Australian Open Women's Singles Day One: Kumkhum likely to be too strong for Larsson

Venus Williams features in the best tie of the first round
Venus Williams features in the best tie of the first round

With the ladies singles tournament looking extremely open a fascinating day one is in prospect. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the action...

"Certainly, Kumkhum's four hard court defeats since May 2017 have come against better players on the surface than Larsson - Zarina Diyas, Jelena Ostapenko, Qiang Wang and Viktorija Golubic - and I'd be quite surprised if the Swede added her name to this list."

Excellent match-ups for day one of the Australian Open

We have 32 matches from the bottom half of the draw on the opening day of the women's singles event in Melbourne overnight, with there being a number of excellent match-ups in prospect.

In the medium-fast conditions at the venue, it's unlikely that we are going to get as many breaks as an average WTA event, and the most return orientated match-ups look to be Anna Schmiedlova against Daria Kasatkina, Jelena Ostapenko versus Francesca Schiavone, and Monica Niculescu's clash with Mona Barthel. The current market prices look pretty accurate in all three. Two players very poor at being able to retain leads also meet up, with Viktorija Golubic taking on Kateryna Bondarenko.

Venus Williams in match of the round against Bencic

As with the men's event, there's a few payers with fitness issues, and Venus Williams is one - in what is arguably the match of the round, she faces Belinda Bencic, with the young Swiss player on the comeback trail in lower profile events in recent months. At the time of writing, the American veteran slightly edges favourite status to progress, at 1.9010/11.

Stephens unpopular with the market against Zhang

US Open champion Sloane Stephens is in complete slump - alternatively, read over-compensating mean-reversion - and she's not fancied at all by the market against Shuai Zhang tomorrow, with the American a heavy 3.002/1 underdog to make round two.

Kanepi with potential to get the better of Cibulkova

Of the remaining matches, there are some which promise to be very competitive indeed. My model quite likes Kaia Kanepi in a pick-em match against a bigger name player in Dominika Cibulkova, but recent surface sample size on the Estonian, Kanepi, isn't the biggest, while Anett Kontaveit takes a poor surface record into her clash with Aleksandra Krunic - a player who has kicked on very nicely in recent months.

Townsend a decent opening round rival for Rybarikova

It was a toss-up between two players to recommend today, with the first being Taylor Townsend as an underdog against the over-rated Magdalena Rybarikova, whose run at Wimbledon is a major contributor to her rather false world ranking. However, the quick conditions at Melbourne Park are likely to be to the Slovak's liking, and I'm preferring a different option for Monday.

Kumkhum likely to add Larsson's name to list of recent wins

This option is Luksika Kumkhum against Johanna Larsson, with the Thai player progressing through qualifiers in six straight sets, destroying Sara Errani in her final match to make it into the main draw.

Conversely, opponent Larsson has failed to impress this season so far with her latest effort being succumbing in tame fashion to Kristie Ahn in Sydney qualies last week, and away from her favoured clay, she isn't much of a player at this level, evidenced by a 44% win percentage in her career on hard court at main tour level.

Kumkhum with much improved recent data

While Kumkhum can't boast much better than this herself, she's made big strides in the last year, which included reaching the semi-finals in Seoul in October, where she beat Sorana Cirstea among others, and took the first set in defeat to Jelena Ostapenko in that semi-final.

Certainly, Kumkhum's four hard court defeats since May 2017 have come against better players on the surface than Larsson - Zarina Diyas, Jelena Ostapenko, Qiang Wang and Viktorija Golubic - and I'd be quite surprised if the Swede added her name to this list.

The Exchange market isn't quite formed as much as I'd like yet, but I'd be surprised if orders in excess of the 1.608/13 mark were not filled in advance of the match, in line with general market prices. We can also get 3/5 on Kumkhum with the Sportsbook.

Numerous favourites vulnerable for upsets on day one

In other matches, it will be interesting to see how many heavy favourites make it through. My numbers make Elise Mertens, Denisa Allertova, Katerina Siniakova, Ying-Ying Duan and Coco Vandeweghe as favourites who could be vulnerable to an upset on the opening day.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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