Tennis Quick Picks – August 24th

Western and Southern Open action continues and more big Draftkings contests are just waiting to be played. Tomorrow’s slate is another biggie, with 23 matches and a week-best $40k prize pool in the main GPP. I will not be doing a full breakdown for the slate, but I will be covering some players I think are intriguing plays for tomorrow. 

Format: Player Name (Draftkings Salary, American Betting Odds) 

First, let us take a look at the elephants in the room: GOATs Serena Williams and Djokovic and top contender Dominic Thiem. Are they even worth it as this salary? Maybe! Let’s take a look before we go over my cheaper plays.

Novak Djokovic ($11,400,-1500)

The Joker is obviously one of the best players in the world, and these categories of players are historically very valuable in fantasy. Aside from elite servers like Reilly Opelka (more on him later), they have by far the best median and ceiling outcomes on the field. If you can make the salary work, they are nearly always a core play.

Tomorrow, Djokovic faces off Berankis, who was fortunate enough to face an out of form Tommy Paul and grinded his way to the next round. Djokovic, on paper, is an overwhelming favorite and is in a clear smash spot. I think he is worth playing for sure, but there are definitely a few downsides to rostering him.

First, Djokovic withdrew from the doubles side of CIncinnati due to neck issues, and there is a good shot he is not 100%. Secondly, without the benefit of best of 5, Djokavic’s domination against Berankis is limited to 2 sets. There is a real chance of a mere 6-3 6-4 caliber finish in the realm of 70-75 Draftkings points, which just will not cut it for Djokovic’s massive salary. Djokovic will need total domination to be worth rostering, which he is capable of providing. Just consider him more of a supplementary play than priority.

Serena Williams ($10,700, -900)

Unlike ATP players, I am a bit more excited to rostering a WTA player that is a “mere” -1000 favorite. The swingy nature of women’s tennis makes a clean 6-0 set all the more likely, which is key for a dominating fantasy outing. 

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe Serena will underperform. She’s a top player, but she did not at all show it at Lexington. We hardly saw a glimpse of her ceiling as she squeezed by Pera and Venus in 3 sets before being grinded out by a far inferior player in Shelby Rogers. 

That being said, if she can recover from her spotty performance and play something close to her best tennis against the average Rus, she could still put up a high score. She also has above average ace upside, which will be assisted by these fast-playing New York courts. Like Djokavic, Serena is worthy of inclusion due to her upside, but the combination of risk and high salary makes her too scary to be more than a supplementary play. That being said, the $700 salary difference is far from negligible and could push me towards Serena out of the two.

Dominic Thiem ($10,500,-700)

Out of the elite plays, Dominic does seem to present the most safety. He’s slightly cheaper than Serena, which is always a plus, and he enters the tournament with far fewer concerns regarding form. He may have been the most active player during the entire break, going a massive 25-3 in exhibitions that featured a fair number of quality opponents. My only concern for Thiem is it has been about a month since he’s taken the courts.

He faces off tomorrow against Krajinovic, whose straight set victory over Caruso had him surrender a massive 16 breakpoint opportunities to his opponent. This performance seems like a huge red flag to me, considering Caruso’s reputation as a clay court specialist. If Krajinovic looks anything close to as vulnerable as he did against Caruso, Thiem will dominate. 

Like with Djokovic, there is enough of a chance of a 6-3 6-4 finish that I do not want to overload on Thiem for his high salary, but he is my favorite elite play of the day.

Naomi Osaka ($8,400,-140)

If we are talking top players with elite upside, I would be negligent to not give Osaka a shoutout. Yeah, she lost an exhibition to Tormo she should not have in February, and she has not played since then. But, we are getting an incredible discount here if she shows up and plays her best. Her 19-3 record and 1.23 DR on the year on hard courts is as good as it gets. Her hard serve should play very well on these courts to boot, boosting her score.

Her opponent Muchova is completely fine, but she lacks the ceiling that Osaka does. Her 13-7 DR and 1.07 DR indicate that she is an above average performer, but she will not be able to compete with Osaka at her best. There are a fair number of scenarios where a warm Muchova outclasses a rusty Osaka, but that is factored in the odds. Osaka’s upside is less so, and that makes her a top GPP play for this slate. 

Reilly Opelka ($7,600, +110)

Elite servers always play extraordinarily well in fantasy. Isner was 50% owned in the main GPP yesterday, and easily paid off with a well above average score of 75 fantasy points. As a slight underdog, Opelka may draw lesser ownership, but he deserves to still be very popular. At a $7,600 salary, he does not need a high quality win to pay off his salary. His serve alone will do the work, and he has a great shot at a spot in a top lineup if he picks up the W.

His opponent Schwartzmann is one of the best counter punchers on tour. He is talented with an excellent dominance ratio and winrate (10-5 and 1.22 on hard for the year against top 100 talent). He is a higher caliber player than Opelka, but the conditions and matchup could not be worse for Schwartzman. Opelka’s elite serve could easily take Schwartzmanm’s best asset, his return game, right out of his hands. The fast courts will also make serves even harder to return and shorten rallies. I like Opelka at an upset here, and the serve game upside makes Opelka a borderline core play.

Quick Dog Picks: Putintseva ($6,700, +150), Pegula ($6,600, +145), Flipkens ($6,200,+160), Bouzkova ($6,100,+195), Tennys Sandgren ($5,900,+170)

  1. Putintseva is a high quality competitor. Sakkari did well to top Gauff, but she did not seem to be playing her best tennis the other day. This seems like a perfect opportunity to pick up a solid player that could arguably be favored at a huge discount.
  2. Pegula is also solid, and she showed she could take down a top competitor in Brady when she doesn’t bring her best. Anisimova played some great tennis herself in her defeat of Riske, but I feel that she is not that much of a favorite over Pegula. Pegula seems like a decent value at $6,600.
  3. Flipkens gets to run things back against another underperforming opponent in Konta. Flipkens is definitely not a favorite against Konta, and her price reflects that. However, with Flipkens having 3 quality matches of these fast courts under her belt and Konta being only average in her past few appearances, there is an angle for an upset here.
  4. Bouzkova is facing a top player in Kvitova, which may push people away from taking a chance on her. However, Bouzkova is a solid player and Kvitova has not played in a month after going a mere good 6-3 in the exhibition season. It’s a tough sell to pick on a player as good as Kvitova, but there is an angle for an upset here and she might be worth some dart throws
  5. Sandgren’s spot seems solid here. He not only has a great price for his odds at $5,900, but he has shown some ceiling in his deep runs and demonstrated the ability to compete with opponents even above FAA’s caliber. I would probably take FAA given even odds, but definitely do not count Sandgren out of this one.

I hope my picks are of use to you. (And that the ugly upsets of Pliskova, Swiatek, and Rublev yesterday did not sour you too much on my picks! My medium and cheap plays performed, right?) Happy lineup building!

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