Day three of the women's singles at the Australian Open gets underway shortly, and back to give his thoughts on the day ahead is our Tennis columnist, Dan Weston...
"I'm pretty sure if this match was a week ago, Cornet would be the favourite here. We also have to consider that, particularly in the men's tournament, a number of finalists from last week struggled in round one, and that could well come back to affect Li here as well."
Azarenka exits in first round shock
Victoria Azarenka was arguably the biggest name to exit on Tuesday in round one of the Australian Open, with the Belarussian defeated in straight sets by Jessica Pegula. Most other heavy favourites got the job done in straight sets to progress to round two on Thursday.
Andreescu and Sabalenka look likely to continue progress
Before that, however, is the start of round two with Monday's winners continuing their campaigns, and there's some interesting matches in prospect. I'm certainly interested to see how Bianca Andreescu performs against Su-Wei Hsieh - based on longer-term numbers, the 1.351/3 about the former US Open winner looks very slight value - although of course we don't know quite how Andreescu's physical condition is after missing the entire 2020 season.
At a marginally shorter price is Aryna Sabalenka for her match against Daria Kasatkina, and I think even at this price the market is under-rating Sabalenka's chances here. The 7th seed has won 16 of her last 17 matches, all on either outdoor or indoor hard courts, and is one of the players coming into the tournament playing at a high level.
It would take quite a decent drop in Sabalenka's level for Kasatkina to have a chance here, in my view.
Cornet capable of underdog win over Li
One player who has performed well at the start of this year is Ann Li, who reached the final of the Grampians Trophy after a tight win over Jennifer Brady in the semi-finals. Expectations were pretty low for Li before that event - she was an underdog in her last three wins - but after a dominant win over Shuai Zhang in round one, Li now looks over-rated by the market at 1.4640/85 for her match against main tour regular Alize Cornet.
This is probably also due to Cornet scraping past qualifier Valeria Savinykh in round one as well, but the week prior the Frenchwoman had a solid win over Alja Tomljanovic and I'm pretty sure if this match was a week ago, Cornet would be the favourite here. We also have to consider that, particularly in the men's tournament, a number of finalists from last week struggled in round one, and that could well come back to affect Li here as well.
Pera needing to back up Kerber victory
I also think that another underdog, Zarina Diyas, looks reasonable at 2.506/4 against Bernarda Pera, and again the market could well be over-reacting to Pera's statement win over former champion Angelique Kerber in round one. Pera didn't hugely impress last week in the Gippsland Trophy, and it will be interesting to see if she can back up that Kerber victory tomorrow.
We also see the likes of Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova continue their tournaments on Wednesday, and all are - rather unsurprisingly - heavy favourites to make round three, where we start to see a lot more competitive clashes in the women's tournament.
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