Tennis Betting Advice - February 2021

Australian Open: Day 5 - A New Hope...

Thursday 11th February 2021

In your Ones to Watch email today:

  • Australian Open – Day 5…
  • Aryna Sabalenka v Ann Li...
  • Play starts Midnight…

Welcome to Day 5 of your Ones to Watch Australian Open daily service…

American history...

Back in the nineties, you couldn’t move for Americans in Grand Slam finals.

Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Monica Seles.

And before that, legendary names like John McEnroe, and Jimmy Connors. With Martina Navratilova sweeping all before her, playing under the American flag.

Since the turn of the century, the Williams sisters have been the two shining lights, miles ahead of their compatriots in terms of consistency and silverware.

For the men, Andy Roddick was the sole Grand Slam winner in the noughties. With that decade also seeing multiple Major wins for Jennifer Capriati, and Lindsay Davenport. Those three are all long retired.

The Williams sisters are still very much on the scene. Serena turns 40 this year. Big sister Venus will be 41 by the summer. Serena is one of the favourites for the Australian Open.

Barring the brilliant dominance of Venus & Serena, recent years have been barren of American Grand Slam success.

New dawns have come and gone.

Sloane Stephens won the US Open in 2017, then made the French Open final in 2018, but hasn’t come close since. Madison Keys was the US Open runner-up in 2017, but has failed to deliver since.

Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open last season, but her title defence ended in a straight-sets wipeout in the 2nd round last night. The 22-year-old American was in tears in the press conference after, saying the pressure was too much for her.

So, where next for American women’s tennis?

The current 10 highest ranked USA players in the WTA world rankings are:

Sofia Kenin (#4)
Serena Williams (#11)
Madison Keys (#18)
Jennifer Brady (#24)
Alison Riske (#26)
Amanda Anisimova (#31)
Danielle Collins (#40)
Sloane Stephens (#41)
Coco Gauff (#48)
Shelby Rogers (#57)

Keys and Anisimova didn’t make it to the Australian Open this month. While Kenin, Riske, Collins, Stephens, and Gauff, have all been knocked out before the 3rd round.

That leaves Serena Williams, Jennifer Brady, and Shelby Rogers as the three women left standing from the USA Top 10.

In the current Outright Winner betting, Williams is 8/1 and Brady is 16/1. Rogers is anything from 80/1 with Skybet, to 300/1 with Bet365.

A new hope...

While Serena has lifted the Australian Open trophy seven times. Brady and Rogers are both looking to reach a first Grand Slam final, having both posted career-best runs at the hard-court Majors last season (Brady made the semi finals at the US Open; Rogers reached the quarters).

Those three ladies are not the only Americans still kicking in Melbourne, though...

Jessica Pegula (ranked #61 in the world) and Ann Li (#69) are also through to the 3rd round. And both have been making some quietly impressive progress, each yet to drop a set.

The bookies have Pegula at a top price 100/1. With Li at 200/1 and 350/1.

As is my Ones to Watch mindset, I’m interested in the big prices...

Rogers and Pegula are both in the top half of the draw, and as such won’t be in action again until Friday night & Saturday morning. We’ll talk more about them in tomorrow’s email.

Aryna Sabalenka v Ann Li tonight...

Ann Li is in the loaded bottom half of this women’s Australian Open draw. She is first up on court on Day 5, with play starting at Midnight, UK time…

The 20-year-old gets the chance to shine on the big stage here. Placed on centre court, in the Rod Laver Arena, taking on world #7, Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka’s threat and hard-court credentials are well-documented. Last month, I flagged up the 22-year-old Belarusian as a 22/1+ Ones to Watch pick for this year’s US Open.

As discussed then, Sabalenka’s Aussie Open price is less enticing, currently trading at 12/1 and 14/1 at best. Which is a slight drift from 10/1 last month.

Making the case for the underdog, the young American, Ann Li is the player that’s caught my eye here…

She’s been talked of for a while as a future great hope for the States. Last season provided a minor yet potentially significant announcement on the main stage…

Li made her Grand Slam debut here in Melbourne, beaten in the 2nd round by Kenin - who went on to take the title.

Then, at the US Open 2020, Ann went a round better, reaching the 3rd round - with no shame in being stopped by the former champion, Angelique Kerber.

Since then, Li has worked on her fitness and improved her all-round game.

Like Brady last year, Ann Li looks ready to start putting together winning streaks on the hard courts. In fact, she’s doing it already…

The 20-year-old has won five straight matches in 2021, all of them here at the Melbourne Park venue.

She reached the WTA Grampians Trophy final last week, but the championship match v Anett Kontaveit was never played, as the tournament organisers simply ran out of time before the Australian Open kicked off (after a day’s play was lost due to coronavirus testing).

The American youngster is now up to a career-high of #69 in the rankings.

With a new highest ranking and a first WTA final to her name already in 2021, the signs are good for Li to do something special sooner or later…

Last week she posted impressive wins over Veronika Kudermetova, and Brady. The talented right-hander has carried that momentum through to the main event this week, with a pair of 2-0 wins in the early rounds.

Things take a big step up tonight, with a Top 10 opponent on the other side of the net. What I like about Li though is that she plays a brand of attacking tennis, similar to the no-fear approach that has seen Ones to Watch names like Jelena Ostapenko and Iga Swiatek make a big splash at the Grand Slams in recent years.

When the big breakthrough comes for a genuinely promising young player, they beat whoever is put in front of them. It’s not about needing a ‘soft’ draw. It’s about form, confidence, momentum - and the ability to seize the moment.

On the positive side of anticipating an upset here, we can note that Sabalenka has so far failed to make a proper dent at a Grand Slam. Aryna’s Major record reads no better than the 3rd round here in Australia, and also at the French Open. The 2nd round at Wimbledon. And the 4th round at the US Open (2018).

The powerful 22-year-old is still young, too, of course. She has the weapons to go deep at the Grand Slams, for sure. But while there’s still that element of doubt, a young gun like Ann Li could represent a very tricky 3rd-round opponent...

Sabalenka doesn’t lose many matches. Since the start of last season, she’s been beaten 10 times. And nine of those losses saw her also lose the opening set. I believe that could be significant here, as if she gets in front early, Sabalenka has the big-hitting power to bully the scoreboard from there on in.

Flip it around though, and a slow start can see her needing to go for the wild shots too much, with the pressure on. A come-from-behind victory is always a possibility too, of course, as Aryana is a streaky player. She can lose a first set, then storm back to take the next two 6-1, 6-1, for example.

I do think the First Set angle is one to go for with Li tonight though. The American is on a great run, and can bring the element of surprise in what is her first ever meeting with tonight’s opponent.

The match win upset is a top price 3/1 (4.0). My tactic here is to take Li for the First Set, at 2/1+ (3.0). And also at the massive prices in the tournament market. One part of my thinking here is that Li could win the first set, yet lose the match, but in doing so cover the total outlay on her.

Ones to Watch:

Aryna Sabalenka v Ann Li

  • First Set Winner - Ann Li is 9/4 (3.25) with Bet365, Skybet, 2/1+ (3.0+) in general

Women’s Outright Winner – Each Way

  • Ann Li is 350/1 with Bet365, 200/1 in general

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

Play starts at Midnight.

I’ll be back at 5pm tomorrow with your Day 6 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