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2019 Australian Open women's odds: Can Serena be denied Slam #24 by Osaka, Sabalenka, Wozniacki?

Australian Open odds and predictions

The 2019 tennis season is fully under way! And anytime the third week of a new year hits, that signals the start of the first Grand Slam - the Australian Open.

As always at the inception of a long tennis campaign, there is much intrigue as to who will reign supreme in Melbourne.

With a wide open women's field, where at least 11 players have a chance to leave Rod Laver Arena as number one in the WTA rankings, and the men's field seeing Novak Djokovic lose several times in the last few months, there are many legitimate contenders who could be the last two standing on Australia Day.

Let's take a look at the top women's options you should think about putting your money on to win in Melbourne!

And to bet on title odds during the tournament, just click here.

Serena Williams

Odds: 9/2

The unquestioned greatest women's player ever comes into Melbourne in very encouraging form, showcased in her play at the Hopman Cup.

The mother of Olympia won all three of her singles matches in Perth, beating three talented young players in Maria Sakkari, Belinda Bencic and rising Brit Katie Boulter, whose idol growing up was indeed Serena.

Seeing if Williams remained determined to win Slams after another fall season of inactivity - following her high profile, controversial defeat to Naomi Osaka in the US Open final - was key last week in the ITF team competition. And without a doubt, her hunger still remains, along with her underrated tactical strength and most of her prodigious talents.

But for the 23-time Grand Slam champion to make it a record-tying 24th Slam title with Margaret Court, Williams will have to overcome a difficult draw.

She could face the likes of Eugenie Bouchard, Peng Shuai and #23 seed Carla Suarez Navarro all before a possible Round of 16 clash with struggling but always formidable #1 seed Simona Halep.

Serena could also oppose her sister Venus in that same fourth round section, but we all know what happened the last time they played.

And even if she reaches another Slam final, will Serena, despite the legend of her mental, have another championship Slam match where she doesn't have her best serve, doesn't remain calm and not play her best tennis?

Aryna Sabalenka

Odds: 9/1

If you wanted to go out on a limb and choose someone that isn't still a household name, but who has a household game, it would be this fiery, ferocious 20-year-old.

Unlike many of the top women, Sabalenka remained with her coach of 2019 during the short offseason in former top top 20 player Dimtry Tursunov. It has been a tremendous partnership that's transformed the Minsk native from a good but not extraordinary junior prospect into arguably the most promising player in the 18-25 age range in the WTA.

With Victoria Azarenka struggling to gain regular traction, Sabalenka is the unquestioned #1 Belarusian now. And a major reason for that is how the reigning Wuhan winner's serve is now one of the best in the game.

As Serena and Karolina Pliskova have shown in recent times, a serve capable of regularly getting easy points in the women's game is a massive advantage to have. And Sabalenka has that now, combined with being a fine mover for such a powerful player on both forehand and backhand.

With her title in Shenzhen to start the year nine days ago, including making Maria Sharapova tap out in their match, Sabalenka is someone deserving of her current billing.

It could have easily been her and not Naomi Osaka who won the US Open, as she pushed the Haitian-Japanese player the hardest in Flushing Meadows in arguably the match of that tournament. And she certainly could become the latest first-time Slam winner on the women's side.

Angelique Kerber

Odds: 6/1

2016 was her breakthrough. 2017 was her nightmare. 2018 was her revival.

What will 2019 then be for the lively lefty? A year of remaining at the top or another odd year of decline when expectations are on her?

So far 2019 and her prospects in Melbourne look strong, with a perfect 4-0 week of singles play at the Hopman Cup. Kerber did go on to play in Sydney right after, but she was crushed by Petra Kvitova. However, that clear defeat last week doesn't take away her billing as one of the favorites for the title. A good first-round performance in her 6-2, 6-2 victory over Polona Hercog showed just that.

To make it to at least the semifinals, she may have to overcome big hitters in Donna Vekic and Sloane Stephens, with the latter having her number by winning the last 10 sets (5 matches) that she has played against Kerber.

Dark Horse specials:

Elina Svitolina 13/1

Caroline Wozniacki 18/1

Anett Kontaveit 40/1

It hasn't been the best start to a new tennis season for someone who normally has a good Brisbane tournament in the emotional, cagey Ukrainian, with her opening-round defeat to Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

But Svitolina will still be buoyed by winning the WTA Finals in Shanghai back in October. Just like with Alexander Zverev on the men's side winning his year-end world title, it was the 2018 capper and dose of confident re-inforcement that Svitolina needed after a massively disappointing year at the Slams.

With Osaka and Sabalenka getting the lion's share of young player attention at the moment, being under the radar right now is a major benefit for the 24-year-old baseline talent. It's the type of placid mental state she requires if she is finally going to be able to make a semifinals or better run at a Slam.

It's a reasonable draw for Svitolina to get to at least the fourth round, with the energetic but up and down Dominika Cibulkova being her only real challenge to prevent that. But #12 seed Elise Mertens, who thrashed her in the quarterfinals in Melbourne last year to begin a horrid 2018 at the Slams for Svitolina, will be the real sign to see if the #6 seed has matured in these moments.

Defending champion Wozniacki has received little expectations at retaining her only Slam title. And the lack of conversation around her chances of defending it are merited by her poor serving day and match against Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu in Auckland last week.

Still, the amicable Polish-Danish star got a major year-end boost by winning the prestigious China Open in October. And whenever she has a decent serving tournament, she is capable of another deep major run. A potential 3rd Round against Sharapova, a matchup that features no love lost for each other (as is the case with practically every opponent Sharapova plays), would be riveting.

Although it's a big ask to place Slam-winning expectations on a player that hasn't even reached a quarterfinals of a major before, 22/1 odds on Kontaveit would not be poor judgement at all.

The 23-year-old has passed fellow hard-hitting Estonian Kaia Kanepi as the top player in the Baltic nation, as well as in the entire Baltic region with the decline of the erratic Jelena Alona Ostapenko of Latvia. A strong performance in her first-round win over Spanish youngster Sara Sorribes Tormo will further strengthen Kontaveit's growing confidence.

Don't put too much on...

Petra Kvitova 15/1

Ashleigh Barty 13/1

Naomi Osaka 11/1

Madison Keys 28/1

Once again the explosive Czech lefty shows big promise before a Slam not named Wimbledon that build up her title credentials. But success before Roland Garros, the US Open and Melbourne hasn't translated to Kvitova even reaching a final at the majors outside of SW19.

We'll see if her tremendous victory in Sydney, where she dominated all last week in her run to the final (straight setting the likes of Kerber & Sabalenka), then bounced back from a slow start to defeat crowd favorite and in-form Ashleigh Barty in the championship match, will lead to a deep Aussie Open run. But despite her last several years of improved fitness, she still can struggle in any summer heat.

Speaking of Barty, her Sydney runner-up result was the latest paradigm of progress for Down Under's brightest hope (before Destinee Aiava's mature rise). But Barty hasn't yet to showcase the best of her all-court abilities at tennis' four biggest events. And though she is already miles better in front of her home country than Sam Stosur ever was, there are still questions about the former cricket player's mental nerve when the lights are brightest.

Meanwhile, it hasn't been necessarily the dubious first Slam winner hangover that Osaka has experienced after her storybook US Open title.

But her performance against Lesia Tsurenko at the Brisbane International semifinals still displayed signs of a special talent requiring more maturity to be the consistent, dominant force she certainly can be. A possible third-round match against Victoria Azarenka will tell us all if she learned from that Tsurenko defeat. But if she avoids the two-time Australian Open winner, no-one should challenge Osaka until the crafty Anastasija Sevastova in the fourth round.

Finally, another heralded, talented force hoping for elite consistency is the now 23-year-old Keys. The powerful American made the right choice in moving on from Lindsay Davenport as her coach. But she has a lot of questions and uncertainty after her left knee plagued her all fall in pulling out of tournaments left and right.

And Keys faces a very dangerous first-round prospect in Aussie teen queen Aiava, who matches Keys in all areas of talent.

Winning pick:

Serena has certainly convinced a lot of people that she is in a good enough place to capture her 24th Slam this time. And with her legendary status, she has given countless examples to never foolishly doubt her.

But the wise money would be on the ever improving Sabalenka, or the due Svitolina, to add their name to the list of Grand Slam champions. In the end, I see the Belarusian blaster doing just that at the end of the fortnight in Melbourne. And at those 9/1 odds, it would be a very sound play to place your wager on her.

Andrew Jones
@sluggahjells in Tennis