Australian Open Day Three: Kontaveit with the edge over Sasnovich

American Tennis Player Serena Williams
Serena Williams was one of the big names to progress on Tuesday...

Tuesday's action in Melbourne saw Dan Weston go two from two for the women's event with a big underdog win. Looking for the hat-trick, here are his thoughts on day three...

"Looking at hard court data, Kontaveit has an edge on both service points won and return points won both over the last six months and the last year, so I can only assume that the market has over-reacted to Sasnovich's run to the semi-final last week in Sydney."

Zhang gives us a great win on Tuesday

The Australian Open continued in pleasing fashion as we picked up a 3.1085/40 underdog win with Shuai Zhang getting the better of Dominika Cibulkova in three sets and if the market continues to price the Slovak at such levels against competent opposition, she could well be ripe for some further opposition in the not too distant future.

On a day of few shocks, most big names safely made it through to Thursday's final batch of second round matches. Jo Konta (just) got past Ajla Tomljanovic, while there were also wins for Karolina Pliskova, Elise Mertens, Qiang Wang, Madison Keys, Serena Williams, Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka, and one of our outright picks Elina Svitolina, who dropped just three games in easing past Victoria Golubic.

As with the men's card tomorrow, the women's schedule is a little tricky, with my model indicating that there aren't an abundance of decent spots on Wednesday. I'll discuss a few underdogs to start with and there are two in particular who I think could be under-rated by the market.

Sharma can give Sakkari a tough encounter

Given that she had never played a main tour match prior to the Australian Open, I knew little about Astra Sharma, but what is clear from looking at her data is that she has a very solid serve indeed. She's held not far from 80% of her service games on the ITF Tour in the last 12 months on hard court, and there aren't many WTA players who can boast such numbers. She's also won three-quarters of her matches and it's clear that she's a player on something of an upward curve, although perhaps she's a late developer at the age of 23.

Tomorrow the home hope faces Maria Sakkari, who has been loved by the market for quite some time. When she considerably improved her ranking a few months ago, I tweeted that I'd be surprised if she could sustain it - rather out of line with a poll that I ran, which indicated that many felt that she was a real improving player.

While I do think Sakkari has improved, her numbers indicated that she was flattered by her rank, and I still maintain this. The Greek player is 1.351/3 to defeat Sharma, which looks very short indeed - it wouldn't surprise me if the strong-serving Sharma can cover the game handicap line, at the very least.

Collins looking over-rated against Vickery

The other heavy underdog I think is under-rated by the market is Sachia Vickery, who looks big at 4.10 against Danielle Collins in an all-American clash. I'm surprised Collins is so short here and following a semi-final in San Jose at the start of August, her end of 2018 was disastrous.

I think there's a reasonable case to be made that the market has over-reacted to her surprise win over Julia Goerges in the opening round but it's also worth noting that Collins actually won less than 50% of the points in the match, so I would caution against such an over-reaction.

Kontaveit with the edge over Sasnovich

However, I want to pick a very slight underdog as my recommendation for Wednesday, with the 20th seed Anett Kontaveit, surprisingly a 2.0421/20 outsider against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Looking at hard court data, Kontaveit has an edge on both service points won and return points won both over the last six months and the last year so I can only assume that the market has over-reacted to Sasnovich's run to the semi-final last week in Sydney. However, you don't get a much easier run to a semi-final in a Premier event than Sasnovich's, who defeated Daria Kasatkina (on hard court), Priscilla Hon, and Timea Bacsinszky before getting trounced by Petra Kvitova, so again I'd guard against this over-reaction.

Tsurenko v Anisimova the match of the day

In other matches, Petra Kvitova looks a bit short at 1.132/15 even against the mediocre Irina Begu, while Ash Barty, Maria Sharapova, Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber are also heavy favourites to continue their tournament with wins.

Despite this, arguably the match of the day for me is Lesia Tsurenko against Amanda Anisimova, which promises to be a very high quality encounter. Tsurenko has had a superb last 12 months while Anisimova is a massive prospect. She's been suffering from fitness issues a little of late but if Anisimova is fit, this could be a great match to watch.


Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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