There was more drama on day four of the 2014 Australian Open on Thursday in Melbourne, with the conditions taking centre stage once more.
Play was actually called off this time when the elements conspired to produce the required conditions for the ‘extreme heat policy’ to finally kick in – but perplexingly not on all of the courts.
Maria Sharapova was made to play on until 10-8 in the third in sweltering heat as other courts stopped, leading the Russian to quite rightly call for clarity on what the policy actually entails.
Meanwhile it was a perfect day for my bets, as Christina McHale took the required set from Caroline Wozniacki and Ajla Tomljanovic did more than enough to cover the handicap against Sloane Stephens. Indeed, Ajla served for the match at one stage before losing 7-5 in the decider.
Friday’s play in Melbourne features the start of the third round and there’s no respite for the players, as its set to be sunny and 40 degrees Celsius again.
Jie Zheng 2.08 v Casey Dellaqua 1.72 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 03.05
I can’t have Dellaqua as favourite in this match-up against an opponent with a superb record in Melbourne, so I’m surprised to see odds-against for Zheng in this one.
Dellaqua is a limited player at this level and I can only think that her price is based on a thrashing of Kirsten Flipkens in the last round, but the Belgian was majorly affected by the heat and barely put up any resistance there. Indeed, ‘Flipper’ commented afterwards that there’s no point her playing in such conditions and that result can be overlooked.
The Aussie obviously doesn’t mind playing in the extreme heat of her home country, but neither does Jie, whose results here are far better than elsewhere and it should be remembered that this is her home Slam too.
The pair have never met on tour, but Dellaqua hasn't been close to threatening at a Slam other than brief streaky spells here several years ago, so the prices look plain wrong to me in this one.
Sam Stosur 2.25 v Ana Ivanovic 1.60 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 08.05
Stosur is another Aussie who was flattered by a thumping win in her previous round, with opponent Tsvetana Pironkova severely hampered by a patched up leg and fatigue after a long run of matches.
I went against her that day and lost, but I’m prepared to take her on again with Ivanovic, who for me has the edge on Stosur and who has been in fine form herself in the opening rounds this week.
Stosur has never been past the fourth round here and it will be interesting to see how she copes this year when under pressure, as she surely will be in this the eighth meeting between the two.
Their series has been tight, with Sam leading 4-3 currently, and this one has all the makings of a three-setter with Ivanovic likely to edge it, making the 3.85 about a 2-1 win for the Serb my bet.
Flavia Pennetta 1.38 v Mona Barthel 2.90 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 00.05
There’s a big difference in Grand Slam pedigree between these two, and I expect that gap in class at the top level to show itself in this 00.05 UK time clash in the Margaret Court Arena.
Pennetta seems to produce her best tennis in majors, as she showed again at the US Open last season in reaching the semi-finals, and she’s in good touch at the moment seeing as she seems to be free of the injuries that have hampered her career.
The Italian hasn’t dropped a set so far this week and her serve is working very well right now, which will help her in these slick conditions. It’s something that she’s been working on during the off-season and it looks much more of a weapon than Barthel’s, which appears weak.
The 2-0 to the Italian at 1.88 looks good in this one.
Elsewhere, Serena Williams shouldn’t be too bothered by an exhausted Dani Hantuchova, but I’m not sure about the short prices on Angelique Kerber and Ekaterina Makarova who both have lunchtime matches and could be tested by the heat and opponents Alison Riske and Monica Niculescu respectively.
Back Zheng to beat Dellaqua at 2.08
Back Ivanovic to beat Stosur 2-1 at 3.85
Back Pennetta to beat Barthel 2-0 at 1.88