Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook and are subject to change. (Getty Images)
Welcome back, Madison Keys. The American will take the court the first time since Roland Garros last September in a brutal first-round against Belinda Bencic, finalist at last week’s Adelaide International.
Keys has endured a snakebitten stretch, suffering a neck-injury in her US Open third-round against Alizé Cornet and missing the Australian summer entirely after testing positive for COVID-19 in early January.
From a betting perspective, this is a fascinating match-up. Keys’ current form remains a mystery, but her legs will be fresh. Bencic, by contrast, is playing some demonstrably fantastic tennis, but will likely be seriously fatigued from Saturday's final and subsequent 7,000 mile flight from Adelaide to Doha.
According to the oddsmakers, Bencic is listed as a slight -140 favorite. Their head-to-head is knotted at one win each, but they haven’t played one another since 2015, when Bencic was 18-years-old, and Keys just 21.
On a good day, Keys can blitz anyone off the court with her overwhelming power, but having not played a competitive match since September, one can safely assume the American will have some rust to shake off.
In addition to Keys’ lack of match play, this is a great match-up for the Swiss, who absorbs and redirects pace better than most. She played formidable tennis in Adelaide, and will aim to disrupt the American’s timing by taking the ball on the rise.
Here, Bencic wrong-foots Coco Gauff (no easy feat) by taking the ball extremely early.
Bencic’s shotmaking was sensational all week. You don’t execute shots like this without high confidence.
I’m not even sure what to call this shot, but it’s certainly one of the most difficult to execute in tennis. Bencic pulled it off twice.
There’s a chance that Keys comes out hot, and simply overpowers the Swiss, but there is no substitute for live, high-stakes match play, and Keys is lacking in that department.
In the end, expect Bencic to be the more consistent player, and rely on the American to commit a few too many unforced errors.
The Pick: Belinda Bencic