sabalenkapick

If you’ve been paying attention to the WTA tour recently, you’re likely aware that world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka is currently dealing with a bad case of the yips. The Belarusian is having all kinds of problems trying to figure out her serve, and it has been genuinely uncomfortable to watch. It’d be one thing if the issues were injury related, but the 23-year-old has confirmed that the struggles are all mental.

Sabalenka was able to pull out a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over Storm Sanders in the opening round of the Australian Open, but given her situation, she ought to be on upset watch for the remainder of the tournament. With that in mind, her opponent, Wang Xinyu, is now looking like a potential golden ticket for bettors.

Wang’s first-round match was a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over world No. 56 Ann Li. The 20-year-old had lost her two matches heading into the Melbourne major, but betting on this match is less of a bet on Wang and more of a bet against Sabalenka.

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Despite the fact that Sabalenka ended up beating Sanders, the result was very much hanging in the balance in the second set, when the 128th-ranked Aussie led 7-5, 3-1. It was at that point that Sabalenka really started to settle in. The 23-year-old double faulted six times in the first set, but she only did so another six times throughout the rest of the match. It was a huge improvement upon what we have seen over the last few weeks, but it’s still hard to buy into it.

Sabalenka had 21 double faults in her loss to Rebecca Peterson in Adelaide last week, and that performance came on the heels of racking up 18 double faults in a loss to Kaja Juvan in Adelaide two weeks ago. Those types of mental blocks don’t just disappear overnight, and that’s why you’ll want to have at least some action on Wang in this match.

The 20-year-old might not win this one outright, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising if she put forth a Sanders-like effort here. She’s more than capable of capitalizing on Sabelenka’s miscues and getting herself at least one set in this match. The Belarusian might have cut down on her double faults in the second and third sets in her last win, but she still had six of them in that span. That just means that those creeping doubts are still in there somewhere, and it truly feels like those serving issues will be the cause of her undoing in Melbourne. And while her run could certainly end here, it doesn’t necessarily have to in order for this ticket to cash.

The Pick: Xinyu Wang +1.5 Sets (+130)