Tennis Breakdown – August 25th

Western and Southern Open action continues and more big Draftkings contests are just waiting to be played. I indulged in another deep dive for this 15 match slate with a massive $40,000 tournament pool. Once again, I have an exhaustive breakdown of all of the competitors’ chances of victory. Most of my writeup 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.

Two Pricing Glitches That Will Define the Slate: Matteo Berrettini ($5,900,-230,15.70) vs Reilly Opelka ($8,700, +180, 15.46); Jessica Pegula ($4,100, +160, 12.93) vs. Aryna Sabalenka ($10,500, -200, 13.27)

These are pricing glitches that likely stemmed from being priced according to ELO (via tennisabstract.com) instead of through betting markets. ELO is a nice metric, but like with UTR, it lacks context and is a weaker predictor on average than the markets, which results in wacky misprices like these.

Most of your lineups should have either one of Berrettini or Opelka. Berretinni, even with the difficulty of breaking Opelka, is just ridiculously cheap as a -230 favorite with a price tag of $5,900. He is a lock in cash in a near-lock in GPPs, where you should only go elsewhere to be contrarian.

Opelka seems like a bum deal at $8,700 and below average odds of winning, but his serve game carries in fantasy. During the opening slate in Cincinnati, he was overpriced as a -150 favorite with a price tag of $10,200, and was still popular and still an invaluable part of about 25% of lineups. If he can pick up a quality W, he can still show up in winning lineups and at very low ownership to boot. He is my top contrarian play of the slate. (He’s still Opelka though, so do not think he will be unowned.) 

Pegula is too cheap as well. She has a realistic shot at victory. Her line of +160 is about right against a talented-yet-struggling Sabalenka, but $4,100 is just ridiculously cheap and will enable you to pick almost any combination of players you want besides Djokovic builds. Even as an underdog, she’s a borderline core play, especially in lineups without Berrettini.  Sabalenka, especially with her double fault downside, is overpriced at $10,500. She should be viewed as a dart throw option, and only for when you have extra salary available.

Daniil Medvedev ($10,000,-400,15.87) vs. Aljaz Bedene ($5,000,+275,15.23)

Recent Form: Medvedev played his first match in months against American Marcos Giron. While he was not quite lights out, he enjoyed a comfortable, straight set 6-4 6-4 victory while serving well and not demonstrating too much rust. His opponent Bedene is definitely on his game, cashing in on a tiebreak to upset the favorite in Taylor Fritz in straight sets. He is now 4-0 between quallies and the main draw and playing some quality tennis.

Talent: Bedene has been low key great on hard. He put up a 12-7 record and awesome 1.11 DR the past year on hard court versus top 100 opponents, even without his quality Cincinnati performance. While he has not replicated that high DR in recent years, he has been a fairly solid hard courter for a while.

Medvedev has established himself as an elite talent the past year. He is an amazing 18-8 with a 1.18 DR on the year on hard and is easily one of the best players on tour. 

Verdict: Medvedev is the better player than Bedene and really should win this without too much trouble. Still, Bedene is solid himself, playing well, and has a big serve that is complemented by this fast surface. He might be able to give Medvedev a good fight at least.

Jan-Lennard Struff ($7,000,+135,15.53) vs. David Goffin ($8,400,-155,15.39)

Recent Form: Struff played a number of exhibitions over the break and was not amazing, but he has looked so far in this tournament. He scored back to back upsets against very good players in Shapovalov and De Minaur and is likely playing his best tennis.

Goffin is playing quality tennis but I am not sure he is quite playing his best. His exhibition record remains average and his match against the underdog Coric was perhaps a little closer than it could have been. He should be fine but the momentum at least is on Struff’s side.

Talent: 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.

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. He is arguably not quite the player Goffin is, but is not out of his league by any means.

Verdict: Goffin is a slightly higher level performer than Struff and definitely the more prestigious of the two. He has a shot at being a reasonable favorite here, which would make Struff a solid budget play. 

Karen Khachanov ($7,400,+140,15.28) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut ($8,100,-160,15.48)

Recent Form: Male Karen’s exhibition season results were not that impressive, but there’s a lot to like about his Cincinnati appearance so far, where he’s beaten pulled off consecutive quality appearances against Bublik and Busta. He’s in solid form.p

Maybe it’s a little redundant to say everyone that’s still here is in good form, but I will say it: Agut came back from the break and immediately played some great tennis. Without the benefit of a warmup match, he soundly beat a good player in Gasquet in straights.

Talent: Excluding top 10 matchups, Khachanov has gone 15-11 against top 100 players with an impressive (though not quite elite) DR of 1.09. He is a very strong competitor on hard courts.

Agut ranks in the same realm as Khachanov. His 10-10 record is surprisingly ugly for a player of his caliber, but his 1.10 DR is very good and is well supported by previous years’ stats. I believe his record is mostly bad running and these players are similar in ability. 

Verdict: Although I rank Agut a little higher in my head, there is nothing that I see that suggests Agut is a heavy favorite. This match should be very close, and I like either player at an underdog price.

John Isner ($5,500,+275,15.30) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas ($9,500,-345,15.92)

Recent Form: John Isner had a surprisingly difficult time against Millman. He needed 3 sets to go 2 for 2 in tiebreaks to claim the victory from the underdog. Considering the quick court conditions, the fact that Isner allowed 6 breakpoint opportunities to Millman is rather concerning even though he pulled off the W. There is nothing wrong with Isner, but I am not sure he’s playing that much better than average tennis at the moment.

Tsitsipas was dominant during Ultimate Tennis Showdown and seemed to carry that momentum against Kevin Anderson. He broke the hard server an amazing 4 times in 6 opportunities and did not allow a single break of serve in 3 opportunities. I suspect part of the blowout here was running well above average in breakpoints, but it was an excellent showing nonetheless and I think it’s safe to say these fast courts will give him no problems.

Talent: 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. 

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: I really like Tsitsipas’s chances of winning this match, and could see him being strongly favored. From a fantasy perspective, this match might close to a full fade. Tsitsipas could break Isner several times like he did Anderson, but those prospects do not excite me. Isner remains an elite server and dfs play, which will for sure make him a viable as an underdog. However, he should not be considered as more than a supplementary play when the chances of an upset just are not that high even if his score should be great if he pulls it out.

Andy Murray ($6,900,+140,15.32) vs. Milos Raonic ($8,300,-160,15.64)

Recent Form: A healthy Murray is a good Murray, and he has more than delivered on low expectations by beating Tiafoe and Zverev (!) in 3 sets each. I’m not going to say he’s a top contender when he barely beat a Zverev struggling with double faults, but he’s doing well for himself.

Milos Raonic has looked solid too. After a break without exhibition play, he was able to capitalize on both breakpoint opportunities offered and beat Querrey in straight sets. He then one-upped himself with a dominating 7-5 6-3 performance over the Brit Daniel Evans. He is serving great (which is ideal on these surface conditions) and has held up to his historically high level so far.

Talent: Murray was an elite player before his injury. The jury is still out on where he is and will be, but early results seem to show he is at least a capable above average performer still.

Raonic has shown a high 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. Murray will need to be at the top of his game if Raonic continues to perform at this high level.

Verdict: Raonic is a high quality player, has a game that fits the surface conditions, and is playing well. He is not a must play with his moderate double fault rate, but he is in a good spot to put up a high score. Just do not count out Murray. He has played quality tennis himself and could perhaps surprise him or at least take a set.

Filip Krajinovic ($8,600,-180,15.44) vs. Martin Fucsovics ($5,700,+150,15.36)

Recent Form: What can we say about Krajionic? He had to fight to take down a much lesser opponent in Caruso then only destroyed one of the best players in the world in Thiem 6-2 6-1. Even if Thiem obviously did not play his best tennis, Krajinovic demonstrated once again that he can play quality tennis even if he can be erratic from day to day.

Fucsovics has done very well for himself this tournament. After an impressive 2-0 qualifiers run, he got the job done against Gombos and pulled off a quality little upset against Dimitrov. He’s on his game even if that game is not an elite one.

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. 

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. He is a notch above Fucsovics.

Verdict: Krajinovic is always a little hard to trust, but he’s still a solid player and has shown he can punish a top player having a bad day. He should definitely be favored over Fucsovics, but if he costs an exorbitant premium after the Thiem upset, it may be better to side with Fucsovics at a discount. An upset is well within the range of possibilities. Update: With Fucsovics coming at a cost of only $5,700, he is one of the better salary savers on the slate. Krajinovic remains in play at a reasonable cost of $8,600.

Novak Djokovic ($11,200,-1000,16.11) vs. Tennys Sandgren ($4,000,+650,15.04)

Recent Form: Sandgren has played good tennis so far in Cincinnati after competent tennis throughout the break. He was lucky to face FAA when his game went off the rails, and his match against Sonego was way closer than it should have been, but I think he is performing around his normal level right now.

That is more than I can say of Djokovic. After opening the day as a -1500 favorite, he only beat the much, much worse player in Berankis 7-6, 6-4, struggling with double faults and needing medical attention on his neck along the way. He wasn’t a disaster, but he certainly cannot be counted on to perform an elite level right now.

Talent: 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. He will make Djokovic work at the very least.

Djokovic is Djokovic. We all know who he is and what he is capable of when he’s healthy and playing confidently, which he is not right now.

Verdict: I regret to say this match might not be fantasy relevant. Djokovic has a real chance at being prohibitively expensive, and Sandgren is a higher level player than Berankis. My expectation is Djokovic wins in straights but it is too expensive for his salary, and Sandgren will not be cheap enough to be worth playing in dfs. Both sides seem like fade candidates to me.

Anett Kontaveit ($8,800,-215,13.08) vs. Marie Bouzkova ($6,300,+180,12.83) 

Recent Form: After dropping a 6-2 first set to Kontaveit, Bouzkova ended up pulling off a gutsy upset in 3 sets. She is now 4-1 and playing great on the hardcourts since the break, with her only sin being a 6-1 6-2 loss to a dominating Jen Brady. 

Kontaveit might be playing even better than Bouzkova. While she does not have a gutsy upset against an elite player, she had a terrific 4-1 run in Palermo on clay and continued her momentum with 2 breezy straight set victories against lesser opponents on the much faster Cincinnati courts. Both of these women are playing high level tennis right now.

Talent: Kontaveit 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. 

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 had upsets  against Svitolina and Halep in 2019, and just added a Kvitova victory to her resume. Bouzkova is not quite the level of competitor Kontaveit is, but she is very capable in her own right.

Verdict: Kontaveit is the better play here and should be priced as a favorite. Bouzkova’s upset was impressive, but like with Krajinovic, she might have her price juiced a bit for that one performance against a less than warm player. Kontaveit seems like great value at anything close to even odds, but I would not at all hesitate to root for a Bouzkova upset if she is priced too cheaply.

Veronika Kudermetova ($6,000,+185,12.73) vs. Elise Mertens ($9,000,-220,13.05)

Recent Form: After a disastrous loss in Prague, Kudermetova has quickly built some momentum on hard courts. She pulled off a slight upset against Tomljanovic, then followed up with a whopper against top player Karolina Pliskova the round after. She has been fine on these hard courts even if Pliskova was not competing at a particularly high level.

Elise Mertens is as great as always. After an excellent Prague run, she played as well as could be expected against opponents Mladenovic and Peterson, being generally dominant besides the drop of a tiebreak. Mertens seems unlikely to underperform like Kudermetova’s previous round opponent.

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. Since the beginning of Cincinnati, she has picked up a couple more quality wins and is playing like an average tour level regular or better.

Mertens has been elite on hard courts the past year with a 16-10 record and 1.19 DR against top 100 competition, even before her two wins in this tournament. She is on average a much high caliber player than Kudermetova.

Verdict: Like the previous two rounds, I like Mertens to win this match in clean sets with some upside in the form of a dominating performance. She will be expensive, but any discount we get from Kudermetova’s upset is great. Kudermetova can win this if Mertens underperforms like Plishkova did, but I would not be interested in targeting her as an underdog except at an extremely low price.

Victoria Azarenka ($8,500,-180,12.60) vs. Alize Cornet ($6,600,+150,12.65)

Recent: All I can say is, wow, these two surprised with very high quality matches this tournament. Victoria’s victory over Caroline Garcia does not excite me, since I consider he on the lower spectrum of WTA players. However, combine that with the domination over a no-show Donna Vekic and I am starting to like what I am seeing from Azarenka. She still has a ways to go before she lives up to her previous level, but perhaps she can be counted on to play at least average tennis.

Cornet is playing consistent tennis and capitalizing very well on her opponent’s miscues so far this tournament. Her 6-0 6-4 and 6-1 7-6 victories over McNally and Kenin are nothing short of spectacular, even if she needed a little help from her opponents to get there. Still, she is probably playing some of her best tennis right now. 

Talent: Cornet is an established veteran and has shown she can compete at the tour level. Her stats on the year still are not that exciting, but she is still about an average tour competitor. 

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. Before Cincinnati, she has barely played since then and has lost every contest she has played rather easily. While we should not put too much weight in recent results, she still could be at least competent on the hard courts.

Verdict: I suspect that Cornet might open as a heavy favorite after her high quality defeat of Kenin. I am not a fan of buying high, but I still like her chances of making Azarenka work and successfully taking this in straight sets. Azarenka could be an intriguing underdog based on similar semi-recent talent levels and recent performance, but I will mostly pass on her if the prices are too close to even. Update: With Azarenka coming in as a strong favorite, I much prefer Cornet’s $6,600 price tag.

Johanna Konta ($8,200,-150,12.51) vs. Vera Zvonareva ($7,300,+130,12.85)

Recent form: Konta has not played quality tennis in a while, but she absolutely obliterated the veteran Kirsten Flipkens in straight sets 6-2 6-0. This was a no-show performance by Flipkens, who utterly failed to challenge Konta’s serve and allowed breakpoint after breakpoint opportunities (which she failed to save, if you could not tell). Still, I have been concerned about Konta since battling through injury earlier in the year, and this is a very positive sign. If this is a sign of a return to her 2019 form, I would be ecstatic.

Zvonareva capitalized on another blowout herself. SIegemund could just could not find the rhythm on her serve or return games, and her 6-1 6-1 performance was as ugly as it looked. Still, there is much to like about Zvonareva’s form between her two victories in Cincinnati and is on her game as much as anyone.

Talent: Konta, while healthy, is an established well above average hard courter in the women’s tour. She is 16-13 with about a 1.06 DR on the year. I do not know if we can count on that kind of production from her quite yet, but the upset could be there.

Zvonareva has been competent even at the advanced age of 35. Between 2019 and 2020, she has gone 9-5 with a positive DR plus a loss by withdrawal against top 100 players, and has built on that with two high quality victories in Cincinnati. 

Verdict: Konta has the upside to be a favorite here and probably is, but I do not like the chances of any dominating performance here. This one could be close, and Zvonareva could be underrated without Konta’s reputation or rank. I’ll take Konta to win, but Zvonareva seems interesting as any sort of sizable underdog.

Naomi Osaka ($9,200,-255,13.33) vs. Dayana Yastremska ($5,600,+205,13.08)

Recent Form: Osaka had not played in months, but she dispelled much concern surrounding her readiness with her disposal of the solid Muchova. Only a tiebreak loss prevented her from prevailing in straight sets, and she both held and challenged serve very well. She was not far from the very high level expected of her.

I have not been impressed by Yastremska lately. She passed the bare minimum by narrowly defeating Venus and Pera in 3 sets each as a surprisingly heavy favorite. It seems she is being valued as a high level competitor, but I remain a bit skeptical, particularly when she is having to overperform breakpoints to win. (She saved 11/14 against Venus and broke five times out of 6 against Pera.) She’s still playing fine, but her results are unexciting.

Talent: Osaka’s 19-3 record and 1.23 DR on the year on hard courts is as good as it gets. She is one of the best WTA players in the world. 

On hard courts during the last 12 months, Yastremska went 13-11 with a 1.03 DR, positioning herself as above average but not quite elite. She can hold her own, but is not even close to the same level of talent as Osaka.

Verdict: Considering both recent performance and overall talent, I consider Osaka a heavy but not overwhelming favorite and will be willing to pay a good amount of salary to play her. We have seen less crazy upsets than Yastremski over Osaka though, and I would not quite consider Osaka untouchable with how little tennis she has played. Yastremska is a fine dart throw if you can get her at long odds and thus cheap price.

Marie Sakkari ($7,500,+120,12.99) vs. Serena Williams ($8,000,-140,13.14)

Recent Form: Serena Williams has been brutal the past couple weeks, and not in a good way. She keeps finding ways to win, but her wins have been low quality and against heavy underdogs time and time again. After being upset by average veteran Shelby Rogers, she opened Cincinnati by needing 3 sets and 2 tiebreaks just to beat Rus. Even with her stellar 14-1 Ace/DF ratio in the first match, she is very difficult to trust to perform at an elite level.

Sakkari beat an out-of-sorts Gauff easily, then followed it up by beating an in-form Putintseva in a fiercely competitive match that saw very very breakpoint opportunities 6-4 7-6. She’s clearly on her game despite the offseason hiatus. 

Talent: 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. After her past couple wins, I would say she is an above average competitor on the surface even if she has shown a clay preference historically.

Serena’s stats on the year remain elite: a 16-3 record with a DR on hard courts versus top 100 opponents. She clearly has one of the best ceilings, but I am not sure she’s much more than maybe above average right now. Glimpses of elite level play have been rare from Williams since her return despite a 3-1 record.

Verdict: Serena will likely open as an extreme favorite once again and she simply does not deserve it with the game she has shown. I’d still take her as a somewhat light favorite over Sakkari, especially with her ace upside, but Sakkari will be an elite punt play in fantasy if she is priced as too much as an underdog. Update: At a conservatively priced $8,000, Serena is almost worthwhile on her serve upside alone. She is competitively priced and is a great option at this price point. Sakkari will be an effective contrarian move should Serena be popular with her low price tag.

TL;DR Plays :

PRICING GLITCHES!: Matteo Berrettini ($5,900), Jessica Pegula ($4,100)

Best Elite Plays: Novak Djokovic* ($11,200)

Best Expensive Plays: Naomi Osaka ($9,200), Elise Mertens ($9,000)

Best Medium Plays: Milos Raonic ($8,300), Serena Williams ($8,000)

Best Dogs:Jan-Lennard Struff ($7,000), Alize Cornet ($6,600)

Best Punts: Martin Fucsovics ($5,700)

(*salary dump only; he is overpriced.)

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