Welcome to the previews for both the ATP and WTA Cincinnati draws for 2020. Things are a little different for the Western & Southern Open this year, with the tournament needing to transition to New York to become part of the quarantine bubble with the US Open in the upcoming fortnight. There are a number of players on the men’s and women’s side of things that have not made the journey to Flushing Meadows, however the draws remain exceptional in terms of quality, and it is a great opportunity for many players to take a big tournament scalp and improve their rankings under the new system.

As always, I will split the draws up into quarters, and we can work our way through in the search of value

WTA

(* denotes Round 1 Bye)

Quarter 1

Seeded Players

Karolina Pliskova*: The top seed as a result of Ash Barty and Simona Halep not travelling to New York. The slower court surface in the past in New York has not been in her favour. The new surface was originally expected to be quite slow, however early qualifying results seem to suggest otherwise. Ultimately, at the end of her career Pliskova is going to be judged based on her ability or inability to get the job done at Grand Slam level. With so many players missing from the US Open next week, that is her Grand Final. Does she really want to grind through a full week here in preparation? I am not so sure. In what looks to be a tricky little section, I do not see value in her price.

Elise Mertens: After a slow start to the tour resumption in Palermo, Mertens was able to turn things around with a very solid showing in Prague, losing to Halep in the final. Other players that have come across from Europe have looked good in qualifying, and I would not anticipate the travel in the week off being a significant issue for her given such a long break beforehand. One to watch in this section.

Alison Riske: Riske has only played a couple of exhibition matches on clay since we last saw her on court in Doha. Whilst they were on clay, a 1-6 1-6 loss to Kenin and a match tie-break win against were not the best performances I have seen. Thrives off building form over a period and given the strength of this draw I do not think I can make a case for her in the outright market. Riske has one of the toughest round 1 opponents in Amanda Anisimova, just to make matters more difficult.

Aryna Sabalenka*: Appeared to struggle a touch in the conditions in Lexington, so I am fascinated to see how Sabalenka handles the next three weeks. Like most pockets of the draw, this is a tough one. Could make a run if she can win well early in the week. Accumulative fatigue is a concern so close to a grand slam.

Unseeded players of note:

Rebecca Peterson: Lost to eventual semi-finalist Camilla in the first round of Palermo a couple of weeks ago. Those who read my previews in the early part of 2020 will be aware that I had incredibly high hopes for her this year. A back injury in Hobart, followed by an unsuccessful period with a new tennis racquet meant things got off to a poor start. The break will have done her some good in my opinion, and she is certainly an unknown factor in this draw and puts me off taking a pre-tournament spot on Mertens.

Jennifer Brady: The Lexington champ was initially scheduled to face Kim Clijsters here; however, she has had to withdraw due to injury. Instead, she comes up against Jessica Pegula, who is the beneficiary of a couple of wins in Qualifying. Whilst Brady was over the odds last week, I cannot have her at the price on offer given the strength of this field. Watson/Linette/Bouzkova/Gauff/Teichmann was a very favourable draw through, and with this field quite stacked, I do not see value in her price.

Amanda Anisimova: I would have loved to have seen her participate in Lexington, however she had to withdraw due to injury. Too many unknowns in a stacked field to feel confident in backing her in the outright market before she steps on court. I will monitor her during the week, as she could be a key player in the US Open on the bigger occasion (albeit with no crowd).

Jessica Pegula: I opposed her in qualifying and she got the better of me with a 3-set victory. It was certainly an improvement in form on what we saw in Lexington, however I prefer others in the outrights.

CC Bellis: That loss to Teichmann last week can be forgiven due to the win and a very poor first serve percentage. Defeated Brengle in straight sets and came from a set down to defeat Bonaventure in qualifying, so she will have taken some confidence from that. There is some appear in her price given my preference to take her against bigger strikers of the ball, her road includes the likes of Dodin, Sabalenka, Brady/Pegula/Riske. One to keep an eye on at longer odds.


Quarter 2

Seeded Players

Naomi Osaka*: The draw for Osaka looks far more favourable than a couple of the other tops seeds this week. The pocket of Muchova/Li/Watson/Pera/V Williams/Yastremska is full of match-ups that should favour her, with the only significant question mark at present being the motivation levels of a full week with the US Open fortnight coming. With Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin in the other half of the draw, Osaka looks a solid price here, even with the motivation question mark.

Dayana Yastremska: Had match points in her quarter final against Giorgi in Palermo, however, could not go on to win the match. We saw in Adelaide that she is not afraid to go hard the week before a Grand Slam, defeating Babos, Kerber, Vekic and Sabalenka on the way to her finals appearance (lost to Barty), however it hampered her efforts in Melbourne. Tough first round against Venus Williams, who looked better than we have seen in recent times in her efforts in Lexington, and as a result I have her on upset alert in round 1.

Anett Kontaveit: One that could surprise in this section. As far as early rounds go, this looks a favourable price. In a week where I am questioning the motivation of some players, I am more inclined to target some bigger prices. She looked solid on her return to the tour on clay, losing in the Palermo final to Ferro earlier this month. Has the game to challenge all styles of play and has held her own against Kvitova in the past. One to watch at bigger odds and arguably the value price of the top half.

Petra Kvitova*: We have not seen Kvitova since Doha, except for a couple of exhibitions on grass and clay with mixed success. Kvitova is not a fan of the combination of humidity and heat, and I would suggest she is one of the players with her eyes on the grand slam next week. Too short to consider for this week. Next week? That is a different story. I am glad we get to see how she handles the conditions.

Unseeded Players of Note

Karolina Muchova: Field looks a little too strong to consider from an outright perspective. I will be keeping a close eye on her head-to-head match-ups.

Danielle Collins: Last seen getting kicked out of World Team Tennis, I will be fascinated to see how Collins handles this week. She has a tricky opponent first up in Jil Teichmann, and I think the strength of this field off limited tennis may be a little too tough.

Jill Teichmann: showed some great form in Lexington and will take beating. Much like Jennifer Brady was able to achieve in the final last week, I think her game may get found out against a form power hitter at some stage during the week. I will be more interested in her outright prices on the clay.

Marie Bouzkova: Her best win in Lexington was against Anna Blinkova, who struggled in qualifying here. The loss to Brady was a worry for mine, given the strength of this field. If she were to defeat Kalinskaya in round 1, I would anticipate a value price on her to defeat Kvitova, so keep an eye on that match-up.


Quarter 3

Seeded Players

Johanna Konta*: Sneaks into the 8th seed and gains the bye. Hard to have her in the outright frame on recent form if I am honest and will instead look to her head to head match-ups.

Marketa Vondrousova: I am a little torn here. As you will see below, I am again of the belief that this is not Serena Williams’ grand finale, and I cannot see her wanting to play a full week of tennis. As a result, the price on Vondrousova is great value in my opinion. Gets the best eighth of the draw with Konta present, and could build into a solid showing. Worth a play at the odds.

Maria Sakkari: Disappointed in her performance in Palermo, however her hardcourt form to start 2020 does need to be respected. I have a preference on Vondrousova in terms of prices for this week, however I will be fascinated to see a match-up with Serena Williams if it were to eventuate.

Serena Williams*: Eastbourne 2011 – the last time Serena played the week before a Grand Slam. She lost in the round of 16 that week, and we know she is at the stage of her career where Grand Slams are the priority. I do not see her pushing her body to the limit this week, given she is targeting a grand slam record in the coming fortnight. She could play a full week and dominate from start to finish, however given the question marks I have my doubts.

Unseeded players of note:

Coco Gauff: A tough round 1 match against Sakkari drops the appeal of her outright price. Like Sakkari, I would be fascinated to see Gauff up against Williams in the third round. No outright value.


Quarter 4

Seeded players

Madison Keys*: One of the great unknowns in this draw. She has form in New York and can beat anyone on her day. Rybakina and Swiatek to main imminent threats for mine. One to watch this week in the conditions. I will know a lot about her after her first match.

Elena Rybakina: A player I am very keen on given her start to the year. Great ranking earnings potential for her in the latter part of the year. One to watch this week and at the US Open. Like her match-up with most players in this quarter, outside of Keys.

Donna Vekic: I am waiting for Vekic to take her game to the next level. I think the field is a little too strong to consider from an outright perspective, however worth considering in some match-ups in this quarter. She needs to start taking advantage of draws, so Vekic vs Azarenka is intriguing.

Sofia Kenin*: Regained form in Europe before COVID struck. She needs to be respected every week given her consistent performances, however in the week before a grand slam I do not see any great value in her single figure odds from an outright standpoint.

Unseeded players of note:

Sloane Stephens: proven performer in New York. Have we seen enough recently to suggest an uptick in form to consider on the outright stage? I do not think so.

Iga Swiatek: I am fascinated to see Swiatek’s progression in the coming year or two. Her game continues to evolve, and she could prove to be a very tricky opponent over the next few weeks. She looks to be value from a trading standpoint.

Ekaterina Alexandrova: I would prefer to take her in individual match-ups.

Ons Jabeur: The draw is perhaps a little tough here, however like many others, she is worth monitoring this week. Her serve deserted her in her loss last week, so I am happy to forgive that performance.


Overall

With this being the week before a grand slam, I am happy to go a little wider in search of some value. From the top half, a player that looks to be a value price is Anett Kontaveit, and I hope to see her build on her form from Palermo as she transitions back to the hardcourts. From the bottom half, my main value selection is Marketa Vondrousova, however I have a lot of thought to Madison Keys at the price as well.

From a trading standpoint, I think Iga Swiatek could make a run at longer odds. I will take a trading spot on her and will see how that plays out as the week progresses. Another trading selection from the top half that appeals is CC Bellis. I think too much has been read into her loss last week, and she can more than hold her own in a big-hitting section of the draw.

Small stakes, with the US Open on our doorstep.

Suggested Selections

BACK – Marketa Vondrousova

BACK – Anett Kontaveit

Trading Selections

BACK – Iga Swiatek

BACK – CC Bellis

ATP

Quarter 1

Seeded Players

Novak Djokovic: Much like Serena Williams, we also rarely see Novak play the week before a grand slam. The last time we saw him the week before a grand slam was Eastbourne in 2017, which he won, however retired hurt from his Quarter Final at Wimbledon in the following fortnight. The focus for the Serbian is next week, so I would rather be taking his price next week in the best of 5 set layout.

Felix Auger-Aliassime: Less appeal in his price given the close proximity to Djokovic. I will be writing about the Canadian for many years for come. He will have his weeks at the top, however, I don’t see it this week.

Denis Shapovalov: I had high hopes for Shapovalov’s 2020, however it started poorly. His best can challenge the top names, however sitting in Djokovic’s quarter, needing to likely beat him just to get out of the quarter, and then defeat consecutive quality opponents to win the title looks a tough ask.

David Goffin: Curious to watch him this week to see where his form stacks up. Up and down in his UTS performances, and what we saw to start 2020 isn’t enough to consider him for an outright.

Unseeded players of note

Marin Cilic: I hope he is back to near 100%, however he doesn’t appeal to me in the outright markets.

Alex De Minaur: I need to see De Minaur is at 100%, given his retirement from an exhibition match a couple of weeks ago. He returned to the tour too early in Acapulco after his groin issue stemming from the ATP Cup. I hope he is fit as he will be a major threat at the US Open, however I cannot make a selection on him in this quarter base on hope.

Tennys Sandgren: He could make a run to the third round, however, he would be reliant on Paul or Berankis to knock off Djokovic to progress any deeper. I’ll pass.

Borna Coric: I haven’t seen enough from him over the last 12 months to consider a Masters 1000 outright.


Quarter 2

Seeded Players

Daniil Medvedev*: The Russian was able to continue to train strongly during the COVID suspension due to his place having a tennis court. My question mark is the reduced motivation for Medvedev this week, as he cannot earn any further points to his ranking as he is the defending champion. I am looking for this to be a week to set himself for an assault on the US Open. I think he is a little too short as a result.

Cristian Garin: I think Garin will see more success in the European phase of 2020 on the clay. This looks a step above on hardcourt off recent hardcourt form.

Karen Khachanov: A player that has a tendency to draw me in, and then can sometimes be a little disappointing. I think he has a dangerous first round match with Bublik, and I don’t see value in his price at the moment.

Roberto Bautista Agut*: After going undefeated in the ATP Cup, RBA was disappointing in Melbourne, dropping his third round match to Marin Cilic. He is a trading selection here given the strength of this quarter compared to others. Needs to be respected whilst we get a feel for everyone this week.

Unseeded players of note:

Taylor Fritz: A player that I considered very strongly for a trading selection this week. He has the game, however, Medvedev and RBA are tricky match-ups for the American.

Richard Gasquet: We saw a bit of a resurgence in the game of Gasquet during the UTS. That being said, transitioning that to ATP1000 level is an entirely different story. I will pass for this week.


Quarter 3

Seeded Players

Matteo Berrettini*: The Italian had some success at the UTS, after struggling through the Australian Open with a niggling injury. If he is back to full health, he needs to be respected here. Perhaps a little under the odds for my liking, and the reason I prefer others in the market.

Diego Schwartzman: If I knew the court speed was slow enough, a case could be made for Diego, however, I cannot make a call on him to win it off such little tennis.

John Isner: So many years we have reached this stage of the year and I have wanted John Isner to be fresh coming into the US Open. I think this may be a case of too little too late. I am expecting to see a regression in the game of Isner over the next 12-24 months. He won’t be too fazed at the lack of crowd support, as he hasn’t always been a crowd favourite in New York.

Stefanos Tsitsipas*: One of a handful of players chasing down Novak at the moment. We have seen on occasions over the last 12 months that Tsitsipas has the game to beat any opponent in the best of 3 set arena. Tsitsipas is at the stage of his career where he seems to go at everything with all of his energy, so I would be more inclined to support him making a push this week than some of the other top names. He hates to lose, and you want that in an outright market the week before a grand slam.

Unseeded players of note

Hubert Hurkacz: I must admit I am struggling to place Hurkacz a bit at the moment in terms of his game. As a result I would rather watch on with him this week to get a better idea before the US Open. He has a tricky first round against John Isner.

Reilly Opelka: Will need a number of players to be below their best to push through this quarter. He would need a supreme serving performance to feature late this week.

Casper Ruud: Keen to see what he can produce on the clay when the tour moves to Europe.

Kyle Edmund: The tour suspension came at the wrong time for Kyle Edmund, who put together a very impressive title run in New York in February. His performances through the UK Exhibition series were very solid, and he needs to be respected in his section of the draw. The match-up of Tsitsipas is of concern for me, and enough to stop me from a trading selection.

John Millman: Strength of draw is a little too strong for my liking on the outright side of things. Thrives in the conditions so needs to be respected early in the week.

Kevin Anderson: Great to see him on tour, however not enough recent form or exposure to consider him this week.


Quarter 4

Seeded Players

Alexander Zverev*: His success in Melbourne was so heavily reliant on his first serve hitting the mark at a high clip. I would rather consider him in individual matches until I can get a better read on him off the long break.

Andrey Rublev: One of the most intriguing players in the draw. As you will see below, I am happy to sit out this quarter given the strength of it, however I would love to see him face Zverev and Thiem this week to get a better feel for all players. He dominated in Adelaide in the week before the Australian Open and ran out of gas in Melbourne, so tread carefully on him this week.

Grigor Dimitrov: Grigor had a great tournament in New York last year, however his overall efforts have been patchy. His last performance was a solid semi final appearance in Acapulco, where he performed better in his loss to Nadal than the scoreboard suggested that day. He has recovered from testing positive to COVID-19 and it will be interesting to see how he fares this week.

Dominic Thiem*: One of the more active top players at exhibition level over the last couple of months. The draw is favourable for him, so I won’t be actively opposing him, but his focus will be on next week given he lost in the first round of the US Open in 2019. That is where a significant amount of points can be earned. Loves to play and he looks fitter than ever. Too short in the outrights though for mine.

Unseeded players of note

Andy Murray: With a best-of-5 set fortnight of tennis ahead, it is hard to see Murray exerting himself significantly this week given his struggles with injuries over the last couple of years. I could be wrong, however I do not see value in his price.

Sam Querrey: I would rather see him play a tournament or two before considering him from an outright perspective.

Milos Raonic: Much like Querrey, I need to see him back on court before considering him for outrights.

Dan Evans: Tough first round in Andrey Rublev. Not sure I can entertain him from an outright perspective this week.

Ugo Humbert: Not a lot of value in his price given his proximity to Thiem in the draw. Prefer others.

Filip Krajinovic: Tough draw. He would need to improve his pre-COVID form significantly to be a chance here.


Summary

Much like the WTA preview, I will tread carefully and work around the favourites. The one standout suggested selection for this week is Stefanos Tsitsipas. I think he represents value, and you know you are going to get 100% from him every time he steps on the court. He also avoids Thiem until the semi-final and Djokovic until the final, were he to meet either.

From a trading standpoint, I have landed on Roberto Bautista Agut. He has the past form to beat Djokovic on hard court, and he seems to be a good price to trade with this week.

Suggested Selections

BACK – Stefanos Tsitsipas

Trading Selections

BACK – Roberto Bautista Agut

Top-level hard court tennis is BACK! It looks to be an incredibly competitive field in Lexington this week, as the North American hardcourt season begins.

This is an incredibly important period of the season for many players, with 3 weeks of tennis at Flushing Meadows on our doorstep. Outside of some exhibition tennis and the World Team Tennis exhibition series, there is not a lot of form to consider from the tour suspension.

With a grand slam around the corner as well, a mixture of limited exposed form and some with eyes on Flushing Meadows will make for a fantastic week of tennis.

In a similar way to Palermo, I would tread carefully. I have reduced my staking last week and this week given the increased variability with the tour coming back, however, things will continue to build from this point. The conditions will be hot and humid this week, so do keep this in mind when making your plays.

If you have any questions at any stage, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Quarter 1

Serena Williams: Commands the attention of any draw she finds herself in, regardless of her seeding. She is the favourite this week, and we know that at her best level she is a deserved favourite. My question for her this week is will we see Serena at 100% given her grand final is in Flushing Meadows in a couple of weeks?

It is a tough little section of the draw as well, with big hitters all around. Personally, I would rather take a player from the bottom half at bigger odds in this draw given the circumstances.

Sloane Stephens: Sloane looked to have regained a little bit of form at times during her World Team Tennis run, and I have said in the past that I do have a preference to support her in North America on hardcourt. I do not see value in her price in what is a competitive field this week. I would prefer to take Sloane in individual matches.

Unseeded players of note:

Venus Williams: I have not seen enough from Venus Williams to consider her in an outright capacity, especially given the strength of this quarter. Prefer others.

Victoria Azarenka: It is tough to get a gauge on where Azarenka is in terms of her form coming into Lexington. She struggled throughout the exhibitions that were televised, and at this stage of her career I would put her into the Serena bracket of perhaps looking to use this week as a means of establishing some form for bigger tournaments.

Shelby Rogers: We saw some mixed performances from Rogers across the exhibition period. As a player that was still looking to regain her form after injury last year, the American was able to take the first set off Garbine Muguruza 6-0 in the first round of the Australian Open.

Most of the hardcourt form at the end of last year is at ITF level, and with her finding the toughest quarter of the tournament, I might sit this out from an outright standpoint.


Quarter 2

Amanda Anisimova: After a slow start in the exhibition scene, Anisimova found some form in her final few matches. She is one of the players that *should* be near the top of the game for the next decade. She has a tricky draw, with fellow Americans Bellis and Pegula her likely first two opponents. I am keen to see how she is striking the ball this week in preparation for Flushing Meadows.

Yulia Putintseva: I was hoping to see Putintseva in a couple of clay tournaments on the resumption of the tour, however the fact she spends a lot of time in Florida has meant she appears on the hardcourts of Lexington. I think she may struggle against some of the quality North American hardcourters in this section. Tomljanovic is her round 1 opponent, so it is going to be a tough draw. I do not see her progressing out of this quarter.

Unseeded players of note:

CiCi (Catherine) Bellis: Like many others in this draw she is a bit of an unknown quantity. She had commenced her comeback in the months before the tour was suspended, so this may have been a blessing in disguise for her. I am really interested in watching her first match to assess her level. In my mind there are too many unknowns to consider her for the outright. It would be phenomenal if she ran through this draw off such little tennis.

Jessica Pegula: I was hoping for a larger price on Pegula; however, it looks as though she is no longer flying under the radar. One of the tough opponents that has put me off Anisimova as an outright selection. Whilst the names may not be as big in quarter two as the top group, the quality is certainly there.

Jill Teichmann: I really wanted to see Jill on the clay, alas she is in Lexington. Prefer others this week.

Ajla Tomljanovic: I will admit that I have struggled to place Tomljanovic over the last 18 months, and I have often overestimated her form overall. I do not see her as value in the current markets, so I would prefer to play her head to head match-ups. As is the theme with this top half, there are a lot of quality players that could run through this group with their top level.


Quarter 3

Magda Linette: Linette’s rankings did rise thanks to her Hua Hin title win prior to the tour becoming suspended. Wins there came over Bondarenko, Peng, Xiy Wang, Tig and Kung, so it was not the strongest WTA field. You can only beat the player on the other side of the net though. It has been a while since she has taken a key name as a scalp on hardcourt, and I prefer another name in this quarter.

Unseeded players of note:

Jennifer Brady: My player to watch from the third quarter, and for the entire tournament if I am honest. I was lucky enough to watch her live in Brisbane at the start of the year against Ash Barty. Her ability to handle that crowd and that situation was a significant step forward in my mind, and she looked to be in great form in her WTT appearances, and she has the weapons to be a real threat this week.

Marie Bouzkova: The Czech was very solid in her first round win over Jo Konta and needs to be respected in these conditions. I think the break came at a good time for Bouzkova, as her start to the year was not as successful as anticipated. She will match up well against most players in this quarter outside of Brady in my opinion. I prefer Brady at her price.


Quarter 4

Ons Jabeur: We saw some fantastic tennis from Jabeur in Melbourne at the start of the year, reaching the quarter finals of the Australian Open. Things remained positive through February, with wins over Pliskova, Brady and Riske amongst others, and her only losses coming to Halep and Kvitova. The stoppage in March halted her momentum however, with the only sighting during the break at the UTS, where she lost to Pavlyuchenkova. Jabeur is a rhythm player who needs to build confidence in her game and coming off a long hiatus I do not see value in her odds this week. If she were to make a run, she would likely present as value in head to head match-ups with Sabalenka or Gauff, so she is worth monitoring closely this week in that regard.

Aryna Sabalenka: Another player that likes to build confidence in her game over an extended period, it is a little tricky to gauge what level we will see from Sabalenka off an extended break. She had some good and bad patches in her round 1 match against Brengle, and with Gauff and Jabeur as potential tricky opponents in this quarter, her price looks a bit short to be honest. I am not going to actively oppose her in the early rounds, and I will monitor her closely.

Unseeded players of note:

Cori Gauff: I think for the time being, given the focus on Gauff at this stage of her career, she will very rarely present as value in outright markets. One to monitor. Gauff has an interesting round 1 match against Dolehide, who looked very solid in qualifying.


Betting Strategy

In a similar way to Palermo last week, we are seeing these players in the competitive arena for the first time in months. With some unknown quantities in the field, the main player that stands out to me from an outright standpoint is Jennifer Brady.

I feel the bottom half is the weaker part of the draw, and it means Brady can stay away from Serena Williams until the final at the very least. The second quarter is also stacked with talent, and I feel whoever comes out of the Anisimova/Bellis/Pegula triangle will find themselves in the semi-final.

As I mentioned above, the players I will be keeping an eye out on for individual match-ups this week are Ons Jabeur and Sloane Stephens. With such an even field there does not appear to be any significant trading value on offer. Instead, I will settle on the one outright selection in Brady.

A small play will suffice for this week. If you have any questions about any particular players or match-ups, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

BACK – Jennifer Brady


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