Australian Open Women's Singles Day Six: Sharapova the value in match of the day

Maria Sharapova is fancied to get the better of Angelique Kerber at the Aussie Open
Maria Sharapova is fancied to get the better of Angelique Kerber at the Aussie Open
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It's day six of the women's singles at the Australian Open and there are eight third-round matches getting underway at midnight UK time. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, checks out tomorrow's schedule and looks to boost profits on what has been a decent week one...

"No doubt, Kerber's played well this year, but a closer examination of her service data shows that she's saved 10.1% more break points than she should have done, based on her service points won expectation."

Mertens gets us back to winning ways on day five

Elise Mertens got us back to winning ways on Friday, covering the -2.5 game handicap against Alize Cornet in straight sets, and the Belgian now has an intriguing match against Petra Martic, in what is something of a contrast of styles.


Kontaveit with further opportunity to progress after Ostapenko victory

Among the winners in other matches on day five were the two heavy favourites of the day, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki - both in straight sets - while there was also a win for Anett Kontaveit, who ousted Jelena Ostapenko in three.

Kontaveit came into the event with a poor hard court record but hasn't faced a considerably better opponent as yet, and her fourth round match against Carla Suarez Navarro on Sunday gives her a further opportunity to progress before a likely quarter-final with one of our outright hopes, Wozniacki.


Keys and Garcia favourites to meet on Monday

Our other outright selection, Madison Keys, is a heavy favourite in the early match against Ana Bodgan, the Romanian, with Keys correctly priced at [1.14] to make it into round four.

No player left in the event has as good service data on hard courts in the last 12 months as Keys - she's held 80% - and in medium-fast conditions, she will be tough to beat. Certainly, I'd make her a reasonable favourite over Caroline Garcia in a projected match-up on Monday.

First of all though, Garcia will need to dispose of Aliaksandra Sasnovich - she looks about right at [1.46] to do so, while in the other earlier matches, Simona Halep is very short indeed against the poor-serving American, Lauren Davis, and there's a fascinating clash of the Czech big-servers as Lucie Safarova faces Karolina Pliskova.


Sharapova favoured by the numbers against Kerber

However, it is one of the later matches on Saturday's schedule that catches my interest from a betting perspective, and it is the match of the day, where Angelique Kerber is a narrow [1.85] favourite against Maria Sharapova.

My numbers much prefer Sharapova, pretty much reversing the current prices, so I'll discuss why I feel Sharapova should be favourite here.


Kerber's break point saving unsustainable in the future

A woeful 2017 saw former world number one Kerber drop out of the top 20, and after a solid start to the season this year which sees her unbeaten, the markets are immediately pricing her up as a top five player again. No doubt, Kerber's played well this year, but a closer examination of her service data shows that she's saved 10.1% more break points than she should have done, based on her service points won expectation.

Such clutch play is completely unsustainable - she even won the Sydney final against Ash Barty despite both players having break points in the same number of return games - and Sharapova's data on return shows she's underperformed for converting break points by a similar figure this year so far.

Therefore the upside is on one player only - Sharapova - and if we look at the 12 month service and return points won percentages, they also illustrate Sharapova should be the favourite. The Russian has admittedly won 0.2% fewer points on serve (59.9% to 60.1%) but she's got a decent edge on return points won (47.2% compared to 44.0%).

In addition, she's recovered the first break deficit in sets almost 70% - a world class figure - in the last two years, compared to Kerber's 50%, and in what is likely to be a very competitive match, I'd much rather have Sharapova's incredible will to win on my side. Taking Sharapova at [2.16] is today's play.

In the other later matches on the schedule, I expect the qualifier Bernarda Pera's dream run to come to an end at the hands of Barbora Strycova, while Ash Barty is a solid favourite to get past Naomi Osaka, in another clash of big-servers. In complete contrast in the final match, Agnieszka Radwanska is also a decent favourite to defeat Su-Wei Hsieh.


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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings


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