In what promises to be a fascinating tournament, the women's Australian Open gets started in the early hours of Monday morning. Our tennis columnist Dan Weston previews the action...
"Bethanie Mattek-Sands has had a torrid time in singles since her long-term injury, and has lost her last eight matches. In the last 12 months, including qualifiers, she is 2-13, and her data - particularly on return - is not impressive at all."
Big names mostly priced accurately on day one
Plenty of big names are scheduled to take to the courts on the opening day of the women's singles event at the Australian Open, with Petra Kvitova, Ash Barty, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber all starting their campaigns on Monday.
Most of these big names look fairly accurately priced, so I'll focus more on some of the lower-profile matches taking place in an attempt to find some value. However, as I mentioned in the men's preview, it is important to be cautious in the opening round, given that a number of players frequently arrive in questionable condition.
Jabeur over-rated even against out of touch Babos
After a decent run of form, Ons Jabeur looks over-rated by the market on a regular basis, but a closer look at her results show general mediocrity, save for a retirement win over Simona Halep, and a runner-up spot in Moscow indoors, in October. The Tunisian hasn't started the season in great touch, with losses against Yafan Wang and Sofia Kenin, so I'm a little surprised to see such market faith in her - she is currently priced at 1.594/7.
The problem is that opponent Timea Babos arrives in absolutely dire form. From her defeat in the final of Monterrey in April, she's only won five of 23 matches, and sh'e 2-5 since retiring in Wuhan in September. I'd have been much happier opposing Jabeur against a player who has at least shown some ability, so perhaps it might be worth revisiting this in round two.
Peterson rustiness factored in by the market
Rebecca Peterson against Sorana Cirstea is another interesting match-up worth discussing, with Cirstea another player not in the best of form in recent months either. Her slightly longer-term hard court data over the last 12 months isn't that impressive either - 97.6% combined serve/return points won percentage, and the market seems convinced that Peterson, who hasn't played since the end of September, will be rusty. I wouldn't be backing Cirstea at 1.584/7 myself.
Hives can continue Mattek-Sands misery
Bethanie Mattek-Sands (pictured below) has had a torrid time in singles since her long-term injury, and has lost her last eight matches. In the last 12 months, including qualifiers, she is 2-13, and her data - particularly on return - is not impressive at all.
The American takes on Zoe Hives, the Australian wild-card, and I'm not remotely surprised to see that Hives has been backed slightly in the run-up to the match. She opened at around 1.9010/11, and I priced her at 1.674/6, so there's still some slight value there if we assume that the Exchange price will settle at the midpoint of an illiquid market, at around 1.804/5.
Market support for Tsurenko unsurprising
Initially, I also was considering Lesia Tsurenko, who faces Ekaterina Alexandrova. The Ukrainian, Tsurenko, is 1.528/15 currently, shortening up a fair bit from opening lines, which is completely understandable.
Tsurenko is in great touch, having improved hugely from a statistical perspective throughout 2018, and she backed this up by reaching the final in Brisbane last week. Such a great opening week of the season allowed her to get plenty of court time, and then rest this week, and I anticipate that she will have too much for Alexandrova, who has tended to do her best on indoors.
Certainly, there is a big gap between the two players on hard court ability - around a 5.5% difference in combined serve/return points won in the last 12 months, so Tsurenko looked some value at opening market prices - around the 1.654/6 mark. She's now been backed into 1.528/15, which looks more accurate.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
Back Zoe Hives at around 1.804/5 against Bethanie Mattek-Sands