Women's singles action at the Australian Open gets underway on Monday, and with numerous first round matches on day one, Dan Weston is back to discuss some of the clashes...
"Kostyuk has won more than 50% of return points at ITF level last year, and this translates extremely well to success on the main tour, particularly given her age."
Andreescu and Halep among those with question marks
We have action from the bottom half of the draw at the Australian Open on the opening day of the tournament, and this includes a number of big names including Bianca Andreescu, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Naomi Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka, Serena Williams, Iga Swiatek and Simona Halep.
Of course, these players all start favourites, although there's fitness doubts over a few of these players with Andreescu not having played since the end of 2019, Osaka withdrawing after her quarter-final in the Gippsland Trophy, and Serena doing likewise in the Yarra Valley classic. Halep also has question marks surrounding her after being thrashed by Ekaterina Alexandrova this week.
Swiatek potentially vulnerable on hard courts
Out of these players, I think Swiatek is the most vulnerable to an upset. The French Open winner starts 1.232/9 at the time of writing for her match against Aranxta Rus, and her hard court data still isn't close to her clay numbers. Rus has performed very well on hard court at the lower ITF level, although didn't acquit herself particularly well against Venus Williams in the Yarra Valley Classic this week. It will be interesting to see where Swiatek's game is at on hard court against a relatively unheralded opponent.
Another potential shock could be Rebecca Peterson at 3.55 against Marketa Vondrousova. Both players have largely underwhelmed since the tour resumed, but I've been particularly unimpressed by Vondrousova, who looked to be a young player of extremely high potential when she broke through in 2019. Of course, she could still reach the top of the tour, but her relatively mediocre 2020 certainly was a surprise.
Boulter and Hercog among underdogs with solid chances
Daria Kasatkina is another player with unremarkable data across the last few years and we have to go back to 2018 to find a year where she won more than 40% of her main tour matches. Despite this, Katie Boulter is 3.1511/5 to get the better of the Russian and this price is a surprise given Boulter's srong display in the Gippsland Trophy, where she beat Cori Gauff and took the first set off Naomi Osaka as around a 10.09/1 underdog in the match.
I also like the chances of Polona Hercog at 2.707/4 against Caroline Garcia, given that I don't think the market has adjusted particularly well to Garcia's downturn in level since 2018. I don't think there's much between the duo currently.
Kostyuk can get revenge over Kudermetova
However, for today's pick I want to look at a player that I have great faith in for the future, Marta Kostyuk. The 18-year-old Ukrainian is 2.166/5 to get the better of Veronika Kudermetova, who has shown an improvement in her results since the tour resumed last summer. However, my perception also is that Kudermetova's results have been slightly better than her underlying data and I think Kostyuk can get revenge for her defeat at the hands of Kudermetova in the opening week of the season.
In that match, Kostyuk lost in straight sets despite winning 49% of points in the match, so it's pretty reasonable to suggest that she deserved better in that match.
Not only this, but my model priced up Kostyuk at 1.705/7 to make round two here. Kostyuk has won more than 50% of return points at ITF level last year, and this translates extremely well to success on the main tour, particularly given her age. Kostyuk took a set from Naomi Osaka at the US Open in September, and I think she can get us off to a winning start in this tournament.
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