Cracked Racquets: Making Sense of Miami

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While Miami’s recently announced curfew will likely slow the pace of the city’s usual influx of Spring Breakers, for tennis fans (and gamblers alike) now descending upon Miami, the party has only just begun.

Qualifying for the year’s first Men’s and Women’s Masters 1000 event (for those not fluent in the tennis lexicon: if the Australian Open/Wimbledon/etc are the equivalent of playing in a Super Bowl, Masters 1000 events are like Conference Championship games) started Monday morning at Hard Rock Stadium.

Due to various injuries, COVID-related concerns, or other scheduling considerations, 31 of the Top 100 ranked men, plus sixth-ranked and 8x Miami Masters champion Serena Williams, are absent from this year’s event. However, with 19 of the Top 20-ranked Women’s Singles players in the world competing in the event, and with the door feeling completely wide open on the men’s side, the tournament promises to deliver on-court drama, spectacular tennis, and perhaps most importantly, a cornucopia of gambling opportunities for those observant enough to take advantage of them.

With that in mind, here are my favorite plays for the 1st round of the 2021 Miami Open, as well as a small justification for each pick. To learn more about the action in Miami, catch up on all that has happened in the tennis world, or to start following along with the day-in, day-out happenings on tour, be sure to check out all of the work being done at crackedracquets.com

Also, be sure to tune back on Thursday for another round of Miami picks.

The Parlay: Fiona Ferro (-148 over SaiSai Zheng) + France Tiafoe (-300 over Stefano Travaglia) + Sebastian Korda (-220 over Radu Albot) – +225, 2 unit to win 4.50

Let’s start with the rematch: About 6 weeks ago, Frances Tiafoe defeated Stefano Travaglia in a straight-set first round victory at the 2021 Australian Open.

After pushing Tiafoe to a first set tiebreak, Travaglia failed to eclipse two games in either of the two subsequent sets. Tiafoe also managed to convert 8 of his 12 breakpoint chances in the match, won over 41.1% of the points on Travaglia’s first serve, and won 50% of his return points for the match. Also, despite making only 54.0% of his 1st serves (he’s averaged a 58.9% clip the past 52 weeks), Tiafoe was only broken four times in the match.

Travaglia is 16-13 overall with a 6-6 record against Top 50 players in his last 52 weeks of play, and carries a 14-22 career record in ATP-level Hard Court matches (with 5 of his victories coming this February in a Melbourne warmup event). Though Tiafoe’s last 52 weeks are not too dissimilar (18-13 overall record with a 3-5 record against Top 50 opponents), Tiafoe has lost in the first round just once in his past eight events, while Travaglia has lost his last three matches.

Additionally, while Tiafoe’s career record in ATP-level hard court matches is also below .500 (54-67), he’s 11-8 since the start of 2020, and has made a deep run in Miami before. As a -300 favorite, Tiafoe is a perfect first piece for a 3-person ML-favorites parlay. 

Next let’s turn to Sebastian Korda, who has arguably been more impressive than any other young men’s tennis player since the tour restarted in August. Korda has put together an outstanding 26-8 record, and has reached his first ATP-level Final, won the first two Challenger Titles of his career, and made the 4th round of the French Open over that time period. He’s also 10-6 against Top 100 opponents, and has lost in the first round only twice in his past ten events.

Meanwhile his opponent in Miami tomorrow, Radu Albot, is 15-18 in his last 52 weeks of competition, and lacks the sort of firepower needed to expose the weaknesses in Korda’s game (given he’s only 20 years old, he still struggles with his footwork and will produce errors when on the run). At a -220 Moneyline, Korda’s an absolute steal from a value perspective, and perfect for piece #2.

And lastly, but certainly not least: HOW is Fiona Ferro only a -148 Moneyline favorite against SaiSai Zheng tomorrow?! Ferro’s 13-5 since last August and has victories over Top 30 players in Kontaveit, Rybakina (x2), and Alexandrova. On the flip side, SaiSai Zheng is 2-7 in her last 52 weeks, and lost to Ferro back when they played in 2018. To make a case for Zheng would require some serious contorting, and it wouldn’t shock me to see Ferro’s moneyline jump over the next 24 hours.

So, with all of that in mind, here’s the parlay: Fiona Ferro (-148 over SaiSai Zheng) + France Tiafoe (-300 over Stefano Travaglia) + Sebastian Korda (-220 over Radu Albot) – +225, 2 unit to win 4.50. Let’s get this party going!!

Prop Bet #1: Over 2.5 sets in Steve Johnson/Yannick Hanfmann – +108, 1 unit to win 1.08

Whenever former college teammates faceoff, strange things tend to happen. There will be no secrets between these two former USC Trojan teammates, who have undoubtedly spent countless hours training alongside one another on the practice courts over the years.

According to both the numbers and the eye-test, Hanfmann has pretty clearly been the better player of late. He’s posted a 19-14 overall record, with both a Challenger Title and ATP-Tour level final, since the restart in August. By contrast Johnson, known by many (including Hanfmann) as the greatest men’s college tennis player of all-time, is just 3-5 in his last 52 weeks of competition, and 20-30 overall in ATP-level matches since the start of the 2019 season.

Talk to any professional tennis player, and they’ll tell you that 90% of the game is mental. The reason I bring this up: Johnson was the Senior Captain on the team at the peak of his college tennis powers/amidst a 72-match win streak when Hanfmann arrived at USC as a freshman. In Hanfmann’s mind, regardless of their past 52 weeks, Stevie will always be that senior he looked up to and tried to emulate as a player.

As such, and despite Hanfmann’s superior form, I have a sneaky suspicion that this match goes the distance. Johnson’s 4-0 in his career against former teammates in pro singles matches (2-0 against Robert Farah and Roberto Quiroz respectively), and has far too much pride to go away quietly in this match. Hanfmann should still win, but put 1 unit on this match going the distance at this link

Prop Bet #2: Over 2.5 sets in Emil Ruusuvuori/Carlos Alcaraz – +118, 1 unit to win 1.18

A battle between two of the ATP Tour’s rising young stars of the past two seasons, this matchup has all of the makings of a three-set battle. At +118 odds, let’s throw a unit on it at this link, kick our feet up, and once again enjoy the show.

To hear more about the logic behind these picks, tune into the daily Cracked Racquets Great Shot Podcast: Ace of the Day segment, a series singularly focused on negotiating the many wagering opportunities happening every day in the sport. Also, if you’re interested in hearing recaps of each day’s results or feel inspired to start following tennis more closely, tune into our Cracked Racquets “The Mini-Break Podcast” wherever you listen to your podcasts, or follow @crackedracquets on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Alex Gruskin is the Editor-In-Chief of Cracked Racquets, host of the Cracked Interviews Podcast/Mini-Break Podcast, and host of the “Ace of the Day” segment on the Great Shot Podcast – a Tennis Channel Podcast – which breaks down daily tennis prop bets, picks and parlays.

Written by OutKick Bets

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