Australian Tennis is in full gear, with several notable men and women’s leadup events to the Australian Open. Tonight’s player pool is massive, and Draftkings has created a solid $30k GPP to make delving into it worthwhile. There are a mess of players to go through, but I’ll present you with some of my favorite picks to help you begin navigating the slate.
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Format: Player Name (Draftkings Salary, Draftkings American Betting Odds as of publication)
Ashleigh Barty ($10,800, -910)
At the risk of being too obvious, I would like to inform you that Barty is really good at tennis. She’s the current world #1, and her underlying numbers definitely support that. Her skills translate really well into fantasy as well. With a near 2-1 ace to double fault ratio, Barty is in an exclusive club of WTA players that gets to benefit from the additional break opportunities in the women’s game without the weaker double fault ratio that comes with it.
Barty matches up against Ana Bogdan, who is a fine borderline tour level player but is utterly outmatched against Barty. The betting data agrees, as the tiny 18.5 game total implies a 6-4 6-2 route of Bogdan, and the -910 money line on the Barty side means a near certain chance of victory.
The only question mark here is Barty’s fitness, as she has not competed on tour in months due to sitting out in the covid outbreak. (However, she did do a friendly exhibition against Simona Halep and looked rather sharp there.) I have a hard time believing a player of Barty’s caliber will not be match-fit, and I expect this one will be over in very quick order. She’s a borderline core play in GPPs.
Nick Kyrgios ($10,500, -670)
There’s not too much to say about good ol’ Nick Kyrgios. His serve should be as good as always, and Bo3 scoring incidentally really benefits elite servers. While fitness could technically be an issue for Kyrgios, he draws an extremely soft matchup against a fairly middling challenger-level guy in Alexandre Muller. Kyrgios has crushed low level players in the past. In 2019, he went 6-0 against players outside the top 100 with an astronomical 1.59 DR and 55.8% total points won.
My only real concern about Kyrgios is his ability to create break opportunities. His serve is outrageously good in fantasy and should make up for that, but the ample break opportunities of neighbors mean they might have a slightly higher ceiling than Kyrgios even if he should have the higher floor and median scores. That makes him slightly better suited for cash, but he remains a strong candidate for GPP lineups.
Naomi Osaka ($10,200, -500)
Really just about everything I said about Barty can also apply to Osaka. She has a great service game, is an elite player, and is one of the best break point threats on the board. However, there is a caveat here: she is facing a decent tour level player in Alize Cornet. Cornet is going to make Osaka work and is far from a free square if Osaka comes in not playing her best tennis, but none of that is going to keep Osaka from continuing to be a great fantasy play.
Osaka does not have the return game that Barty has, but it’s still way better than anything you will see on the men’s side sans for the likes of Djokovic. Plus, Cornet herself isn’t exactly a plus server. She has a ace-double fault ratio far in the red, and her career hold% of about 60% is decidedly below average. If Osaka can capitalize, a blowout performance is not out of the question.
Overall, Osaka has a slightly larger risk of dropping a set or the match than the other two top plays, but her lower salary and still quite high upside make her just as good of a play for GPPs.
Petra Kvitova ($9,600, -335)
We are getting quite a form discount here, as Kvitova has about as good of an odds of victory in a vacuum as my two picks above her. That being said, she has not played a match in a few months now and Venus Williams is entering this one red hot off of a blowout performance against the normally decent Rus. I wouldn’t go wild here, especially without Kvitova possessing the exciting serve rates of Barty or Osaka, but there is definitely some GPP upside if Kvitova shows up to this match in solid form and Venus just plays at her normal level.
Vasek Pospisil ($8,800, -220)
Pospisil is sneakily one of the stronger players on the men’s side. My model has him as top 20 quality, and Universal Tennis Rating is not far behind, placing him in the #21 spot. His opponent, Monteiro, is a fine clay courter but is merely a challenger-level guy on the hard courts, and theoretically should not have much of a chance at all at topping Pospisil considering the price range. My model has him as a -800 favorite, and my gut says around -500. Both of which far exceed my expectations for his salary neighbors. His high chances of victory and above average serve make him a great core play candidate for both GPP and cash contests.
However, there is a slight catch in the matter. Pospisil might not be 100% here. He was part of a stricter quarantine than many of his counterparts due to a person on his flight testing positive for Covid-19. He also hasn’t played since his November finals run in Sofia. I still think he is a really solid player despite all of this, I would just be hesitant to call him an actual lock for those reasons.
Sam Querrey ($8,300, -175)
Big servers are really good in fantasy tennis, especially in the Bo3 scoring format where aces are worth an entire 0.4 fantasy points. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you here: Querrey’s -175 money line is totally reasonable and there is a real chance that he drops this match even though Laaksonen is not that great of a player. Querrey has been great in the past, but he’s feeling middling about now. Form is a real concern. While he got some reps in Delray this January, he lost handily to Mager, who is about in the same league of ability as Laaksonen.
Play Querrey, and play a lot of him. He’s a rightful favorite this match and should put up a good-excellent score if he comes through. Just recognize that there is some letdown potential here.
Quick Dog Plays
Irina Camelia-Begu ($7,500, +105)
Both Begu and Sasnovich are coming off pretty rocky 3-set victories. Begu herself needed 3 sets and 10 double faults to finish the job. Still, Begu ranks a little better in my model and is leagues ahead of Sasnovich in Universal Tennis Rating (#27 vs. #84). I think she sneakily should be the favorite here, and this is a great spot to get the better player at lower salary and possibly ownership.
Mikael Torpegaard ($6,800, +135)
We had a few clay courters prevail yesterday, so I have some reservations about a full clay player fade, but at this salary I am plenty willing to take the risk. Torpegaard has much more recent matchplay on the hardcourts and grades just about identically to Martinez on the surface overall. I think you could make the case that Torpegaard should be the favorite here, which is pretty wild for his $6,800 price point.
Yuichi Sugita ($6,700, +135)
Sugita hasn’t played in a few months so there is some edge on his opponent Halys’s side in that regard, but on paper this one is about a coinflip. Sugita has a very good shot at winning this if he enters the match in good tennis shape.
Sergiy Stakhovsky ($6,000, +195)
I can’t for the life of me figure out why Stakhovsky is priced so heavily as an underdog here. By all metrics he seems to be the same caliber as his opponent. In fact, he beat him in November of last year! Sergiy might be 35, but he played well enough to qualify for the Australian open. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t have a very competitive match vs. Safiullin at a very cheap price.
Shuai Zhang ($5,800, +220)
This play isn’t going to go overlooked, as Zhang is still the current world #35, but we are getting a gigantic form discount for Zhang’s matchup against Zvonareva. It’s been a while since Zhang has had a decent hard court performance, but she was awfully solid at the French Open and historically has been stronger on hard courts than on clay. Zvonareva should not be underestimated despite her advanced age, but this is a very good buy-low opportunity for Zhang.