The First Quarter in the Womens draw is looks the most competitive of the four sections in the women’s draw.
The number 1 seed and last year’s finalist Simona Halep has been handed a difficult draw – first up she has an instant chance to avenge her last grand slam defeat as she faces Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi in a re-run of the First Round at Flushing Meadows where Kanepi shocked everyone to win in two relatively easy sets.
Providing she gets through that she has a series of American’s likely to make it past. She potentially has the rising 20 year old Sofia Kenin in round 2 before the potential of back to back matches with the Williams Sisters with Venus possible opponent in round 3 and Serena in round 4, who holds an 8-2 winning record over Halep.
The bottom half of the quarter looks a little less competitive but some big names are there. The out of form pair of Gabine Muguruza and Johanna Konta are due to meet in round 2 with the ever-improving Daria Kasatkina facing a tough opener in the form of Timea Bacsinsky, twice a semi-finalist at Roland Garros, who has started to slowly show some form after a difficult last 18 months where she has struggled with injury.
Karolina Pliskova is in the bottom of this quarter and is decently fancied to make a nice run here. She has a handy looking start where her first real test looks to be in round 3 where she could face the erratic but dangerous Italian Camila Giorgi.
From there it gets more difficult for the big hitting Czech but she is the form player in the quarter with a title to her name already this year and we think she has a decent chance to improve on her two quarter final appearances here the last two years (her last five slam appearances on hard courts have yielded 4 quarter finals and a final) but as is usually the case Serena remains the woman to beat and is priced at 6/4 to make the semis despite a difficult looking draw.
The second quarter features the US Open champion Naomi Osaka and perennial Grand Slam let-down Elina Svitolina, priced up as the joint 7/2 favourites to make the semi-final.
Osaka has a test in round 2 waiting in the form of the a capable home-favourite Daria Gavrilova before a potential third round tie with the ageing Victoria Azarenka, who unfortunately has mainly looked a shadow of her former self since her return following the birth of her child and the custody battle over this child seems to be her primary focus these days.
Two surprise packages at the end of last year could provide tough opposition for Osaka in fourth round with the shock Semi Finalist at Flushing Meadows Anastasija Sevastova or China’s Qiang Wang who finished the year in red-hot form making three WTA finals in the last three months of the year potential opponents.
The already mentioned Elina Svitolina is at the bottom of this quarter and her first real test should come in round 3 with a potential meeting with the diminutive but feisty Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova before a likely chance in round 4 to avenge one her recent defeats at hard court grand slams in the form of the rusty Madison Keys (who beat her in three tough sets on her way to the final of US Open 2017) or the emerging Elise Mertens (who beat her for the loss of just 4 games and a bagel set in the Quarter Final of Australian Open 2018).
An interesting quarter and we will be fascinated to see how the 21 year-old Japanese sensation performs in the first major following her stunning US Open triumph.
Quarter 3 features the defending champion Caroline Wozniacki who comes in with reduced expectations following the diagnosis of arthritis at the end of last year and a quiet start to 2019. She can be backed at 6/1 to make the semi-final and 20/1 to repeat her only grand slam win to date. She has a potential 3rd round tie with the fading Maria Sharapova before a fourth round meeting with the in-form home-hope Ashleigh Barty and that potential meeting could be a classic as Barty is fancied to have a very strong tournament.
“I’m playing with more freedom, I really am enjoying myself, and there’s nothing better than playing in Australia.” pic.twitter.com/DxxnfMS2mA
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 11, 2019
The top of quarter 3 looks likely to come down to the experienced Petra Kvitova or the youthful exuberance of the new kid on the block Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka to make it to the quarter final. The 20-year old powerhouse continued her great form at the end of last year with a title already to her name in 2019 in WTA Shenzen.
There are admittedly some other dangers in this part of the draw with Belinda Bencic slowly showing some of the early promise in her career which seen her make the semi-final at Flushing meadows as a 17-year old as well as the in-form Lesia Tsurenko who herself was unlucky to lose the final in Brisbane only last week.
The last quarter features the 2016 champion Angelique Kerber who last year signalled a return to form was ahead in 2018, after a very underwhelming 2017, with an extremely close semi-final loss to Simon Halep. She ended up with another grand slam at Wimbledon to add to the two slams she had won in 2016 and looks have a good opportunity to go close here again.
The dangerous Donna Vekic looks to be her first potential test in round 3 before a potential quarter final meeting with fellow German and 2018 WTA Ace leader Julia Goerges (who took the title last week in Auckland) or the out-of-form Caroline Garcia likeliest fourth found opposition.
The top of the draw features World Number 5 and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens. Interestingly she has reached the final in two of the last six slams but also losing in the first round in three of these events, highlighting her erratic nature and big swings in level of performance. A semi-finalist six years ago, Sloane has struggled in Australia recently and hasn’t even won a match in Melbourne since 2014.
She has looked in poor touch again with disappointing early exits in both Sydney and Brisbane but showed last year at the French Open that she can hit form at any time and is without doubt a danger once she does reel off a few wins.
While admittedly it would be no surprise to see her lose in any round she does look to have a decent early draw and a potential fourth round tie with the rising Annett Kontaveit or reliable and top-10 ranked Kiki Bertens would severely test her form.
Kerber does look the likeliest to make it through this quarter and is priced accordingly at 13/8 to make the semi-final (and 6/1 to go all the way) but there are plenty of dangers and potential tough ties along the way here.
Tournament Top Tips
So an interesting women’s tournament in store with Serena as usual the lady to beat but her odds of 9/2 reflect the more open nature than was the case for the majority of her Grand Slam tournaments before motherhood.
Elina Svitolina @ 7/2 to win Quarter 2
We fancy the 24 year-old to have her best Grand Slam to date and make it to the semi-final.
Despite a poor Grand slam record she has won her last 9 WTA finals, all in the last two years and it is only a matter of time before this translates into grand slam success, and at 7/2 worth a bet to reach the semi-final.
She beat Osaka comfortably in straight sets in both their meetings last year (both on hard courts) and we believe it could prove a difficult tournament for Osaka with the spotlight shone firmly in her direction.
Petra Kvitova – Outright @ 20/1 each way and To Win Quarter 3 @ 6/1
We are taking a chance on 2012 semi-finalist Petra Kvitova getting over her recent Grand Slam woes (only two quarter finals since her 2014 Wimbledon triumph) and making it to the last 4 and maybe even further.
She has showed great form this week, where she beat her potential 4th round opponent Sabalenka as well as potential semi-final opponent Angelique Kerber, and as long as her run hasn’t taken too much out of her for her early rounds next week (as it did for her first round loss in Wimbledon 2018) she has a good chance and worth chancing at 6/1.
We do like the chances of Ash Barty also in this quarter (as well as outsider Tsurenko) but at twice her price we’ll back Kvitova.
Outsider – Lesia Tsurenko @150/1 and 20/1 to win Quarter 3
As mentioned we do like the way Lesia Tsurenko is playing recently. While her draw from the third round on looks difficult we wouldn’t be surprised to see her cause her more illustrious opponents some trouble starting with the supremely talented but inexperienced Sabalanka in a potential round 3 match.
She made it through to the final of Brisbane in straight-forward fashion winning her 4 matches in straights sets including a 6-2 6-4 win over US Open Champion Naomi Osaka before failing to serve out for a straight sets final win over Pliskova.
Probably too big of a task to get to the very latter stages but definitely a player to keep an eye on.