It’s finally here, the opening tournament of the 2021 Grand Slam circuit is upon us as Melbourne Park once again hosts the Australian Open.
Following what can only be described as a contentious quarantine period, the best tennis players in the world are fit, ready and most importantly COVID free for the first Grand Slam of the new year!
Due to the massive time difference in Australia, games are actually played on Monday, February 8th Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).
While it’s not the best timing for us here in America, with games usually played in the middle of the night, we still feel the need to provide our free tennis predictions, then maybe you will wake up in the morning with a win. Talk about starting the day off right!
Gael Monfils (10) vs Emil Ruusuvuori – 7PM ET @ Court 13
World No. 11 Gael Monfils will face world No. 86 Emil Ruusuvuori in the first round of the 2021 Australian Open. Monfils has been a solid performer at Melbourne Park, having not been eliminated in the first round since 2006.
While Ruusuvuori is a promising young player who is fresh off his first ever Grand Slam victory, defeating Aljaz Bedene in the first round of last year’s US Open.
Gael Monfils and Alex de Minaur at the practice in Melbourne. (📷Getty) pic.twitter.com/NztGZTOFeV
— Rena (@_irenka23_) January 30, 2021
After withdrawing from his second round ATP Cup match against Dominic Thiem, Monfils’ fitness for Sunday’s match is questionable and has left the door open for Ruusuvuori to potentially force this game to a fourth or fifth set.
At +135, Monfils is the only top 10 ranked player not favored in the first round. However, the class of the Frenchman will see Monfils reign victorious in his opening round matchup at Melbourne Park.
Head to Head – Gael Monfils (+135)
Games Spread – Gael Monfils +2.5 (-109)
Sets Handicap – Gael Monfils +1.5 (-135)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Naomi Oaska (3) – 7PM ET @ Rod Laver Arena
World No. 3 and 2019 Aus Open champion Naomi Osaka is the pre tournament +550 favorite to win the 2021 Australian Open. Osaka’s tournament opener is one of the tougher first round matchups for a high seed, as she is coming up against world No. 39 and three time Australian Open quarterfinalist, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Considering Osaka has more Grand Slam titles (3) than she does Grand Slam first round exits (2), it is tough to go against the world No. 3 in this matchup. However, Pavlyuchenkova has been to three Australian Open quarterfinals in her past four visits to Melbourne Park and will undoubtedly push Osaka in this round one matchup.
Coming up against almost any other top 10 player, Pavlyuchenkova would be a real threat of stealing a set, or potentially even an upset victory. However, 23 year old Osaka has the makings of being a generational talent and will likely record a two set victory on Sunday, although it will not be a walkover.
Head to Head – Naomi Osaka (-500)
Games Spread – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova +5.5 (-125)
Set Handicap – Naomi Osaka -1.5 (-170)
Dominic Thiem (3) vs Mikhail Kukushkin – 9.30PM ET @ Rod Laver Arena
Still riding the high of his debut Grand Slam tournament victory at last year’s US Open, Dominic Thiem will enter the 2021 Australian Open as the No. 3 ranked men’s player in the world. Thiem has odds of +500 (fourth favorite) to win the Australian Open and should have no issues getting past 90th ranked Mikhail Kukushkin.
A dominant 6️⃣-1️⃣ opening set from Dominic Thiem against a struggling Benoit Paire battling an injury.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) February 5, 2021
The Kazakhstan native has been eliminated in the first round of his last eight Australian Opens and when coming up against a player of Thiem’s calibre, a ninth first round elimination is almost a foregone conclusion. Although Thiem should cruise through his opening round, -9.5 games is an unjustifiable line for a player who has yet to dominate on Australian shores.
Head to Head – Dominic Thiem (-10000)
Games Spread – Mikhail Kukushkin +9.5 (-135)
Exact Sets – Dominic Thiem 3-0 (-400)
Marcos Giron vs Alexander Zverev (6) – 10.30PM ET @ Margaret Court Arena
World No. 7 and sixth seed at the 2021 Aus Open, Alexander Zverev will get his Grand Slam season underway against world No. 73 Marcos Giron in the first round at Melbourne Park.
In what was a challenging year for the tennis world in 2020, Zverev performed admirably making the semifinal in Australia last year, the fourth round at the rescheduled French Open as well as an appearance in the US Open Finals where he was defeated by world No. 3 Dominic Thiem.
Still on the quest for his first Grand Slam title, both Thiem and Zverev look to have made strides towards being in the same conversation as the ‘Big 3”.
Whether the German can carry his 2020 form deep into the 2021 Grand Slam season still remains to be seen, however Zverev should have no trouble cruising past Marcos Giron in the first round at Melbourne Park.
At 27 years of age, Giron has competed in just six Grand Slam tournaments, four of which resulted in first round eliminations, none of which came against a player ranked as highly as Zverev.
Head to Head – Alexander Zverev (-5000)
Games Spread – Alexander Zverev -8.5 (-130)
Set Handicap – Alexander Zverev -2.5 (-300)
Elias Ymer (Q) vs Diego Schwartzman (8) – 12AM ET Monday @ Court 7
World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman will get his 2021 Australian Open campaign underway with a first round match against world No. 204 Elias Ymer on Sunday.
Schwartzman had a solid 2020 season, making the fourth round of the 2020 Australian Open and an appearance in the semifinals at last year’s Roland Garros.
Corner to corner 👌
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 6, 2021
Despite once being the 105th ranked player in the world, Ymer’s recent form struggles have resulted in him falling to 204th on the ATP Rankings and failing to qualify for a Grand Slam since the 2018 French Open.
Schwartzman defeated Ymer 3-0 in the one prior matchup between the two players and a similar result is all but a certainty in their opening match at Melbourne Park on Sunday.
Head to Head – Diego Schwartzman (-1500)
Games Spread – Diego Schwartzman -6.5 (-352)
Exact Sets – Diego Schwartzman 3-0 (-176)
Bianca Andreescu (8) vs Mihaela Buzarnescu – 12AM ET Monday @ John Cain Arena
World No. 8 Bianca Andreescu will make her long awaited return to the Grand Slam circuit at Melbourne Park after missing all of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a torn meniscus. Andreescu’s last appearance at a Grand Slam was the 2019 US Open which resulted in the Canadian breaking through for her first Grand Slam title from just four tournament starts.
Andreescu will face off against world No. 138 Mihaela Buzarnescu on Sunday. Buzarnescu has been eliminated in the first round in four of her last five Grand Slam appearances, and although Andreescu may take some time to adjust back to the pace of Grand Slam tennis, Buzarnescu will not be able to compete with the 20 year old Canadian.
Likely a straight sets victory in Andreescu’s return to the top level and great value to so currently at -500 to win the head to head matchup.
Head to Head – Bianca Andreescu (-500)
Games Spread – Bianca Andreescu -5.5 (-110)
Exact Sets- Bianca Andreescu 2-0 (-182)
Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs Viktoria Kuzmova – 12.30AM ET Monday @ Court 3
World No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka will take on world No. 98 Viktoria Kuzmova in the first round of the Australian Open. Despite the vastly superior ranking, Sabalenka and Kuzmova share many similarities.
Both players are 22 years olds who turned pro in 2017 and neither Sabalenka (fourth round) or Kuzmova (third round) have progressed further than the fourth round in any Grand Slam tournament.
Sabalenka is undoubtedly the superior player with a 68% win percentage (better than Kuzmova’s 46%) and nine singles titles (better than Kuzmova’s zero), making her the deserved -2500 favorite for their first round matchup.
It took 6⃣ match points, but Kaia Kanepi has completed the upset! 💪
The world no. 94 knocks out the fourth seed, Aryna Sabalenka, and snaps her 1⃣5⃣-game winning streak. 😲
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) February 2, 2021
However, neither Sabalenka nor Kuzmova have had a breakout performance at a Grand Slam, and at +900 odds, Kuzmova is more than capable of upsetting the world No. 7. However, Sabalenka is poised for a breakout 2021 on the Grand Slam circuit and should get past Kuzmova.
Head to Head – Aryna Sabalenka (-2500)
Games Spread – Viktoria Kuzmova +6.5 (+114)
Exact Sets- Aryna Sabalenka 2-0 (-556)
Lizette Cabrera (WC) vs Simona Halep (2) – 3AM ET Monday @ Rod Laver Arena
World No. 2 Simona Halep will get her 2021 Grand Slam Season underway against local wild card entry, Lizette Cabrera. Despite being the second ranked female tennis player in the world and a two time Grand Slam champion, Halep has a less than impressive first round record at Melbourne Park.
Since 2012, Halep has four first round eliminations at the Australian Open (2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017) as well as appearance in the fourth round, two appearances in the quarterfinals, one in a semi final and another in a Final. Far from consistent for a player of her caliber.
Halep will likely be let off the hook in 2021, coming up against the 130th ranked wilc card, Lizette Cabrera, who has suffered a first round elimination in all five of her Grand Slam campaigns.
Given Halep’s occasional ability to underperform in the first round, this may be a closer encounter than expected. However, class will shine through against the inferior Cabrera and the world No. 2 should comfortably cruise to a straight sets win.
Head to Head – Simona Halep (-2500)
Games Spread – Lizette Cabrera +7.5 (-140)
Exact Sets- Simona Halep 2-0 (-500)
Greejte Minnen (Q) vs Petra Kvitova (9) – 3AM ET Monday @ Margaret Court Arena
Two time Wimbledon champion and world No. 9 Petra Kvitova is coming into the 2021 Australian Open fresh off another strong 2020 season. Kvitova reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park last year, as well as a semi finals appearance at the French Open and a fourth round appearance at the US Open.
Kvitova will face world No. 110 Greejte Minnen on Sunday. Minnen made her Grand Slam debut at last year’s Australian Open, defeating Olga Danilovic before being eliminated in the second round.
Petra Kvitova can’t wait to play in front of fans again 🙌 pic.twitter.com/SoQ4RJFKfB
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 31, 2021
Her win over Danilovic is still Minnen’s only Grand Slam victory having been eliminated in the first round of both the French and the US Opens last year. Coming up against a player of Kvitova’s caliber, a third consecutive first round exit for Minnen is almost a foregone conclusion.
Kvitova is capable of another deep run at the Australian Open and should comfortably defeat Minnen in their opening match at Melbourne Park on Sunday.
Head to Head – Petra Kvitova (-1000)
Games Spread – Petra Kvitova -6.5 (+114)
Exact Sets- Petra Kvitova 2-0 (-286)
Novak Djokovic (1) vs Jeremy Chardy – 4.15AM ET Monday @ Rod Laver Arena
No need to waste anyone’s time with this one as the eight time Aus Open Champion Novak Djokovic returns to Melbourne Park in pursuit of his third consecutive and ninth total Australian Open crown. The unfortunate player to draw Djokovic in the opening round is world No. 66 Jeremy Chardy.
At 33 years old, Chardy has performed admirably since debuting at the Aus Open in 2009, with just five first round eliminations in his 12 tournament starts, including a quarter finals appearance in 2013.
However, Djokovic is the number one ranked player in the world, returning to his most successful Grand Slam surface. On top of that, the Serbian hasn’t been eliminated in the first round since 2006. Obviously the value for Djokovic to win is low, but so is the chance of him dropping this match.
Head to Head – Novak Djokovic (-10000)
Games Spread – Novak Djokovic -9.5 (-170)
Exact Sets – Novak Djokovic 3-0 (-556)
*Odds correct at time of publication, courtesy of PointsBet.
We’ve got 14 days of hard core tennis action, so strap yourself in!
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