Halep price even bigger after brutal draw
In Wednesday's pre-draw preview my data asserted that Serena Williams was an uneasy favourite, while Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki's price has been inflated by their injuries. A flexible shortlist of Elina Svitolina, Qiang Wang and Kiki Bertens was mooted but, as I discussed then, the draw changes so much and it is worth finalising everything after yesterday's draw.
Halep's price has now been further inflated following a very tough draw. Given her injury doubts, a potential fourth round match with Serena Williams looks distant - and that's if she can get past a tough-looking possible line-up of Kaia Kanepi, Sofia Kenin and either Venus Williams or Mihaela Buzarnescu. It's not a huge surprise to see her friendless in the outright market and is now trading at 28.027/1 on the Exchange.
Wozniacki supported despite fitness concerns
On the flip-side, Wozniacki has received a little market support being backed into the same price as Halep, although a potential third-round clash with Maria Sharapova will certainly be one to watch. Ash Barty, who a number of people appear pretty keen on to have a solid tournament, would then be expected to lay in wait subsequently.
First quarter stacked with quality players
Going through the four quarters of the draw, we've already discussed Halep's stacked first quarter and the names listed in her bracket are only from the top half. Also in this top quarter bracket are Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova, so even in a tournament where many will fancy their chances of reaching the latter stages, there are numerous contenders for the title in what looks a very tough quarter indeed.
Also keep an eye out for 17 year old Iga Swiatek - the Junior Wimbledon champion makes her Grand Slam debut and has qualified impressively to reach the main draw. Her ITF stats are superb, and while it would be a big ask for her to win a few matches in her first Slam event, she has the potential to have a superb career.
Nothing to dissuade position on Svitolina
Quarter two looks much less competitive, with US Open champion Naomi Osaka leading the bracket. Osaka's service/return points won data is highly impressive, but it's worth tempering this with a look at her record against top 20 players. She's just 9-14 against players with this ranking in the last 12 months - very poor for a world number four - and will need to improve this hugely if she is to continue her rise.
Victoria Azarenka, who I'm not 100% convinced about from a fitness perspective, Qiang Wang, Anastasija Sevastova, Elise Mertens, Madison Keys and Elina Svitolina also compete in Q2 and I'd like to discuss a few of these. Mertens' data is good but not great, while I'm not sure about how fit Keys is. The American big-server hasn't played this season, after withdrawing from the WTA Championships in Zhuhai and her preceding event in Beijing. It would take a pretty big leap of faith for backers of Keys.
With this in mind, I'm happy to follow up with my liking of Svitolina's chances, and it is now possible to back the Ukrainian at 16.5.
Rather similarly to Alexander Zverev in the men's tournament, Svitolina hasn't performed to her best in Slams in the past but did win the Tour Finals at the end of last season. I'm hoping that this win can boost her confidence against the best players on tour and an opening possible first three rounds of Golubic/Kuzmova/Cibulkova is much kinder to her than most other players.
Kvitova looking over-rated in open third quarter
Moving on to quarter three, Petra Kvitova and the aforementioned Wozniacki bookend the bracket, and I've mentioned that I've found Kvitova a little over-rated by the market in recent months. Her wins in Sydney this week have pushed her even shorter - now at 20.019/1 and it's worth noting that she's been extremely efficient at saving break points on her serve, although her return data is surprisingly impressive this week.
Having said this, it's tough to know who to try and oppose her with in the quarter. Both Barty and Aryna Sabalenka have been well-backed, and are now too short to consider, while Maria Sharapova is another player whose fitness is far from assured. It also wouldn't be a surprise if there was a shock quarter winner - if the huge prospect Amanda Anisimova was fit, she could have been considered at a gigantic price.
Bertens can come through final quarter of the draw
The final quarter sees Sloane Stephens - who again illustrated her inconsistency this week - and Angelique Kerber headline the bracket. Kerber was well beaten by Kvitova yesterday in Sydney after starting well, although it's often difficult to give too much credit to player motivation in warm-up events.
Stephens is another who is friendless in the market, drifting to 30.029/1, and I feel that this bracket is very open to a strong performance by Kiki Bertens, who was on our original shortlist. The Dutch player has strong hard court data indeed, running at 109.1% combined serve/return points won on the surface in the last six months, winning almost 80% of her matches, and at 28.027/1, represents our second pre-tournament position.
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