- Naomi Osaka was always the overwhelming favorite to win the Gippsland Trophy. But now other contenders have fallen away
- Top seed Simona Halep won just three games in a quarterfinal loss Friday
- Osaka is on a 14-match winning streak, although with a long break in the middle. Can she win it all?
Naomi Osaka was the favorite to win the Gippsland Trophy before the event began. Which is no surprise.
She is generally among the favorites, if not the favorite when she enters any hard-court tournament.
But the others in the final four were fairly impressive long shots – mostly notably No. 9 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova at +5000.
Kaia Kanepi wasn’t even on the radar.
Naomi Osaka vs Elise Mertens Odds
| Naomi Osaka (JPN)||-2.5 (-104)||-195||U 19.5 (-141)|
| Elise Mertens (BEL)||+2.5 (-122)||+155||O 19.5 (+112)|
Odds taken Feb. 6 at DraftKings
Sets Lost, But Osaka Getting the Job Done
It’s been a hectic, unfocused off-season for Osaka.
She signed several more deals during the winter. And coming into Melbourne, she hadn’t played since last September when she won the US Open.
Osaka lost the first set of her third-round match against Brit Katie Boulter. And Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania gave her all she could handle for most of the first set Friday.
She might not be playing her best. But she knows how to win tournaments.
Naomi Osaka vs Elise Mertens Head to Head Statistics
|23 (Oct. 16, 1997)||Age||25 (Nov. 17, 1995)|
|Osaka Japan||Birthplace||Leuven, Belgium|
|6||WTA Singles Titles||5|
|3||Grand Slam Singles Titles||0|
|No. 3||Current Ranking||No. 20|
|No. 1 (Feb. 3, 2019)||Career High Ranking||No. 12 (Nov. 26, 2018)|
|$17,770,234||Career Prize Money||$7,080,203|
Mertens won their first meeting back in 2017. The Belgian was playing some of the best tennis of her career in New York, inside the US Open bubble last fall when Osaka defeated her in the “Cincinnati” semifinal.
Mertens almost threw away her quarterfinal match against No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina Friday. She was up a set and 5-3 before losing her serve twice to lose the second set. She pulled it out, but hardly in convincing fashion.
Elise Mertens comes through a great duel with Elina Svitolina, winning 63 57 10-6 to advance to the semifinals at the Gippsland Trophy. Let a double-break lead and MPs slip in the second set, but bounced back perfectly in the MTB.
Faces Osaka on Saturday.
Final Stats: pic.twitter.com/4Ar7FK000j
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) February 5, 2021
The heavy rain predicted for Friday didn’t turn out to be as much as expected. But in anticipation of that (and with Thursday already a writeoff when the COVID authorities in Melbourne had to re-test more than 500 players, staff and officials., the WTA had already decided to play match tiebreaks in lieu of third sets to catch up.
It may have helped her.
Mertens ran out to a 5-0 lead over Svitolina in the match tiebreak. It was just enough.
Prediction: Osaka in two sets (Odds currently N/A)
Underdog Kanepi Catches All the Breaks
Kaia Kanepi, a 35-year-old from Estonia who won the junior French Open title more than 20 years ago, is a former world No. 15 who has won four career titles.
But she also has been on and off the tour because of plantar fasciitis in both feet, and a debilitating bout with the Epstein-Barr virus.
When she’s healthy, though, the Estonian still hits the ball as well as anyone.
And throughout her career, she has known how to pull off an upset.
Ekaterina Alexandrova vs Kaia Kanepi Odds
| Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS)||-1.5 (+112)||-139||O 19.5 (-122)|
|Kaia Kanepi (EST)||+1.5 (-141)||+112||U 19.5 (-104)|
Odds taken Feb. 6 at DraftKings
Kanepi came back from losing the first set 6-1 to wild card Astra Sharma in the opening round. Then she upset No. 4 seed Aryna Sabalenka – the hottest player on the WTA Tour at the end of 2020.
No. 8 seed Karolina Muchova gave her a walkover in the quarterfinals Friday.
Ekaterina Alexandrova storms into the #GippslandWTA final 4️⃣
The 🇷🇺 seed eliminates No.1 seed Halep 6-2, 6-1. pic.twitter.com/NJgQnLB1bs
— wta (@WTA) February 5, 2021
Alexandrova a Quietly Effective Player
The No. 9 seed from Russia doesn’t get much attention. But she wins a lot of matches.
Friday, she came up against a sub-par Simona Halep, the No. 1 seed. Halep won just three games.
Ekaterina Alexandrova vs Kaia Kanepi Head to Head Statistics
|26 (Nov. 15, 1994||Age||35 (June 10, 1985|
|Chelyabinsk, Russia||Birthplace||Haapsalu, Estonia|
|1||WTA Singles Titles||4|
|0||Grand Slam Singles Titles||0|
|No. 33||Current Ranking||No. 94|
|No. 25 (Feb. 17, 2020)||Career High Ranking||No. 15 (Aug. 20, 2012)|
|$1,681,035||Career Prize Money||$6,454,604|
Not Much History Between Them
Alexandrova and Kanepi have met only once – in 2018 in the quarterfinal of a small grass-court tournament in Ilkley, Great Britain.
The Russian prevailed, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
There isn’t a ton of value in picking Kanepi for the upset (+112). But if she can beat Sabalenka, she can beat Alexandrova.
Best bet: Mertens to take the first set vs Osaka (+148)
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