The women's US Open promises to be an extremely competitive tournament, and today's round one will be no different. Previewing the action, is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...
"Bolkvadze done very well in lower level ITF events this season, and at 21 years of age, is clearly on a nice upward curve, on the cusp of the top 200 after starting the season ranked outside the top 300."
Williams in match of the day against Sharapova
While the men's tournament has action from the top half of the draw today, the organisers have scheduled the bottom half of the women's draw to take place this evening. This means one thing - it's Serena v Maria on day one of the US Open!
The illustrious duo have met 21 times before, with Serena coming out victorious on 19 occasions, but both players have something to prove from a fitness perspective currently. Williams has retired or withdrawn from four of her last six tournaments, while Sharapova retired in round one of Wimbledon just before getting bageled by Pauline Parmentier in the final set, and lost easily against Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati in her last outing.
Williams is [1.30] to get past her old adversary and I make this about right - I don't particularly anticipate an underdog victory here.
Giorgi with underdog chances against Sakkari
However, there are several underdogs who I do think have some potential. Although the medium/slow courts here are unlikely to be hugely to her liking, I think Camila Giorgi - as long as she has no issues following her run to the final in the New York warm-up tournament last week - shouldn't be as big as [2.66] against Maria Sakkari, while Timea Bacsinszky also looks big at a similar price against 17 year old Catherine McNally.
Another talented young prospect is Iga Swiatek, who I've discussed before, and her current stats indicate that clay courts are most likely to yield the most success for the Pole. On hard courts, her return data isn't anything special, and if Ivana Jorovic is in any type of condition, she looks reasonable value at [5.40].
In addition, while Daria Gavrilova hasn't impressed of late, and surprisingly hasn't played any hard court warm-up events at all, she looks a little generously priced at [2.50] against Fiona Ferro. The French 22 year old, Ferro, is another player who looks best on clay and I've found her to be a little under-rated on those courts, but over-rated on hard court, statistically. Saisai Zheng, at [2.56], could also have chances of an underdog victory over Venus Williams, whose serve numbers have markedly dropped.
Improving Bolkvadze could provide a big shock against Pera
However, I'm going for a huge priced winner on day one and am looking at the Georgian qualifier, Mariam Bolkvadze to help us on our quest. She is [4.30] against Bernarda Pera, who is solid enough on serve but nothing special on return, and after a solid qualifying campaign, which saw her ease past Heather Watson in straight sets, among others, I think Bolkvadze offers really solid value at these prices.
Bolkvadze done very well in lower level ITF events this season, and at 21 years of age, is clearly on a nice upward curve, on the cusp of the top 200 after starting the season ranked outside the top 300. I think this meeting should be closer than the odds suggest, and although urging caution on staking, think this could be a heavy underdog winner on day one.
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Back Mariam Bolkvadze at [4.30] to beat Bernarda Pera