This article is part of our Tennis Picks series.
The men's first round continues and women's second-round action begins after 11:00 am EST on Thursday from the hard courts of the Miami Open. The top 32 seeds in both the men's and women's draws have first-round byes at this ATP Masters 1000 and WTA 1000 event, so no men's seeds will play Thursday, while some of the top players on the WTA tour will make their first first on-court appearances of the tournament. Less than 48 hours after top-ranked Australian Ashleigh Barty shocked the world by calling it quits, another Aussie woman could make some headlines of her own if she's able to pull off a prominent upset. On the men's side, a couple of veterans ranked outside the top 100 did well for themselves to make the main draw, but their runs will likely end here against more established tour players. Match odds are taken from DraftKings Sportsbook.
Betting the opening round isn't easy, as this is our first look in these conditions at most of the players in action. Nonetheless, some enticing options stand out, both among favorites likely to cruise to victory and underdogs ready to pull off upsets. The aforementioned underdogs are highlighted in the Upset Alert section, the Lock It In section covers players who can safely be considered overwhelming favorites, while the Value Bet section recommends enticing options in matchups that are considered closer to toss-ups.
Saville has been playing tremendous tennis lately. After beating Emma Raducanu in Guadalajara, Saville upset a pair of top-20 seeds on a run to the Round of 16 in Indian Wells before retiring against Maria Sakkari due to a thigh injury. The surging Aussie has healed up enough to play a week later, and she showed she's healthy with a 7-5, 6-3 first-round win over Greet Minnen. This will be Halep's first match of the tournament, and while the Indian Wells semifinalist has been playing good tennis, she'll be a bit more vulnerable on the faster hard courts in Miami. Saville's proven capable of taking down big names recently, and she'll look to do so again here as a substantial minus-400 underdog.
This one's more about Svitolina than Watson. The 15th-seeded Ukrainian's understandably distracted right now and was playing far from her best tennis even before recent world events began, as Svitolina's just 5-7 in 2022. Each of Svitolina's last three losses came against opponents ranked outside the top 40 – most recently against 122nd-ranked Harriet Dart – and both of her wins over that stretch were over players ranked outside the top 100. Watson's within the latter range at No. 115, but she's coming off a nice 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4 first-round win over Arantxa Rus. All the pressure in this one will be on Svitolina, while Watson's probably the more confident of the two given their recent results.
Lock It In
Most of Kukushkin's matches in 2022 have come in challengers and qualifiers, as the 159th-ranked journeyman has been unable to find any success at the ATP Tour main draw level, going 0-4 in 2022. Conversely, Van de Zandschulp is currently ranked a career-best No. 42 and rising. The 2021 US Open quarterfinalist beat a pair of top-15 opponents at Flushing Meadows and is coming off an even bigger win earlier this month, as he took out ninth-ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime in Indian Wells. Van de Zandschulp's in his prime at age 26, while the 34-year-old Kukushkin's career is hanging on by a thread.
Bencic has been victimized by some tough draws recently, and this isn't an easy one, but the No. 22 seed should be able to work her way through Kostyuk. While she's just 5-5 this year, Bencic's defeats have all been "quality losses" against two top-10 players (Paula Badosa, Anett Kontaveit), two of the game's bright young stars (Amanda Anisimova, Clara Tauson) and one of the most dangerous veterans on tour (Kaia Kanepi). The 19-year-old Kostyuk has a strong argument for being put in the second group, but she hasn't quite played like it lately, losing each of the last four times she ran into a top-60 opponent.