The women's singles event at the Australian Open reaches the semi-final stage on Thursday, and after a great Wednesday for the column, Dan Weston returns to preview the matches...
"In my view, the early prices of around 1.758/11 on Osaka looked right on the cusp of being pre-match value, but she's received some market support to shorten her to 1.705/7."
Muchova and Brady provide quarter-final winners
After a poor start to the tournament, we have fought back really well with a number of good winners and this continued on Wednesday with a double. Karolina Muchova didn't just cover the game handicap against Ashleigh Barty, she shocked the home favourite in three sets, while Jennifer Brady converted our pre-tournament outright quarter-winner position with a comeback win over Jessica Pegula.
Osaka not far from value against Williams
The duo meet with a quick turnaround tomorrow in the later match on the schedule, and before this we have what looks to be a fascinating clash between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, with the duo leading the current tournament winner outright market at 2.447/5 and 2.942/1, respectively.
In my view, the early prices of around 1.758/11 on Osaka looked right on the cusp of being pre-match value, but she's received some market support to shorten her to 1.705/7. If her price drifts back up those early lines, she looks some borderline value to me. On hard court since the tour resumed, she does have an edge, numbers-wise, over Serena, winning almost 3% more service points with similar return numbers.
Not only this, but in these matches, Osaka has won all 19 hard court matches which she has competed in during this time period, and looks very justified in being the pre-match favourite. Throughout the tournament so far, Osaka again has an edge on serve although it's fair to point out Serena has better return numbers to negate this.
I'm anticipating a serve-orientated match which should be pretty tight. Osaka has the edge but I think a lot will depend on who performs best on key points as well. I'm cautiously siding with Osaka at current prices, but it's certainly not a confident lean.
Brady favourite for serve-orientated clash
I also expect a pretty serve-orientated encounter, although to a slightly lesser extent, in that match between Muchova and Brady, and Brady has some experience at least of this level in Grand Slams, reaching this stage in the US Open last summer (lost to Naomi Osaka in three sets). This is uncharted territory for Muchova, who lost her previous Slam quarter-final to Elina Svitolina at Wimbledon in 2019.
Brady is the market favourite at 1.608/13 to make her first Slam final and this looks about right to me. On hard court since the tour resumed, she's won around 3% more service points and also has a slight edge on return points won too, so she looks the better hard-courter at this stage of their careers.
Furthermore, Brady has much better numbers in the tournament so far (117% combined service/return points won compared to 108% for Muchova) and looks to be playing at a very high level both in this tournament and in recent months as well - if she wins, she could give either Osaka or Williams a real test in the final.
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