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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Barnstorming Brit Konta is unlikely to fold

Serena in for a fight

Johanna Konta has been in sizzling form
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Eurosport, 8am & midnight

Konta v Williams
Johanna Konta and Serena Williams cross swords for the first time in their careers in a hugely important Australian Open quarter-final clash and whoever emerges triumphant looks virtually assured of market leadership for the singles trophy down under.

World number two Serena has been the title favourite throughout, but victory for Konta would almost certainly see the barnstorming Briton leapfrog Karolina Pliskova in the outright lists of many oddsmakers.

Konta travelled to Melbourne Park immediately after winning the Sydney final on the Saturday before the first Grand Slam of the started, so there’s a slight concern that fatigue could become a factor for the Eastbourne ace, who rose to ninth in the WTA chart courtesy of her New South Wales success.

But Konta has produced such positive performances in recent dismissals of Caroline Wozniacki and Ekaterina Makarova that she is likely to ask Serena some serious questions.

Serena has not dropped a set in four matches so far, but right now it’s unlikely that any of her victims would have stopped Konta in her tracks.

The choice for anyone considering a punt on Konta may come down to backing her to win the match, on the total-games handicap with a start of 3.5 games or to win at least a set.

The handicap option isn’t giving much away – Serena is fresh and remains one of the sport’s finest players – so backing the Brit to win at least a set could be the way to go.

J Konta to win at least a set
1pt 13-10 Ladbrokes

Nadal v Raonic
There is precious little between Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic in terms of form leading up to the Australian Open and at Melbourne Park.

It’s already 1-1 between the pair this season – Nadal beat Raonic 6-1 3-6 6-3 in the semi-finals in Abu Dhabi and the Canadian reversed the form in Brisbane when winning 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Nadal is certainly playing as well as he has done for a long time and is back to a point where he seems to believe he can triumph by toughing it out against opponents.

But punters need to ask themselves if backing the Spaniard at 4-6 is good value given the duo are closely matched.

Nadal, quoted at 7-2 by Hills to meet his great friend and rival Roger Federer in the Melbourne final after seeing off Gael Monfils 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4, has won six of his eight main-tour clashes with Raonic.

However, world number three Raonic, who found only Andy Murray too good at Wimbledon last summer, has captured two of their last three meetings.

Nadal used to be a master at posting straight-sets wins against opponents but, whatever he achieves in the next few days, at 30 he’s no spring chicken to be running around in the Melbourne heat.

So rather than back the Majorcan to win, it may be wiser to take Coral’s 1-2 that the clash lasts either four or five sets.

Over 3.5 sets
1pt 1-2 Coral

Goffin v Dimitrov
David Goffin may be feeling his time has come to shine at Grand Slam level with Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic already out of the title equation.

The Belgian definitely has a chance of progressing against Grigor Dimitrov, the fact that the Bulgarian has won all four of his matches against Goffin and has started the campaign firmly on the front foot should not be forgotten. It’s no great surprise that bookmakers find in the Brisbane champion’s favour.

But if Goffin, exceptional shotmaker that he is, still is deemed good enough to win a Slam one day, then surely he should be beating, or at least troubling, a player of Dimitrov’s quality at this stage of his career.

Dimitrov can rightly be considered in the second echelon when he’s on top of his game as he is now, but he’s no Djokovic, Federer, Nadal or Murray.

Rather than risk a bet on the Belgian progressing, though, it could pay to have faith in Goffin playing his part in a close.

Bookmakers have set a main total games line at 39.5 and going over that mark could result in profit.

Over 39.5 games
1pt 4-5 Betfair, Paddy Power

Karolina Pliskova v Lucic-Baroni
Karolina Pliskova is back on the title trail after getting out of jail in her third-round clash with Jelena Ostapenko.

The higher-ranked of the Pliskova twins, the headline recommendation of Racing Post’s Gary Savage before the tournament started, trailed Ostapenko 5-2 and was two breaks down in the deciding set before turning it around to edge the Latvian 10-8 in the third.

It was plainer sailing in the last 16 as Pliskova saw off Daria Gavrilova in straight sets, and that form could be good because her Russian-born Australian opponent has returned to somewhere near her best in recent weeks.

Supporters of 34-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who was a best-priced 2,000-1 for the title with Sky Bet, will be buoyed by the fact that she trails Pliskova only 3-2 in their personal series and that her two latest defeats to the Czech ace were close.

Pliskova will probably find a way to win, but with Lucic-Baroni sure to be fired-up for this contest it may be a close scrap and the value could lie with backing the outsider with a start of 5.5 games.

M Lucic-Baroni +5.5 games
1pt 8-11 BoyleSports

Konta has produced such positive performances in recent dismissals of Caroline Wozniacki and Ekaterina Makarova that she is likely to ask Serena some serious questions
E.W. Terms
Sky bet