The third round commences at the Australian Open on Friday morning, and with eight women's matches on the schedule, Dan Weston returns to give his thoughts on the day ahead...
"Opponent Fiona Ferro has had two impressive underdog wins so far and, although lower profile, also looks to be improving nicely in the last six months or so."
Kenin out as remaining big names progress
Defending champion Sofia Kenin crashed out in straight sets against Kaia Kanepi in Thursday's round two action, and with that apart, the bigger names progressed on a day where three-setters were rather rare in the women's tournament.
Winners from Wednesday are back in action tomorrow as the third round gets underway, and this is the stage where the volume of matches starts to decrease. Eight are on the schedule for tomorrow, and I think that with the exception of a couple of heavy underdogs, the market has the pricing about right.
It's been quite a tricky tournament so far with the lack of recent data and slightly smarter than anticipated market pricing being an issue so far, and the spots I am going to discuss certainly aren't particularly confident picks.
Ferro capable of testing Swiatek
Taking on a young player who is on a big upward ability curve isn't ideal but I'm struggling to see how Iga Swiatek is 1.292/7 for her match with Fiona Ferro, unless we are assuming her hard court level is somewhat close to her clay level. The Pole struggled in her loss last week to Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Gippsland Trophy, and while she's won both her matches so far in straight sets, they were as a heavy pre-match favourite.
Opponent Fiona Ferro has had two impressive underdog wins so far and, although lower profile, also looks to be improving nicely in the last six months or so. She lifted a trophy on clay in Palermo while also making the French Open fourth round (lost to Kenin in three sets) but her hard court numbers aren't too bad either and make her around the level of an average player on the main tour, largely in line with her ranking just inside the top 50.
As the markets develop, we should be able to get around 1.705/7 on Ferro with a 5.5 game head start, and I think this is the best of a bad bunch in terms of Friday's value.
Muguruza and Osaka heavy favourites to progress
Another underdog who looks a little undervalued is Zarina Diyas against Garbine Muguruza, with the Spaniard priced at 1.101/10 to get the win. Of course, she should be a very strong favourite but Diyas is a reasonably competent hard courter and Muguruza doesn't possess elite-level hard court data across the last 18 months or so.
In other matches, Naomi Osaka is a strong favourite to get the better of Ons Jabeur, while Aryna Sabalenka is priced at 1.321/3 to end Ann Li's run of wins. Simona Halep was on the verge of exiting the tournament to Alja Tomljanovic on Wednesday, and the market is certainly defensive about her tomorrow, pricing her at 1.4840/85 to defeat Veronika Kudermetova, who has achieved some strong results of late.
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