Tauson with long-shot potential in quarter three



Some superb round one matches in prospect

The strength in depth and relatively small ability differential between many players on the WTA Tour means that there were always likely to be some superb first-round matches in prospect, and Thursday’s draw certainly didn’t disappoint.

Highlights include Sofia Kenin versus Jelena Ostapenko, while Garbine Muguruza faces the talented Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk. In addition, Victoria Azarenka against Svetlana Kuznetsova, Amanda Anisimova versus Veronika Kudermetova and Nadia Podoroska’s match against Belinda Bencic all look like some very interesting opening round encounters.

Barty could be tested by Gauff in quarter one

Looking at the draw, Ash Barty is top seed and is therefore drawn in quarter one, which also features the likes of Cori Gauff, Karolina Pliskova, and Elina Svitolina. Gauff has immense future upside but this event might be a year too soon for her, despite a solid season on clay so far but saying that, I do think she has better chances than Pliskova and Svitolina, who have never really impressed at Roland Garros to any great extent.

In the outright market, Barty is 7.87/1 second favourite, with Gauff now into the 7th favourite at 28.027/1, and the market agrees with me about Gauff’s chances over Pliskova 110.0109/1 and Svitolina 34.033/1.

A fourth-round clash between Barty and Gauff would be well worth watching, featuring two players with rather contrasting dynamics. Barty’s opening few rounds don’t look extremely problematic, and nor do Gauff’s, although Fiona Ferro (potential round three opponent) is a competent clay-courter.

Swiatek drifting slightly despite reasonable draw

The 4.2016/5 tournament favourite, Iga Swiatek, was drawn in quarter two and despite her drifting a few ticks from the 3.8514/5 available when I wrote the pre-draw preview on Wednesday afternoon, I don’t think her draw is particularly bad in that bracket.

Garbine Muguruza 19.018/1 is the obvious next-best in that quarter, in my view, and the market agrees with that assertion although Elise Mertens and Maria Sakkari, as well as perhaps the surprise 2017 winner here, Jelena Ostapenko, will also be confident about their chances. In my view, Swiatek is the best player on clay in the field and justifies her status as favourite.

Sabalenka with kind quarter three draw

Moving into quarter three, there aren’t many players in the bracket who are major contenders, in my view.

Aryna Sabalenka has got a very kind bracket, I think, and it’s no surprise to see her shorten to 9.08/1 from a pre-draw 12.5.

The Belarussian will be a favourite to get to the semi-finals, at least, although several long-term top ten players such as Petra Kvitova 23.022/1 and Serena Williams 44.043/1 will be looking to get back towards their best.

Tauson could be a viable long-shot to get past bigger names

I’m also quite happy to put up a huge long-shot quarter-winner in this bracket, which might be worth a very small interest. Clara Tauson is a young player of huge potential – as evidenced by stunning ITF numbers on clay over the last couple of years, and has a qualifier in round one followed by perhaps Victoria Azarenka and Madison Keys.

Both of those bigger names have had injury issues – Azarenka hasn’t played since withdrawing from Madrid with a back injury a month ago – and Keys has only won one of her last six matches, and I’ve seen many worse long-shots than the talented Dane, Tauson at 66/1 to win quarter three with the Sportsbook – she’s already won the Lyon 250 indoors without dropping a set this season, and also has strong clay ability.

Andreescu the real unknown in quarter four

Finally, in quarter four, Paula Badosa could easily be capable of getting past the likes of Naomi Osaka and the injury-hit Kiki Bertens, while the likes of Amanda Anisimova and Veronika Kudermetova will also be confident of their chances. The real unknown in this quarter is Bianca Andreescu, who has huge upside but has barely played on clay so far in her career, and withdrew in advance of her quarter-final in Strasbourg this week against Sorana Cirstea.

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