Australian Open women’s singles round one: Azarenka, Halep feature
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | January 18, 2016
2016 Australian Open
- Women’s singles round one
- Tuesday, January 19th
- Play scheduled to start: 00:00 GMT
- Melbourne Park, Melbourne
- Live on Eurosport 1 and 2
Azarenka, Halep, Muguruza in action on day two
Although favourite Serena Williams’ position has been strengthened in her bid to retain the Australian Open women’s singles title, with Coral cutting her odds from 10/3 into 9/4 after other seeds in her section made first round exits, the bottom half of the draw remains very interesting.
Three top tennis pros with ambitions of reigning Down Under will take to the courts in Melbourne, as WTA world numbers two and three Simona Halep (9/1 title chance) and Garbine Muguruza (14/1), plus two-time former winner Victoria Azarenka (7/2 tournament second-favourite), are all in action on day two.
Great Britain number one Johanna Konta faces the daunting task of eighth seed Venus Williams, while other American entrants will hope to advance to the second round. Check out the day two betting preview on the men’s singles side too.
Van Uytvanck could trouble Azarenka
Belgian talent Alison Van Uytvanck surprised everyone with a sensational run to the French Open quarter-finals last year.
Belarus export Azarenka, meanwhile, struggled in the 2015 Grand Slams, failing to get past the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open plus performing poorly at Roland Garros as well as in Melbourne.
It seems as though Azarenka is finding it difficult to find the form that took her to back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013, but she remains an overwhelming odds-on 1/25 match favourite.
Van Uytvanck is a sizeable 10/1 outsider, but certainly has it her locker to force her Eastern European opponent into a third set. Fabulous 4/1 odds are your reward if punters back Azarenka to win 2-1.
Nothing to hamper Halep and Muguruza progress
Last year’s Wimbledon finalist Muguruza takes on fellow youngster and Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, who has shown steady improvement on the women’s tour in 2015 too.
Muguruza has the big match experience, however, so is a worthy odds-on 1/10 favourite for victory, which can be bettered by taking the 1/3 on offer for a straight sets win over 6/1 outsider Kontaveit.
Halep, meanwhile, dominated her Australian Open first round opponent Shuai Zhang of China in their only previous meeting at Indian Wells, dropping just two games during a dominant display.
A 1/14 on Romania star Halep winning again becomes 1/4 for a repeat of that straight sets smashing, while Shuai Zhang has little hope of victory at 7/1 as she has never got past this initial hurdle in Melbourne.
Konta should be encouraged vying with Venus
Taking on a Williams sister is always a daunting task, but Australian-born British representative Konta pushed Venus all the way in Wuhan last year in a thrilling three-set match on this hard surface.
Patriotic punters get a tasty 2/1 on Konta causing an upset, though eighth seed Williams is of course a worthy odds-on 2/5 favourite to win the match despite her advancing years.
With Venus 11/4 to repeat her 2-1 triumph from that clash in China at the back end of last season, cunning Konta is also attractive at 4/1 to record victory by that scoreline and turn the table on Williams.
Other Americans in action
Fellow USA tennis players Madison Brengle and Coco Vandeweghe collide for the second successive year the Australian Open, but a round sooner than 2015.
Brengle, now ranked seven spots below her compatriot in the WTA rankings, is a tempting 11/10 to knock Vandeweghe out again, but the latter has made a firm improvement since that encounter, reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals last season.
Vandeweghe starts odds-on at 8/11 to avenge that loss 12 months ago, but this also has the makings of a match that could go to a deciding set. Respective 10/3 and 3/1 (on Brengle) prices are on offer for punters who back a 2-1 scoreline in either direction.
Madison Keys is the other American to keep an eye on, and she has a tough first-ever encounter with Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas, but is odds-on a to 2/9 to come through it. There is real potential for an upset here, though, and a tasty 10/3 on Diyas dumping out the 15th seed should not be ignored.
Coral’s top tip: Azarenka is attractive at 4/1 to beat Van Uytvanck 2-1.