Tennis Betting Advice - February 2021

Australian Open: Day 4 - career-best tennis at 33/1...

Wednesday 10th February 2021

In your Ones to Watch email today:

  • Australian Open – Day 4…
  • Match picks…
  • Play starts Midnight…

Welcome to Day 4 of your Ones to Watch Australian Open daily service…

Where to start with last night’s action. A great day’s tennis Down Under. Shocks, comebacks, and some sensational play. And boy is it good to see a crowd jumping and cheering again.

Nick Kyrgios had the Aussie fans out of their seats and chanting. Coming from two-sets-to-one and a break down, and saving two match points, to win in five sets. Super stuff.

Simona Halep came back from the brink, too. Recovering from 2-5 down in the final set to beat Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.

On the betting front, my Match Winner acca was 6 out of 10. But the two biggest prices, that also stood out as singles, delivered okay, with Taylor Fritz winning 3-2, and Adrian Mannarino winning 3-0.

The big quest…

In the Outright Winner market, our quest will be a rollercoaster – as it usually is…

The Outright book has taken a handful of early hits. It’s never nice to lose players before the 2nd round is even complete. But it’s part of the game for me.

At the prices I go for with my outsider selections, there’s room in the book for 10 or a dozen names. That's been my average number of Each Way picks at recent Grand Slams.

If you’ve been with me for some time, or even just last season, then you know the mantra: it only takes one…

At the prices we ride in Ones to Watch, 100/1, 250/1, 500/1 on occasions. We’re not going to be dancing in the street at the end of every tournament. Far from it. Once a year would be a fine achievement, and a very worthwhile pursuit, too.

It’s still very early days here at the first Grand Slam of 2021. The women’s Australian Open draw in particular looks ripe enough to have a few holes punched through it…

As it stands, the names on our list this week are:

  • Nadia Podoroska (250/1 – 125/1) 
  • Veronika Kudermetova (200/1 – 100/1)

And in the men’s:

  • Alex De Minaur (80/1 – 50/1)

Kudermetova is through to the 3rd round. She’ll face Simona Halep next. One of the toughest assignments in the game, for sure. But the Romanian toiled for a long time against Tomljanovic this morning, and that exertion could yet take its toll. Simona says she hopes to be 100% for the next round. That’s not exactly super-confident talk.

As we’ve noted already this week, Kudermetova has dark-horse potential here. If Tomljanovic can get to within one game and two points of beating Halep, then so can the up-and-coming Russian.

Podoroska and De Minaur both play in the 2nd round tonight.

Targeting the top half…

The top half of the women’s draw are in action on the Day 4 schedule. This is the section that includes World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, who is the 9/2 (5.5) second favourite for the title.

Compared to the bottom side of the draw, that contains the likes of 7/2 (4.5) tournament favourite Naomi Osaka, and 8/1 (9.0) shots Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza. The top half has more potential for a newcomer to come through…

We’re on one massive price in this department, with Nadia Podoroska in the book at triple-figure odds…

In that 2nd Quarter of the draw, the bookies make Sofia Kenin v Kaia Kanepi a 50-50 match tonight. Kenin is the defending champion, but hasn’t shown her best tennis yet this year. Enigmatic 35-year-old Kanepi has been in great form this Melbourne summer, reaching the Gippsland Trophy final last week.

Those two could punch each other out tonight. The victor of Kenin-Kanepi would face our Ones to Watch outsider pick Podoroska – providing she can get past Donna Vekic this evening. The bookmakers have our player as the 8/15 (1.53) favourite to do that.

In the 1st Quarter of the draw, where home hope Barty is a seeded potential quarter-final opponent, I’m getting behind our friend from last week…

The moment for Mertens…

Whisper it quietly, but Elise Mertens is playing the best tennis of her career.

Despite the pandemic, the Belgian had a stellar season on the tour last year. Yet as is often the case with this unflashy player, Elise doesn’t seem to get many people talking about her.

Mertens’ 2020 formbook included two finals. And five quarter finals – including at the US Open – and a semi final at the Cincinnati Masters, which was held on the same New York hard courts. All in all, that’s a quarter final or better in eight of the 13 WTA or Grand Slam events that Mertens entered in 2020.

The 25-year-old has started this year in similar fashion, if not better. Unbeaten so far in 2021, with five consecutive match wins here at Melbourne Park, taking Elise to the WTA Gippsland title last week, to the 2nd round at the Australian Open tonight.

Mertens was a 16/1 winner for us at last week’s event. Before the Gippsland Trophy started, I described Elise as a safe pair of hands for that week-before-a-Grand-Slam tournament:

Elise Mertens is a very solid and consistent Top 20 player. The Belgian has been as high as No.12. Her biggest trophy win in Singles came at the WTA ‘Premier’ event in Doha in February 2019. She was a 33/1 shot that week, beating the favourite Simona Halep in the final.

Mertens’ best Grand Slam performance also came early in the calendar, with a big semi-final run here in Melbourne, at the Australian Open 2018…

Back-to-back runs to the quarters at the other hard-court Major, the US Open, show Mertens is a more than worthy competitor. If lacking the cutting edge to really make the big leap into the bigtime (although there’s still plenty of time to change that).

Since I said that, Mertens has beaten names like Elina Svitolina and Kanepi, and played some brilliant tennis Down Under. Notably, her serve has been a reliable weapon. And with the ball in play, the Belgian’s trademark rallying skills and angled forehands have been looking very sharp.

So, we have form in the book at this venue, recent winning form and momentum, too, and the confidence that that brings. And good reason to back Mertens again this week, having collected nicely on her at 16/1 last weekend. Right now, for the big event, we can get twice those odds for a maiden Grand Slam triumph, at 33/1

Under pressure…

The big question left to pose, then, as alluded to in my past comments. Is whether or not Mertens can find the killer instinct, the back-to-the-wall mental toughness needed to knock out a name like Barty if required, and hold her nerve in a massive match.

I’m not going to pretend that Elise is there yet. Indeed, last week, she lost her serve several times when serving to close out a set or a match. Crucially, however, she didn’t go on to lose any of those matches. Each time, she regrouped, and got the job done in the end.

I’ve seen Mertens freeze on the big stage before. I won’t lie. Victoria Azarenka blitzed her 6-1, 6-0 in the US Open quarter finals last year. If that puts you off, then that’s fair enough. But it’s an issue that she is aware of and has been working on. I feel I’ve seen enough in Mertens’ game in recent times to suggest that she is ready to make the next step, and mount a serious challenge at a Grand Slam.

Plus, the way this draw is looking, Mertens has a strong chance of reaching the quarter finals in my eyes. And there are no guarantees that Barty won’t wilt under the home-crowd expectation – as she did here at the Australian Open last year, looking flat and nervous when beaten in straight sets by Kenin.

Barty made the quarter finals in 2019, and then the semis in 2020. The Australian public’s expectation is that Ash goes one better again this year, and makes the final. That’s easier said than done. Players with hard-court prowess like Ekaterina Alexandrova, Anett Kontaveit, and Shelby Rogers, are all potential banana skins in Barty’s path to the quarters. My money’s going on Mertens being the player that awaits in that last-eight encounter in this section of the drawsheet.

I’m taking Mertens at 33/1 Each Way, and also at 13/2 (7.5) to win the 1st Quarter. Looking ahead with optimism, if she does end up facing Barty to land the Quarter Winner bet, 13/2 will give us something to play with. And if it’s someone else on the other side of the net, 13/2 will end up being a really big ticket – as will 33/1 Outright.

Close encounters on Day 4…

Tonight’s match list includes a few close-looking encounters…

Danielle Collins beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6, 7-6 last week. They meet again, first up on the showpiece court, the Rod Laver Arena (Midnight UK time). Skybet will give you 2/1 (3.0) for another Tiebreak (7-6 set score) in the match.

Belinda Bencic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have met three years running on the tour, and five times in total. The head-to-head is 3-2 to Bencic, but Kuznetsova has won the last two meetings played on outdoor hard courts.

Then there’s Sofa Kenin v Kaia Kanepi, as already mentioned as a 50-50 match-up tonight. Back in 2018, Kanepi won their only previous clash, 2-1, albeit on clay.

The stadium Night Session kicks off (from 8am UK time) with Coco Gauff v Elina Svitolina on the Rod Laver Arena court. This is their first ever meeting. As 5th seed, Svitolina is the bookies’ 1/2 (1.5) favourite in the Match Winner betting. Since the start of last season, 11 of Gauff’s 25 matches have gone to three sets. This could be another long one.

In the men’s 2nd round, three of the 16 matches played yesterday went the full distance to five sets. These two catch my eye as potential five-setters, as the 2nd round continues this evening:

Christopher O’Connell v Radu Albot sees Australia’s O’Connell take on Moldova’s top player, Albot. Both men had big underdog wins in round one, winning at odds of 3/1 and 10/1, respectively. A place in the 3rd round would be lucrative and significant for either of these guys. As with Aussie Nick Kyrgios yesterday, this one could also snake to five sets, with the crowd getting involved, too.

Casper Ruud v Tommy Paul sees two of the game’s rising stars going head-to-head at a Major for the second time in a row. At the French Open last autumn, Ruud edged it, 3-2…

As well as that five-setter, Ruud has also gone the distance in two of his four main-draw matches at the Australian Open, as well as in the 1st round at the US Open in 2020. Overall, the Norwegian has come out on top three times out of four in five-set battles. Paul had a big five-set win here last year, knocking out Grigor Dimitrov, 3-2.

In the Total Sets markets, the bookmakers will give you around 11/5+ (3.2+) each for those two matches to go all the way to 5 Sets.

Always keen to try and land the biggest price possible, I’m going for Ruud and Albot to each win 3-2 in the Set Betting market, with odds of 5/1+ & 6/1+ available.

And for a straight-up Match Winner, I like Kuznetsova to beat Bencic. The older player has the mental edge for me, and can take advantage of the inevitable spell in the match where Bencic makes mistakes and/ or gets frustrated.

Ones to Watch:

Women’s Outright Winner – Each Way

  • Elise Mertens is 33/1 with Bet365, William Hill, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, NetBet, 10Bet, 32/1 Marathonbet

Each Way terms: 1/2 odds 1-2 places.

Women’s 1st Quarter Winner

  • Elise Mertens is 13/2 (7.5) with Bet365, VBet, 6/1 (7.0) BetVictor, Boylesports, Unibet, 888 Sport, 11/2 (6.5) in general

Set Betting

  • Radu Albot to win 3-2 v Christopher O’Connell is 13/2 (7.5) with Skybet, Ladbrokes, Coral, Sportingbet, Bwin, Unibet, 888 Sport, 6/1 (7.0) Bet365, Boylesports, BetVictor
  • Casper Ruud to win 3-2 v Tommy Paul is 6/1 (7.0) with Boylesports, 11/2 (6.5) Skybet, Ladbrokes, Coral, Sportingbet, Bwin, 5/1 (6.0) Bet365 and in general

Match Winner

  • Svetlana Kuznetsova to beat Belinda Bencic is 4/5 (1.8) with Bet365, William Hill, Betway, Boylesports, BetVictor, NetBet, 10Bet

Play starts from Midnight.

I’ll be back at 5pm tomorrow with your Day 5 email.

If you have any questions or want to drop me a line during the tournament, I’m on hand via email. You can message me at:

Enjoy the tennis…

Best wishes,

Oliver Upstone

Tom Wilson

Ones to Watch