The WTA Tour heads to the United States in week 33, with the Premier 5 Western and Southern Open in play in Cincinnati.
Conditions in Mason, Ohio at the Lindner Family Tennis Centre are on the fast side on Decoturf outdoor hard and it’s usually very hot and humid in Cincy at this time of year.
Indeed, the weather forecast is predicting very high humidity and thunderstorms today and tomorrow, with an 80% chance of rain on Monday.
We have 12 WTA round one matches on the card today in this joint ATP/WTA event and last year there were just six underdog winners from 24 opening round matches here.
Polona Hercog vs Kirsten Flipkens
She’s barely an underdog, but the 2.10 about Hercog looks like it could be a hint of value in this match against Flipper, who has a poor record in these conditions.
The Belgian has played just one match here in Cincy in her career and didn’t win it and only once has she won three straight matches in the main draw of a hard court Premier event.
That one occasion came on the very slow hard of Miami and plenty of player can hit through Flipper in quicker conditions, including Hercog, who did well here 12 months ago.
The erratic Slovenian defeated Domi Cibulkova here last year after coming through qualifying before losing a tight one to Sara Errani and she has a decent chance to make the second round again this time around.
Hercog qualified by beating Paula Ormaechea and Julia Glushko and the big server held her own serve 18 of 21 times in those matches, indicated that she’s in a good rhythm on her delivery.
Flipper is an awkward customer, but I’m not convinced that her crafty all-court game and slices will suit conditions here in Cincy and I’ve seen her throw in the towel in hot conditions before.
There’s enough in this to side with Hercog as an underdog in this 17:00 UK time start.
Elsewhere on Monday, Heather Watson looks far too short at 1.40 against Shuai Zhang, who is on a really poor run of form right now, but I’m never keen on backing Watson at short prices.
The in-form Caroline Wozniacki also looks short against the occasionally excellent, but wholly unpredictable Magda Rybarikova and talking of erratic talents Sorana Cirstea could be interesting against Ana Ivanovic.
The Serbian has been struggling with a hip problem of late and Cirstea can be effective in these conditions, as she showed when making the Rogers Cup final a year ago.
She’s in one of her slumps at the moment, hence the price of 4.80, but she did beat Ivanovic on clay in Fed Cup a few months ago and isn’t out of this one with Ana not at her best physically.
Flavia Pennetta could also be vulnerable today against the sometimes-decent Chanelle Scheepers, based on recent history, with Flavia suffering with sesamoiditis with edema and showing some understandable rust in Montreal.
The Italian should step it up this week, but she wasn’t good last week and if the price on Scheepers was a bit bigger I might have been tempted there.
Many of the rest look tight calls that could go either way and I’ll stick with the circumspect play of one wager on Hercog today.
Best Bet: Back Hercog to beat Flipkens at 2.10
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