Australian Open Women's Final Tips: Underdog Osaka value for second consecutive Slam title
From 128 players there are now just two left as the women's tournament at the Australian Open reaches the final. Our tennis columnist Dan Weston previews the match...
"Across the last 12 months, Osaka has won 62.3% of service points on hard court, compared to Kvitova's 59.7%, and the Japanese player has also got a marginal edge on return, winning 45.6% to 45.1% of return points."
Osaka yields us a winner from Thursday
Thursday's semi-finals saw Petra Kvitova ease past Danielle Collins in a second set bagel following a tight first set, which ended in a tiebreak, while our recommendation from the semi-finals, Naomi Osaka, getting past Karolina Pliskova in three sets. Osaka has been kind to us for the previous two rounds, and I'll be discussing in this preview whether she represents value for the hat-trick tomorrow.
Osaka with the hard court data edge
The Exchange market has Kvitova as a slight favourite at [1.84], at the time of writing, and I feel that this is pretty short, based on hard court data over the last year or so.
Across the last 12 months, Osaka has won 62.3% of service points on hard court, compared to Kvitova's 59.7%, and the Japanese player has also got a marginal edge on return, winning 45.6% to 45.1% of return points.
More recently, in the last six months, Osaka has a similar 2.9% edge on serve, but a 0.9% deficit on return, but again, summing the two figures to produce combined service/return numbers, it is Osaka that has the slightly better data.
Kvitova's Australian Open data perhaps influencing market
At this stage, readers may be beginning to wonder why Kvitova is the favourite to lift the trophy, when Osaka's hard court data during various stages of the last year is better than hers. I think there are several reasons why Kvitova is favoured by the market, although I don't think they will change my mind that Osaka is decent value to win her second consecutive Grand Slam event.
Firstly, Kvitova's data from this year's Australian Open in isolation is better - she's running at almost 120% combined serve/return points won, which are stunning numbers, even for a finalist. Osaka's data is still great, at just over 110%, but it would be fair to suggest that Kvitova has been more dominant en route to this stage, at this particular tournament.
Unlikely roof would favour Kvitova
The other area where Kvitova may attract market support is if the match is played under a roof, due to the possible extremely hot conditions. Several people have asked me if this would alter my perception of how the match will go, but the forecast I've seen for Saturday has the peak temperature at merely a warm 28 degrees Celsius, so I feel it's unlikely to be played under that roof.
Despite this, it would be pertinent to point out that Osaka has virtually no track record to speak of indoors, while Kvitova does, so if the match is played under a roof, it should provide Kvitova with an advantage.
Osaka still represents value as underdog
However, given Osaka's advantage across the last year on hard court, and the unlikeliness of a roof, I do feel that her underdog price does represent value. After I've recommended two consecutive wins on her in the last two rounds, she looks a backable price at [2.16] to convert the hat-trick on Saturday.
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Dan's Aussie Open P/L
Dan's Aussie Open P/L
Staked: 18 pts
Returned: 19.39 pts
P/L: +1.39 pts
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Back Naomi Osaka at [2.16] to beat Petra Kvitova