Australian Open

Australian Open Day 6: Value on Russian to go step further in breakout Slam

Badosa back with a bang: Spanish star in fine form following injury comeback

On day six our tennis man Gavin Mair runs the rule over an unexpected third round match up, and a match featuring two WTA stars on the comeback trail...

  • Unexpected third round encounter

  • Breakout star value to defeat journeywoman

  • Badosa to win comeback clash

My first pick on day six features two players I doubt would have been on anybody's pre-tournament third round fixture list. Both Anastasia Zakharova and Magdalena Frech have exceeded expectations to make it to this stage of the Australian Open ahead of more recognisable names such as Caroline Garcia and Naomi Osaka.

However, I believe it presents us with an opportunity as we are dealing with two fish outside of their natural waters, and I think the market is misguided in valuing one of these fish as a much tastier option.

Zak attack!

I have been super impressed by the run of 21-year old Russian Zakharova in her debut Grand Slam main draw. This was a player on the outside of my radar as the majority of her career to date has been played away from the TV cameras on the ITF tour. That looks set to change.

She has a collection of notable scalps from her run in Melbourne, claiming victories over Rebecca Peterson, Simona Waltert, Yulia Putintseva and Kaja Juvan - all of whom have more than dipped their toes into the main tour.

What has impressed me most is her positive attitude on court. She has stated that she is an admirer of Maria Sharapova and you can certainly hear her influence with the grunting siren that accompanies even the least potent of shots.

On a more serious note, I paid close attention to her match against Putintseva in round one - and I believe this is a decent form guide for her upcoming encounter with Frech, given the playing style similarity of the Pole and Kazakhstani.

Frech is a player who likes to make her opponents beat themselves - ask Caroline Garcia how that feels - using defensive solidity and a range of spins to make her opponent's next ball a hazard.

Zakharova showed versus Putintseva that she can adapt her game, having struggled to find the correct ingredients for her recipe in an error-strewn first set before dominating the next two. She changed her game effectively, stepping inside the court to return serve and dashing towards the next when that opportunity presented itself. Her greatest weapons appear to be her competitive temper and a willingness to take brave decisions.

On another day...

Despite wins over Daria Saville and Garcia appearing good on paper that doesn't hide the fact that on another day Frech probably loses to either of them. Garcia of course is a statement win, but the French player has a knack of shooting herself in the foot and with her hyper aggressive game she can lose to anybody when it misfires.

On a side, but entirely relevant note, Garcia said post-match that she was overwhelmed by stress during her match with Frech, and was suffocated by pressure not from her opponent but from her internal monologue. It does remove some of the sheen from Frech's triumph.

I can't escape the fact that Frech looks horribly overvalued for this match. The market has placed too much faith in a player who has only been to this stage of a Grand Slam once in her career, and probably hasn't yet recognised the talent of the upstart Russian.

The value is with Anastasia Zakharova to win at 7/42.75

Back Anastasia Zakharova to win at 7/42.75

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Comeback clash

Paula Badosa and Amanda Anisimova are both on the comeback trail and have the opportunity to boost their ranking revival by beating the other.

Both have shown their quality in their early matches this tournament, but to my eyes - and indeed those of the statistical scoreboards - Badosa is a step ahead.

The Spaniard took time off tour last year to nurse a back injury, and the break looks to have done her the world of good. She is at her best when playing decisive, aggressive tennis and in her wins so far that has been her approach.

Badosa is prone to becoming tense and passive and make matches harder than they need to be, but her impressive level against Pavlyuchenkova - who is no gimme draw - shows she's in fine form.

Respect must go to Anisimova who is returning to tennis after taking 8 months off tour with burnout. She was hitting impressively well against Samsonova in round one, but I'm unconvinced that it is a standout win as Samsonova has been well short of her best form so far this season.

Anisimova has been giving up a few too many opportunities to break serve, with her hold percentages short of where they are when she's on top of her game. Who can forget a few years ago when at this tournament she was untouchable on serve as she fended off the challenge of a peak playing Osaka.

Her fitness levels also look questionable, with her movement not as sharp as it can be, and she has been sporting physio strapping on her left thigh in recent matches.

I don't love the price on Badosa in the match win market, but I am confident she wins this. The trick is to add value to the bet. I like the value added from backing the Spaniard in the win first set and win the match market, where she is available at 1/12.00.

If Badosa were to have a level dip in the second set then there is security built into this price. She is very good at winning the first set, and even in her defeats she tends to win the first set. This is a clear trend going back over her hard court form over the past two seasons.

Back Badosa to win the first set and the match at 1/12.00

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