The men's tennis tournament at the Olympics doesn't promise to be very competitive. There is a dominant star, and several strong contenders are either hurt or skipping the tournament. Things are at least a little more interesting for the women. Fewer top women are missing, and though Serena Williams is eternally dominant, things are at least somewhat more wide open than it is for the men.
So, how does the women's tournament shape up for bettors? Is there value to be had? Let's take a look ( odds are from Bovada):
Before we get into the players, let's touch on the logistics. The tournament starts on Saturday, Aug. 6, and ends the next Sunday. There are 64 players in the field, so they will play six rounds - one fewer than a grand slam but in a week less. Each round is the standard best of three sets. The Olympic Tennis Center has hard courts, though early reports of the state of the building and the courts from players has not been hugely positive.
The only real difference from most tournaments is that the losers of the semifinals play each other for the bronze medal. In 2012 Serena Williams won gold over Maria Sharapova, who is not here because of a PED suspension. Bronze medalist Victoria Azarenka also is absent because she is currently pregnant.
Serena Williams, U.S.A. (+120): She's the one to beat, obviously - she has been in every tournament she has played for more than a decade. She won Wimbledon in her last major appearance and was runner-up in both the French and Australian Opens earlier in the year. She's the best there is and it's not close, but she isn't unbeatable this year, especially not on hard courts. She didn't have a win this season until the season shifted to clay at Rome to prepare for the French. She not only lost the Australian Open on hard courts earlier but two other fairly significant tournaments as well.
Of interest, the two women who beat her in the grand slams are in this field. She's the one to beat, and is a deserving favorite who is more likely to win gold than not, but at this price you can make a solid argument that it is worth looking elsewhere for good value.
Garbine Muguruza, Spain (+450): Muguruza is one of the two who beat Serena on a big stage, knocking her off in the French. It was actually the second time in three years that she had upset the great American at Roland Garros. She has not had a lot of success since the French, though - she lost in the first round of her Wimbledon prep, dropped her second match at Wimbledon, and hasn't played since while dealing with an injury. She's obviously not scared of Williams, but is she in form to contend? Given the injury and the compact nature of this tournament it's also a concern that she is playing mixed doubles with Rafael Nadal as well. Wear and tear and a lack of form mean that I'll look elsewhere for nice value.
Angelique Kerber, Germany (+900): Kerber is the other woman to beat Serena in a major final this year when she pulled off a win in the Australian Open. From then her form totally disappeared, and she had a pretty rough year. She salvaged it nicely, though, with a run to the finals at Wimbledon, but she didn't give Serena much of a fight in the finals. After that she withdrew from one tournament with an injury and then departed early in Montreal. She's capable, and she has shown repeatedly how much she likes hard courts, but it's hard to get a sense of what state her form is going to be in. All that being said, compared to the two above her I'd be putting my money here based on price alone.
Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic (+1000): This is just a lousy bet at this price. She had horrific form in the winter hard court season - so bad that she fired her coach and found a new one heading into clay season. It didn't really help. She has done little since then, and fell outside of the Top 10 heading into Montreal - where she again struggled. Look elsewhere.
Madison Keys, U.S. (+1600): The American search for a successor for the Williams hasn't been very urgent because the Williams don't seem like they will ever go away. Keys is making a claim at being the future of American women's tennis lately. She's had a strong season, with one win and several solid performances. Perhaps the most striking was at Rome on grass when she beat both Muguruza and Kvitova before losing to Williams in the finals. She has a relatively comfortable draw and could make it all the way to the finals until she has to face Serena. I don't yet believe she can beat Williams when it matters, but she's intriguing nonetheless. Could be worth a flier.
Eugenie Bouchard, Canada (+5000): We need a big long shot to root for, and Bouchard is as good a choice as any. In 2014 she went on a strong run, reaching the semis in Australia and the French before making the finals at Wimbledon. She seemed poised for a major breakthrough. Since then it has been a disaster. She has fought injuries, made horrible mistakes on the court, gone through coaches in bulk, and just generally unraveled. Not pretty. She is showing some gradual signs of reclamation, though, and is back with the coach that she started with - a good sign. She could have a breakthrough at any time, and it would be pretty nice if it happened here at this price. She runs into Kerber in the second round, so it will be tough, but you don't get 50/1 on someone who is going to win easy.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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