Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to earn the Serena Williams US Open match 17 years in the making

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to earn the Serena Williams US Open match 17 years in the making

Punters rejoice because bwin.com are marking the start of the 2015 US Open with a dozen different Combi+ enhanced multiples on the day-one match-ups.

You can support Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Martin Klizan and Lucas Pouille at 10/3 or Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Urszula Radwanska at 9/2, but news.bwin’s favourite is the most enticingly-priced of the five WTA options.

If the following three players triumph, the prize is a 5/1 payday and, best of all, they are all fourth on their respective courts, so there is plenty of time to join us on board:

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to beat Kiki Bertens @ 11/10

As neither of these women have contested so much as a Grand Slam quarter-final this century, it is extremely unlikely that the winner of this clash will go the distance.

However, there is a secondary accolade up for grabs, the “Robin Soderling against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in 2009” opportunity to be remembered forever as the one who denied Serena Williams the Grand Slam. Barring Vitalia Diatchenko interference, these two are competing for the chance to be her second-round opponent.

It is one that Lucic-Baroni in particular will be desperate to receive. She is the same age as Serena (33) and reached her first major semi-final the same year as her (1999), yet they haven’t been presented with a stage on which to trade aces since Wimbledon 1998.

One reason for that statistical anomaly was the Croatian’s extended absence from the sport for most of the 2000s due to some very sad personal problems.

Her comeback has been more Kim Clijsters than Bjorn Borg though, with the highlight a run to the fourth-round at Flushing Meadows last year in which she conquered Grand Slam finalists Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep. She followed that by beating Venus Williams in a tournament final in the immediate aftermath.

Bertens has lost four of her five career matches at the US Open and that coupled with Lucic-Baroni’s 62-place rankings superiority makes it difficult to understand why she is the outsider.

Daniela Hantuchova celebrates a job well done at the 2013 US Open
Daniela Hantuchova celebrates a job well done at the 2013 US Open

Daniela Hantuchova to beat Misaki Doi @ 13/10

We’re siding with experience again, and these numbers will hopefully explain why.

For starters, the 32-year-old Hantuchova is a two-time US Open quarter-finalist, whereas her 24-year-old adversary has lost on her three previous first-round appearances, and last two qualifiers for good measure. Indeed, Doi has been defeated in 11 of her most recent 14 Grand Slam encounters.

By contrast, Hantuchova’s latest last-eight venture was just two years ago, and she cleared her first hurdle in 2014 too. The Slovakian has also won her past three collisions with players ranked outside the top 75, two of them in straight sets.

Belinda Bencic to beat Sesil Karatantcheva @ 1/16

As the odds spell out, this should be the most comfortable leg of the three. Bencic has been the breakout performer of 2015. The 18-year-old is the top-ranked player on the planet born in 1994 or later (1997), is 12th overall and is arguably in her best form yet right now.

The Swiss teenager has won two of her last five tournaments, getting to the round-of-16 at least in each of the others. She has been victorious in her opener at eight successive competitions and was a quarter-finalist on her US Open debut 12 months ago, taking out two of the top-nine seeds in Angelique Kerber and Jelena Jankovic.

This is her first meeting with Karatantcheva, though the Bulgarian world number 106 shouldn’t pose much of a threat having lost lost nine of her past 11 outings.