Serena a worthy favourite

  • By: Andy Schooler (Twitter: @NetTalkTennis)
  • Last Updated: August 30 2012, 20:18 BST

Serena Williams: Worthy favourite for the US Open


5pts Serena Williams to win the title at 21/20 (sportingbet).

4pts Petra Kvitova to reach the semi-finals at 6/4 (bet365).

Let's keep things simple in the women's market at the US Open by nailing our colours straight to Serena Williams' mast.

The American, a three-time winner at Flushing Meadows, is the hot favourite but rightly so.

She's played very well this summer, with her serve particularly strong.

It helped her to both the Wimbledon and Olympic titles in London, while in between she added the hardcourt crown in Stanford.

A 19-match winning streak was recently ended by Angelique Kerber in Cincinnati, but there's been much debate about how bothered Williams was in that contest, the theory being she was more than content with her match-practice level with Flushing Meadows on the horizon.

Certainly it's nothing too concerning and a defeat we're prepared to handle.

The fact is Williams is now 36-2 since Miami back in March and has played some of the best tennis of her career during that period.

If, as expected, the New York hardcourts play fast again, her brilliant serve, which produced ace after ace on the grass of the All England Club, will be tough to handle for the vast majority of players, never mind her crunching groundstrokes which can hit many off the court.

Critics will point out Williams' ability to throw in a shocker every now and then - indeed it would be remiss not to mention this is a player who has suffered Grand Slam defeats to Ekaterina Makarova and Virginie Razzano this season.

Yet she is the greatest fighter on the tour right now when it comes to the matches that really matter and her determination to win here has shone through on her last two visits - rows with officials being to the fore.

There is an argument to suggest she is trying too hard to win her home tournament again - as former US Open semi-finalist Jo Durie told me this week - but I feel that is more than offset by what could be a hand-picked draw.

Nearly all Williams' main rivals for the title have been placed in the opposite half - Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova - so it looks like it will take one of those mega-upsets to deny Williams a place in the final.

She's 14-4 in Grand Slam finals (as well as her three NYC titles she's a five-time winner on the hardcourts of Australia) and given her form I'm happy to be able to back her at odds-against - something I'd expected to disappear following Thursday's draw.

Looking at the other markets, the bet I like the look of is Kvitova to win the second quarter.

The former Wimbledon champion has been racking up the wins on the North American hardcourts in recent weeks and will have her backers in the outright market at 12/1, I'm sure.

However, with a tough semi-final and potential final against Serena to follow her first five matches, the way to back her would appear to be in the quarter betting.

She's in the same section as French Open champion Sharapova but while the Russian has not played a single hardcourt match in the run-up to Flushing Meadows due to illness, Kvitova has won the title in Montreal, reached the last four in Cincinnati and at time of writing is into the semis in New Haven.

It's form which has already won her the US Open Series, giving her the chance of a US$1million bonus in New York.

The prices, however, still make Sharapova the favourite to come through this section with Kvitova available at 6/4.

Given Sharapova, no better than 10/11, could be vulnerable early - Sesil Karantantcheva is no gimme in the second round - and won't be 100 per cent match tough even if she progresses to a quarter-final with Kvitova, I'm happy to side with the Czech.

  • The action gets under way in New York at 1600 BST on Monday and will be televised live in the UK on Sky Sports and British Eurosport.

  • Preview posted at 1430 BST on 24/08/2012.