Jay Jarrahi, founder of an excellent tennis handicapping site called “The Overrule,” has graciously agreed to share his wisdom with BTB readers before—and possibly during—the 2013 Australian Open, which begins on Sunday.
In this post, Jarrahi breaks down the women’s side, where Serena Williams is favored to continue her run of dominance to end 2012 and claim her sixth Aussie Open title. Be sure to check out Jarrahi’s site, and also give him a follow on Twitter.
If you’re interested, here’s Jarrahi’s men’s breakdown.
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Serena Williams (-110)
Since her shocking loss in the first round of the 2012 French Open, Serena Williams has won gold at the Olympics, Wimbledon, the US Open and the year-end championships in Istanbul. No one has ever justified favoritism going into an event as Serena does in Melbourne, but if Serena plays her best, she’ll win her sixth Australian Open title. If she doesn’t play her best, it will still take an inspired performance from someone to stop her, and even that might not be enough. At 10/11 Serena is a favorite you can back with confidence.
Victoria Azarenka (+450)
Azarenka’s reign as world No. 1, which has lasted almost exactly a year (she became No. 1 after last year’s Australian Open final), looks set to come to an end over the next two weeks. The defending champion has demolished all before her over the past 12 months apart from the very lofty challenge of Serena Williams. Azarenka came within two points of beating Serena at the US Open, and they are on a collision course for a semifinal matchup that many will view as the de facto final.
Maria Sharapova (+1150)
Sharapova was obliterated in last year’s final by Azarenka, and the same may could very well happen again if she reaches this year’s final against Serena Williams. Sharapova has been raking in the cash from her successful “Sugarpova” candy line and was the beneficiary of a draw that saw her avoid both Serena and Azarenka. She didn’t avoid the Williams sisters altogether, as a third-round clash with Venus looms, but Sharapova will like her chances of reaching the final despite withdrawing from Brisbane in the lead up with an injury concern.
ON THE BUBBLE
Agnieszka Radwanska (+1550)
No one has had a better start to 2013 than Radwanska, who’s already claimed two titles in her opening two events of the season. The Wimbledon runner-up has had a fantastic 12 months, and the question that remains is whether she can break through to claim a Grand Slam title. Arguably the most intelligent player on the tour, Radwanska gets by on craft and quick thinking rather than brute force and power. She will believe she has as good a chance as anyone of reaching the final from the bottom half of the draw.
Li Na (+2500)
Li Na (or Na Li) is a former finalist in Melbourne and she, too, will believe she can make the most of avoiding Serena and Azarenka in her half of the draw. A quarterfinal clash with Radwanska is on the cards, and both players met in Sydney a few days ago with the Pole coming out victorious. Na has the ability to hit through anyone, but likewise, when she’s off she can find it just as easy to find the crowd in the stands as the court itself.
Angelique Kerber (+4000)
Kerber had a career year in 2012, but there are already signs in 2013 that she may struggle to replicate that form. Kerber plays a punishing style of tennis, and if she’s not the best defender in the women’s game, she is at worst amongst the top two or three. The German reached a Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon in 2012 and the US Open in 2011, but will need to be more proactive and less passive on big points in big matches if she wants to elevate her game to that of a Grand Slam champion. As with Sharapova, Radwanska and Na, Kerber resides in the bottom half of the draw and it’s a great opportunity for one of these four to reach the final.
Petra Kvitova (+5000)
On talent alone, Kvitova would have to be considered among the genuine contenders for the title, but her form over the past few months has been nothing short of atrocious. It is only because of her immense talent—in my view, only Serena has as many as or more weapons than Kvitova—that we can even consider placing Petra on the bubble. The truth is that her form is non-existent and her confidence is seemingly on the floor. The draw was hugely unkind to the former Wimbledon champion; she’ll have to face Serena in the last eight, if she can even get that far.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (+19000)
We’ve been waiting for the 21-year-old Russian to make some serious noise for awhile, and if the start to her 2013 season is a taste of things to come; that time may be fast approaching. Pavlyuchenkova reached the final of Brisbane, where she was outclassed by Serena, defeating Kvitova and Kerber in straight sets along the way. She has a realistic chance of reaching the last eight and a meeting with Azarenka. Her serve has noticeably improved, and if she keeps that up she may even give Azarenka a run for her money.
Sloane Stephens (+12500)
American tennis can’t rely on Serena to fly the flag for the rest of time, and Stephens looks like she is capable of providing American tennis fans with a bright future. At only 19 years of age, Stephens is coming along at a decent rate and should have her sights set on at least a top 20 ranking by the end of this season. It’s unrealistic to think she can win the Australian Open, but after being drawn in Kvitova’s quarter, if the Czech falters as she has done in recent months, Stephens is among a handful of players who could capitalize to reach the last eight.