was not able to capitalize on the experience in Prague, where she dropped to Zidansek in 3 sets during the very first round and lost the last set 6-0 in the process. She also has not played a match on hardcourts since May. Overall, I am not too worried about Siniakova’s physical fitness, but she seems questionable as far as tennis form goes. Flipkens did not make a splash in Palermo, where she lost to talented youngster Samsonova the opening round, but she did fine in qualifiers and should be nice and ready to take on Siniakova in the hard courts.

Talent: At 34 years old, Flipkens is entering the scrappy veteran phase of her career. The past year, she went 5-8 with a .93 DR on hard against top 100 opponents, demonstrating an ability to compete but not at a high level. Her 2019 results are more of the same. She’s not quite washed up, but there is nothing exciting about Flipkens’s game at this point of her career.

Siniakova’s younger age and better rank would maybe make you think she is on a higher level than Flipkens. Perhaps she is, but maybe not by much. She was above average in 2018, where she achieved her peak ranking of 31. When we exclude top 10 opponents, she has a losing record of 14-17 with about a 1.00 even DR during 2019 and 2020 combined. At least point in career, Siniakova is about an average tour level competitor.

Verdict: Siniakova’s talent should make her a little bit of a favorite entering this match. However, I am concerned about her form and Flipkens has the advantage of being warm through qualifiers, so Flipkens might be the pick here at an underdog’s price.

Laura Siegemund ($6,800,+155,12.77) vs. Marketa Vondrousova ($8,900,-175,12.95) 

Recent Form: Vondrousova played 9 exhibitions over the break, going 5-4 and mostly disappointing overall considering she was favored in most of them. However, her return to WTA play was even worse. She was upset by the much lower ranked Juvan in 3 sets in a match she should have taken easily. 

Siegemund was average on clay after staying warm with exhibitions in Germany. She beat Begu and Sherif but lost to Kontaveit and Tormo, which seems about par with her ability. Considering she comfortably qualified for Cincinnati in 2 straight set victories, I feel a little better about Siegemund’s form right now.

Talent: Vondrousova, still only 21 years old, looked spectacular in 2019, going 10-4 with a 1.15 DR on hard courts vs. top 100 opponents. However, after a hiatus due to injury, she has just not been the same player. Even when we exclude her match against Barty, she has only gone 2-4 with a .98 DR in 2020 on hard courts. Vondrousova has the ability to be an elite level competitor at the WTA level, but I hesitate to call her even above average right now unless she drastically improves her play.

Siegemund is a little past her prime and it shows. Against rank 10-100 opponents the past couple years, she held a 7-12 record and a DR just under 1. Still, she’s not far from an average WTA competitor and should at least hold her own except against top players. (Which, in her current form, Vondrousova may not be.)

Verdict: I do not really know how this match will be priced, but Vondrousova seems primed for another disappointing performance. Siegemund is not playing much worse tennis than Vondrousova right now, and she had the benefit of getting extra matches through qualifiers. Perhaps I would not quite consider Siegemund a favorite, but I think she has a very real shot at a win here.

Karolina Pliskova ($10,300,-400,13.27) vs. Veronika Kudermetova ($5,400,+330,12.73)

Recent Form: 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. Yesterday, she rebounded and scored a minor upset against Aija Tomljanovic in 3 sets, so we at least have some reason to think she’s at her usual level. 

This will be Karolina’s first WTA appearance since Doha in February. She played fine in exhibitions, going 5-2 against quality opposition yet somehow finding a way to lose to Petkovic in straights. While I wish she played more than 2 hard court matches over the break, I expect she will be fit and able for Cincinnati after playing a mere 2 weeks ago.

Talent: The young Kudermetova has been alright on hard courts against top 100 players over the last year, with a DR close to average at .97 and a decent 13-10 record that was boosted by a walkover and a withdrawal. 

Karolina Pliskova has just been plain better. Her 16-8 record and 1.11 DR on hard against top 100 opponents is formidable though not quite ridiculously good. She is easily a top 10 player on tour.

Verdict: Although Pliskova might have minor rust in her transition to the Cincinnati courts, she is the far better player and should cruise in straight sets easily. 

Alize Cornet ($5,200,+260,12.63) vs. Sofia Kenin ($10,500,-300,13.12)

Recent Form: Cornet had a fine if not uninspiring break, going 6-4 on hard courts against mostly lower ranked opposition. She soundly defeated slight underdog Caty McNally 6-0 6-4, and should be playing at a decent level. During the break, Kenin played 15 sets in World Team Tennis with outstanding results. Her dominant 11-4 record led the women’s singles field. It’s been 3 weeks since she last played, but she looked as good as ever during the event, and I expect her to play well from the start of the match.

Talent: Cornet, while an established veteran, has somewhat unconvincing as of late. While she did top McNally soundly, her 6-8 record and sub 1 DR are average at best.

Kenin is just plain great. Her 9-5 record and 1.03 DR in 2020 are not as dominant as I expected, but she did win a title in Australia and faced some seriously fierce competition along the way. She is still a well above average WTA competitor with elite upside when she is on her game.

Verdict: Kenin comes at a steep price, and I am not positive she will be worth it when Cornet has been at least competent. However, she is a way better player than Cornet and should win this one without much drama and definitely has a shot at a blowout.

TL;DR

Best Elite Plays: Karolina Pliskova ($10,300)

Best Expensive Plays: Iga Swiatek ($9,200), Andrey Rublev ($9,100)

Best Medium Plays: Diego Schwartzman ($8,800), Tennys Sandgren ($8,700), John Isner ($8,100)

Best Dogs: Kirsten Flipkens ($7,700), Grigor Dimitrov ($7,200)

Best Punts: Jeffrey Wolf ($5,900), Oceane Dodin ($6,000)

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