Serena Williams leads odds to win women’s draw at Wimbledon

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Serena Williams has a seeding, but scarcely enough court time since her return to tennis to justify being a betting favorite for the world’s biggest tournament.

Having seven Wimbledon singles titles, though, creates a certain benefit of the doubt, so Williams is a +450 favorite on the 2018 Wimbledon odds for the women’s draw at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Williams has played in only four tournaments since rejoining the WTA Tour after having her first child late in 2017, which includes retiring during a match at the French Open last month. Until the 25th-seeded Williams reprises her vintage form, it might be best to fade her in pre-tournament futures.

The attention on Williams might help drive up the price on two-time winner Petra Kvitova (+600). The left-hander has a WTA-most five titles this season. A hamstring injury has prevented Kvitova from completing the Eastbourne tournament (the final grass-court tune-up before Wimbledon), so bettors will have to decide whether they can assume the risk of backing a player who’s nursing an injured muscle that will have to hold up during a fortnight of tennis during the height of the British summer.

The Williams sisters are the only players to win the women’s title back-to-back in the last two decades. Defending champion Gabine Muguruza (+800) has shown a spark of late with a semifinal run at the French Open, but has a reputation for inconsistency that makes her a chancy play.

Several of the big names high up on the tennis odds for this event carry red flags. Karolina Pliskova (+900) has never gone past the second round at Wimbledon, while Maria Sharapova (+900) has not had any competitive action on grass this season.

Angelique Kerber (+1000) is two years removed from being a Wimbledon finalist in 2016, but the two-time Grand Slam champion has not had any promising results during the grass-court tournaments that lead up to Wimbledon.

World No. 1 Simona Halep (+1800), coming off of her first Grand Slam title at the French Open, doesn’t play as well on grass as she does on other surfaces, due in part to not being overpowering. However, it’s not often that a top player is also be a darkhorse on the odds to win Wimbledon and having a Slam to her name might do wonders for her confidence.

Head-to-head matchups offer betting value as well, so it bears noting that Daria Kasatkina (+5000) has knocked off nearly every big name on the tour at one point or another this season.

Wimbledon begins at the All England Club on Monday, with the women’s final scheduled for July 14, followed by the men’s final on July 15.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Top-ranked Swiatek, Kvitova reach quarters at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Top-ranked Iga Swiatek advanced to the quarterfinals of the Agel Open after Ajla Tomljanovic retired with an injury during the second set of their second-round match on Wednesday.

The Polish U.S. Open champion was leading 7-5, 2-2 when her Australian opponent retired due to a left knee injury at the indoor hardcourt event in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava.

Swiatek, who also won the French Open in June, will next face American qualifier Catherine McNally or Karolina Muchova.

Home favorite and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova upset second-seeded Paula Badosa of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against this year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who rallied to eliminate Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5.

Czech players also won the last two first-round matches on the schedule.

Muchova knocked out seventh-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-4, 6-4 and Barbora Krejcikova ousted American Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-2 for her sixth straight victory after she won the Tallinn Open on Sunday for her first WTA title of the year.

Djokovic near flawless to reach second round in Astana

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan – Novak Djokovic delivered a near-flawless performance to ease into the second round of the Astana Open with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Cristian Garin on Wednesday as he goes for a third straight tournament title.

Djokovic dropped just six points on his serve and won the last five games to seal the win in just 62 minutes.

Djokovic is coming off a victory in Tel Aviv last week and – aside from a match at the Laver Cup – the Wimbledon champion hasn’t lost since the French Open quarterfinals.

“From the start to the end, (it was) a great performance,” Djokovic said. “Playing in a new tournament, different conditions, the first match is never easy. Obviously you are looking to see how you are going to adapt, but I did it perfectly, really, played as well as I can.”

Djokovic will next play Botic van de Zandschulp.

Top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz lost in the opening round on Tuesday in his first match since winning the U.S. Open title to capture the No. 1 spot.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the quarterfinals by beating 19-year-old Luca Nardi of Italy 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3). Nardi was playing just his fifth tour-level main-draw match and impressed the third-seeded Greek, who didn’t earn a single break point.

“He’s a player that can play very well in the future,” Tsitsipas said. “There weren’t any holes. I believe today he was able to sustain that level from the beginning to end, and that was extremely impressive.”

Roberto Bautista Agut also reached the quarterfinals as he followed up his first-round upset of Felix Auger-Aliassime by beating Pavel Kotov 6-1, 7-6 (5).

Marin Cilic, who lost the Tel Aviv final to Djokovic, had to come from behind to beat Oscar Otte 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round to set up a round-of-16 match against Karen Khachanov.