Keys in for a Battle (April 5)

The quality of tennis in Charleston is spectacular, and while the night session on Tuesday was rained outthat just means more fun matches on Wednesday.

A couple of matches on Wednesday present value for us to exploit. I’ve found two bets to think about on the slate of matches in Charleston.

Match times are subject to change. Read here for tips on viewing tennis matches.

Ulrikke Eikeri (+825) vs Madison Keys (-2000)

10 am ET

Ulrikke Eikeri is playing excellent clay-court tennis this week. Eikeri qualified for Charleston and moved into the second round with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Nadiya Kichenok.

Eikeri did a great job on return against Kichenok, winning 70% of Kichenok’s second-serve points and breaking her serve six times. Eikeri’s steadiness from the baseline was a huge asset in her victory di lei, as Kichenok was much more hit-and-miss.

Eikeri has good foot speed and consistent depth, but she’s also doing a good job in this tournament of stepping up in the court and being aggressive. Her forehand di lei is heavy and tough for opponents to handle, and she’s done a good job taking advantage of short balls.

Madison Keys struggled in her most recent tournament in Miami. The American fell in her first match to Anhelina Kalinina 6-3, 3-6, 4-6.

While Keys is a powerful ball striker who has better results on quicker surfaces, she should not be counted out on clay. Keys has made the semifinals of the 2018 French Open and boasts a 63% winning percentage on the dirt over the course of her career. In 2021, however, Keys went just 3-4 on clay.

Keys’ powerful groundstrokes can power through opponents, even on clay. As movement is not a strength of Keys, clay also gives her a little extra time to reach her opponents’ shots. With that said, there are times when Keys can be completely erratic from the baseline, which can be highlighted due to the baseline-oriented nature of clay-court tennis.

Like Keys, Eikeri has also won 63% of her matches on clay over the course of her career (although largely against lower-level competition). However, Eikeri’s heavy forehand, excellent movement and ability to turn defense into offense are built for the clay and are really starting to shine this season.

Yes, Keys made the final of Charleston in 2015 and won it in 2019, but she was a mess from the baseline against Kalinina. It’s never easy playing your first match of the season on clay against an in-form qualifier who is used to the surface.

6.5 games are simply too many in this case.

Pick: Eikeri +6.5 games (+110 via PointsBet)

Jessica Pegula (-350) vs Jasmine Paolini (+255)

12:30 pm ET

Jessica Pegula is heading into Charleston with momentum after reaching the semifinals in Miami. While Pegula lost in straight sets to Iga Swiatek in the semifinals, she showcased outstanding controlled aggression in that tournament.

Pegula’s game, with her flatter groundstrokes and aggressive play-style, is better suited for fast surfaces. With that said, she is 94-65 on clay during her career and even made the quarterfinals in Rome last season.

This will be Pegula’s first match on clay this season, so there will be an adjustment there. However, Pegula was hitting her groundstrokes so cleanly in Miami and did a great job of avoiding the temptation to overhit. It will be interesting to see if she can keep this up when even more balls come back on the dirt.

Jasmine Paolini is off to a strong start in Charleston after comfortably winning her first-round match against Gabriela Lee 6-2, 6-3.

Paolini won 77% of her first serves and wasn’t broken in the match. On return, she won 45% of her first-serve return points and broke Lee’s serve three times. It was a well-rounded performance for Paolini in her first match di lei back on clay.

The Italian’s best surface is clearly clay. Paolini has a 64% winning percentage on clay in her career, which is 12% higher than on hard courts and 33% better than on grass. Paolini’s movement di lei is superb, and she is very hard to hit through. She also does a great job counterpunching and turning defense into offense.

Pegula will come into this tournament confident, but given that her last match in Miami was March 31st, this gives her very little time to prepare for the clay. Furthermore, Paolini already had a match on site and will be much more comfortable in the conditions than Pegula.

Paolini’s excellent defense will also frustrate Pegula. It will be tough for Pegula to follow a long and successful tournament with a completely different surface against a veteran clay courter with high rally tolerance and tennis IQ.

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