The lower level WTA tournament this week takes place in Hua Hin, Thailand. The prize money will be 275k USD, compared to the 848k USD on offer in St. Petersburg, hence the field is substantially weaker at the Thailand Open. Taking place the week after Fed Cup, I'm surprised it also is a lot weaker than last year when Dayana Yastremska beat Ajla Tomljanovic in a final that caused a lot of controversy as the Ukrainian took several MTOs in crucial moments of the third set, which she ended up winning in a tiebreak.
This year, the tournament is pretty top-heavy with the seeds being ranked inside the top 100, but a lot of players making the cut whom you would not expect in the main draw of a WTA International.
Elina Svitolina is the top seed as she moves over from Tallinn, Estonia, where she represented her country. Playing three Fed Cup matches, the world #4 didn't convince in any of them. She beat Tomova 7-6 6-3 and Fett 6-3 3-6 6-1 before losing to hometown hero Anett Kontaveit 3-6 7-6 2-6. Although I'm expecting a lot from the Estonian this year and she seems to have made another step forward this offseason, that's not an indicator of Svitolina's form improving. Her outright odds are +300 and that might have been value when she was in better form, but right now, I'll pass on her. It's hard to make a case for anyone else in that first quarter though with Chloe Paquet, Arina Rodionova and Nao Hibino being the biggest threats in it.
The second quarter has Qiang Wang and Lin Zhu as the seeded players and both should be superior here. Besides the two Chinese, we have players like Katarzyna Kawa and Varvara Flink in that section. Both showed their potential last year when Kawa made the final in Jurmala and Flink reached the second round at Wimbledon, but currently they are struggling big-time, losing to locals in Thailand.
While #3 seed Qiang Wang was placed in the upper half of the draw, we have three more Wangs competing in the bottom half with #6 seed Yafan Wang and the two biggest prospects of Chinese tennis in Xiyu and Xinyu Wang. Yes, you read it correctly, they only differ by one letter. Both were born in 2001 and both are big hitters from the baseline. Xiyu and Xinyu won the Wimbledon juniors title together in 2018 and both made the top 5 in juniors. They are of the same height as well, at close to 6ft (1.82m). The only difference, which is a pretty big one though, is that Xiyu is a lefty.
Although I'm looking forward to two great careers, bookies already caught up on the Wangs as well. Since they were placed in the more balanced half, I'm not sure if they present any value here. Anyway, they are definitely good for an upset in the early rounds and #2 seed Petra Martic won't be too happy with her draw, facing Xiyu Wang in the first round.
Magda Linette is a player that always does well in Asia. That being said, she has one of the toughest roads in the field as she has to go through a reinvigorated Kateryna Bondarenko, Shuai Peng and Martic or Xiyu just to reach the semifinal. The same applies to players in the third quarter, where Yafan Wang, Xinyu Wang or Saisai Zheng could make a deep run. The competitiveness in the bottom half makes me look for an outright in the top half though.
With Elina Svitolina being far from her best, I don't see too many obstacles in Qiang Wang's way to the final. The 28-year-old should be full of confidence after her win against Serena Williams at the Australian Open. Another factor working in her favor are the hot and humid conditions in Thailand. It'll be more than 30°C (90°F) all week, so some players might struggle under these circumstances.
Qiang Wang always does well in Asia and her career high ranking of #12 came, above all, thanks to her great Asian swing in 2018. During that run, she also beat Svitolina 6-2 6-4 in similar conditions in Hong Kong, so even if she was to face the Ukrainian in the semifinal, she knows how to handle her. All things considered, I think the +500 odds on Qiang Wang to win the Thailand Open present value.