Similarly to the regular main tour major women's competitions, the battle for Olympic gold is likely to be extremely competitive. Dan Weston returns to give his thoughts as the tournament begins...
"In her home country, Naomi Osaka is the favourite but at around 4.003/1 is certainly not expected to be as dominant as the odds-on Novak Djokovic in the men's event."
Osaka and Barty lead the outright market
The 2016 Olympics produced a shock winner in the women's event with the unseeded Monica Puig winning the Gold medal, and five years on, the Puerto Rican is not even in the field to defend her title having not played since September 2020. This suitably illustrates the pretty standard dynamic of there being extremely open events in major women's tournaments where there's not really a short-priced favourite.
In her home country, Naomi Osaka is the favourite but at around 4.003/1 is certainly not expected to be as dominant as the odds-on Novak Djokovic in the men's event. Ashleigh Barty at around 6.005/1 is the second favourite, followed by Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek, with all others in the field priced into double-digit pricing plus.
Barty benefiting from generous top quarter draw
Understanding the draw is critical given the relatively level quality of the field, and it's probably fair to suggest that number one seed Barty benefits from a generous one. She faces Sara Sorribes Tormo in her opener and in her top quarter faces a threat notably from French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova who has also done well subsequently on other surfaces, losing to Barty in round four of Wimbledon and then winning what was in all honesty against a weak field in the hard court event in Prague earlier in July. A rematch would be possible in the quarter finals if the bracket goes to seeding.
In quarter two, Aryna Sabalenka leads the bracket in terms of favourtism, but faces more of a competitive pathway to the latter stages. Elena Rybakina, who already has made it into round two, plus Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza - both Grand Slam winners - are likely to test the Belarussian. This particular quarter looks competitive but I'd be surprised if one of these four players didn't win the quarter.
Jabeur could be capable of reaching the latter stages
Moving through the draw, quarter three looks fascinating. While Karolina Pliskova and the newly married Elena Monfils (formerly Svitolina) are the seeded players to get to the quarter-finals, there are a number of other players who are very capable of reaching the latter stages. Jennifer Brady is a strong hard courter but faces a tricky opener against Camila Giorgi, while Maria Sakkari would also be confident of her chances in a very open bracket. In addition, Ons Jabeur has been superb this year (107% combined service/return points won across all surfaces) although the market has adjusted to her improvement and she's priced at around top-ten level in a relatively illiquid market at about 25.024/1.
I'm unconvinced about the merits of Pliskova and Monfils in this bracket and I'd not be shocked whatsoever if one of these lower-profile players made it through. If Jabeur was a bit further back in the outrights, I'd be keener on her chances.
Swiatek and Osaka likely to set up blockbuster quarter-final
Finally, in the bottom quarter, Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka, the pre-tournament favourite, lead the way and I'd be very surprised if they didn't battle it out in the quarter final. Elise Mertens looks the obvious player who might be able to challenge them, with the other seeded player, the 16th seed Kiki Bertens, struggling with injury in recent times. Marketa Vondrousova is an outsider with upside, as potentially could be Paula Badosa, but Swiatek and Osaka look the best-placed to progress and set up what would be an intriguing quarter-final between two of the best players on tour currently.
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