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Why Betting on WTA Tour is So Unpredictable Today and How to Deal With It


WTA Tour 2019 is officially over. Ashleigh Barty secured the year’s No.1 spot by winning WTA Finals, despite being 15th at the beginning of the season. In the past five years, we had a new WTA Finals champion with only Elina Svitolina who made it to the finals twice. After the two-decade-long reign of Williams Sisters, today’s WTA turned into a mess and a miracle at the same time.

The Current State of WTA: Old Gen Lacks Consistency, New Stars Arrive

Some fans and experts blame players for lack of consistency. Others tell there is an incredible depth of a tournament, which is full of equally talented stars. This may heat interest for spectators, who want to see a show without knowing who’ll win, but pretty tough for successful tennis betting.

Ten years ago, you could just bet on Serena and got your little yet reliable winning with a high probability. Now, you bet on the same Serena placing hopes for the same little winning, but it’s not as secure anymore.

Not only the recent WTA Finals, but every second major tournament is now won by the new person. Players rise to the prominence in weeks and then dramatically fall without scoring anything in a season.

Here we need to draw an example. If we take a look at the Wimbledon final, odds were in favor of Serena Williams, where she got evens. Simona Halep, who eventually won the tournament, had 17/4. Bookie predictions work quite simple: they give the edge to the player who shows some consistency in the recent times, like Ashleigh Barty (who initially was the tournament’s favorite) or has been very successful for a decade, like Serena.

But what do we see? Barty was out in the fourth round in both Wimbledon and the US Open. Halep failed to make it to the semifinals after winning Wimbledon and until WTA Finals, following a “one win, one loss” pattern.

Let alone three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber, who lost in the round of 64 or 32 in all tournaments except for China Open during the last 5 months. Yet the odds for Kerber were fine, as she is the former No. 1. A similar sample is Garbiñe Muguruza, who won Roland Garros in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017. Now she is doing even worse than Kerber and barely clinging to Top 40.

All this makes WTA betting feel like playing roulette. Good odds for the top athletes are no more than false hopes. The reality resembles roulette odds, where a bet on a single number has only a slight chance of winning. You put your cash on Serena/Halep/Osaka/Barty and have the same slight chance to win, despite media yelling that you did the right thing.

Today’s WTA is random, where a newborn star — 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu — may suddenly beat them all even after skipping the entire clay & grass seasons. And eventually, learn how to lose again and retire in the WTA Finals. Barty, on the contrary, triumphs after four (!) retirements of her fellow players, being the top seed yet not the bookies` favorite.

Players obviously may and should have their downs and ups. But if you look to the previous decades, there was always a bunch of leaders that dominated the sport. "Before, I would say like 6-7 years ago, the top players had no opponents until the quarterfinals," said Dieter Kindlmann, the coach of No. 17 Elise Mertens.

So why does it happen? Experts say that greater depth is a consequence of increased prize money in tennis, so that all players ranked inside the Top-100 may afford themselves a good coaching team and prepare well. However, some of the players experience mental problems that are reflected in both the inability to win major titles and untimely giving up on the court. Robert Lansdorp, A former coach of Pete Sampras and Maria Sharapova, states: "I hate to say these players today aren`t mentally as strong.”

Serena Williams’s Mental Crisis

One of the players with the first problem to name is a GOAT of tennis, Serena Williams. She won 23 Grand Slams during her impressive career, with the last one being Australian Open 2017. A few months later, she announced her 20-week pregnancy, which impressed the community — this means that she conquered AO being 8-9 weeks pregnant. After this, however, she took a brief break from tennis to give birth to her daughter, Olympia.

What happens next are the two consecutive runner-ups to the Wimbledon and US Open titles. Once Serena shows up in the finals, all the bookies heavily favor her. Despite this, she never plays her best in the finals, burning down all the fuel in the semi’s, where she dismantles their opponents and crushes through them in a decisive match.

The prospective 24th Grand Slam title is a kind of burden for Serena. It’s not being treated like an important yet granted achievement due to a special clause here. If Serena Williams wins the 24th Slam, she enters the Hall of Fame by tying Margaret Court’s record, who has claimed the highest number of Grand Slam titles in the Open Era.

WTA Finals Epic Retirements

Another reason for the inconsistency is mass injuries. Courts become slower, even the grass ones. Roger Federer said the 2018 US Open was with the slowest courts he has ever seen, and his words were backed by an official statement from the US Open director.

The slower the court, the higher the risk for injury. That’s why most Roland Garros winners are known for their supreme physicality. Clay is the slowest among tennis surfaces and requires good fitness to endure frequent 20-shot rallies. Slowed down hard courts are even more ruthless. Here, you receive a combined test of your joints and stamina at once.

Thus, there is no wonder so many players have withdrawn from the WTA Finals. Even the regular watchers on YouTube were mocking the court, calling it “sticky” and “greasy”. Clay-like surface favored counter pushers like Svitolina, Barty & Halep and disrupted the aggressive attacking style of Osaka, Andreescu & Kvitova. Here is why we got what we got at the end of the season when everyone is already exhausted.

Predictions for WTA Tour 2020

It’s hard to make far-reaching predictions for this state of women tennis, so the only viable advice is to play it by ear and don’t look much on the odds from bookies. Instead, you’ll have to watch matches or, at least, match highlights to understand how is the particular player feeling right now.

If someone’s game is in full swing and they show no sign of physical or mental problems, it’s likely safe to bet on them, but only in this particular tournament. Remember how indestructible Naomi Osaka seemed during China Open? That is exactly that kind of game and that kind of mood.

Regarding the general performance of the top girls, most experts predict bright seasons for the young gen like Barty, Osaka, and Andreescu. They say that each can take at least one of the Slams with Halep or Kvitova having a chance to claim their 3rd title. After the impressive season and with courts suiting her style, Elina Svitolina is also dubbed to rise even more. The return of the former superstar, Kim Clijsters, will likely be disappointing.

The rest of the youngsters to follow are US Open Doubles Champion Aryna Sabalenka, Belinda Bencic, Sofia Kenin, Karolina Muchova, and Dayana Yastremska, who all played well in 2019 and seemingly are not going to lose traction. And don’t forget about Cori Gauff, who won Linz Open at the age of 15.

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