With Serena Williams withdrawing from the tournament last week, the ladies singles event at the Australian Open has a very open feel. For many years, three names dominated ladies tennis - Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. However, for a variety of reasons, this is no longer the case and only Sharapova will be participating in the Australian Open this year.
Women’s Australian Open winner odds: A wide-open contest
As has been the case in the last year or two, this naturally opens up the field to a number of the traditionally second-tier players and contributes to an extremely open event with the four market leaders priced between 7.00 and 10.00*. A further four are priced between 10.00 and 20.00*, and there are a total of 19 players offered at prices below 50.00*.
The player with the best record not exactly being dominant against her top 20 peers is another pointer to how open the WTA Tour is right now.
As mentioned in the men’s preview, conditions at Melbourne Park are a touch quicker than average for a hard court event. After analysing service statistics, it looks like servers in the women’s event benefit a little more from the extra pace, enabling them to hold serve 66.2% of the time in the last three years (2.1% higher than the tour hard court mean of 64.1%) while 0.32 aces per game were served - a figure around 20% higher than the hard court average of 0.26.
Serena Williams’ absence will put a stop to three consecutive final appearances for the previously dominant American, with Sharapova, Angelique Kerber and sister Venus joining her in those finals. All three of these are priced at below 25.00 in women’s Australian Open winner odds, headed by Elina Svitolina at a current 7.170*.
Joining the Ukrainian, who has frequently flattered to deceive in Grand Slams, at prices below 10.00, is Simona Halep (7.400*), Karolina Pliskova (9.180*) and Garbine Muguruza (9.900*) - the assessment of potential contenders naturally starts with this quartet.
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Of the four mentioned above, it is the marginal favourite Svitolina with the best hardcourt data. She’s won 60.0% of service points in the last 12 months on the surface, and a superb 48.9% on return (108.9% combined), marginally ahead of Pliskova (108.0%), Halep (107.0%) and Muguruza (105.4%).
All with the exception of Muguruza (12-12) have a positive win-loss record against top 20-opposition in the last 12 months, with Svitolina (13-7) just about taking the honours here. However, with the player with the best record - and tournament favourite - not exactly being dominant against her top 20 peers, it is another pointer to how open the WTA Tour is right now, and the phrase ‘on a given day’ has never been more appropriate.
A long list of potential winners
Caroline Wozniacki, Johanna Konta, Madison Keys, Ashleigh Barty and the aforementioned Sharapova are the further players in the field with a combined percentage in excess of 105%, and with all of these priced over the 10.00* mark, they comprise a good chunk of the legitimate second-tier contenders.
Sharapova’s will to win is virtually unparalleled and her serve and return points won data indicates that her results haven’t quite done her justice, with a particular issue in converting break points.
Certainly Wozniacki’s price is influenced by her issues in Grand Slams and finals generally, with the Dane getting back to her best last year, and boasting a 108.0% combined percentage, as well as a strong 17-10 record against top 20 opponents in the last 12 months. If Wozniacki can somehow address her issues in getting wins when it really matters, she could offer value in the women’s Australian Open winner odds.
Konta and Keys have suffered from injuries recently but assuming they are at full fitness, they will be tough to beat on a surface that suits them both. The exciting Australian talent Barty is one to watch, albeit with a caveat following her brutal draw.
This leaves Sharapova to discuss. Statistics indicate that she’s not as far from her peak level as many would suggest. Following her return to tour, her magnificent break deficit recovery stats are still in evidence.
Sharapova’s will to win is virtually unparalleled and her serve and return points won data indicates that her results haven’t quite done her justice, with a particular issue in converting break points (6.9% below expectation based on her return points won percentage). Given that this phenomenon is often attributable to variance, it would be foolish to write the Russian off.
Outsiders who could cause an upset
Of the other contenders in the field, Angelique Kerber will need to improve on her terrible 2-11 record against top 20 players in the last 12 months, as well as her performance on both serve and return after a very poor year.
The quick conditions will be to the liking of big-servers such as Julia Goerges and Coco Vandeweghe. Another big-server, Petra Kvitova, hasn’t been remotely close to her peak following her return to tour, and a 103.4% combined serve/return points won percentage is indicative of that. She will need to vastly improve to be a major threat.
The likes of Caroline Garcia, Agnieszka Radwanska, Jelena Ostapenko and Belinda Bencic have a similar combined percentage and look to be some of the players who will need to exhibit a dramatic change of level to be able to compete against the best.
Lastly, several lower profile players, available at big prices, also are worth mentioning in such an open event. Kaia Kanepi, Lucie Safarova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova have been around the tour for many years but have still got very solid hard court data - Pavlyuchenkova also benefits from a very nice draw in the early rounds.
The younger prospects such as Elise Mertens, Marketa Vondrousova and Aryna Sabalenka will be tough opponents. Unfortunately for Sabalenka, whose data marks her out as a player with rich potential, she received a very tough draw - should she get through the early rounds, however, expect her price to plummet.
2018 ATP Australian Open betting preview