There are four WTA matches at the Australian Open on Monday, with the winners rewarded with a quarter-final place. Our tennis columnist Dan Weston takes a look at the matches on the schedule...
"It’s quite incredible that she has retained her strong deficit recovery numbers, and the American - who will make ground on Kerber in the battle for the number one ranking with a tournament win - has recovered the first break deficit in sets 76.2% since July 2014."
Kerber exit opens up draw
The main news from Melbourne Park on Sunday was the exit of the world number one Angelique Kerber, who was quite easily defeated by the American big-server, Coco Vandeweghe. A quarter-final against Garbine Muguruza is Vandeweghe's reward, and the winner will certainly fancy their chances against Venus Williams or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, as opposed to the standard of the average WTA Grand Slam semi-finalist.
I wrote yesterday that it's tough to find pre-match value in the latter stages of Grand Slam events, and this is indeed the case tomorrow with all four matches being priced reasonably accurately, compared to my model prices.
Williams favoured to get past Strycova
In the opening match tomorrow, Serena Williams is the 1.211/5 favourite to get past Barbora Strycova, and if there is going to be a vulnerable front-runner tomorrow, it will be the Czech.
Much has been made of Williams' decline on return, and these statements are largely correct, given that she is around 12-15% down on historical data for breaking opponents.
Having said this, it's quite incredible that she has retained her strong deficit recovery numbers, and the American - who will make ground on Kerber in the battle for the number one ranking with a tournament win - has recovered the first break deficit in sets 76.2% since July 2014.
Bearing this in mind, it is very unlikely that Strycova will win sets easily, and my preferred option to side with Williams if Strycova leads is by laying the Czech player when a break up in a set, when leading or level in sets (therefore trading below starting prices). Exit points would be a hedge for profit if Williams breaks back, or a hedge for a loss if Strycova wins the set.
Serve likely to dominate Monday's other matches
The remaining three matches are anticipated to be relatively serve-orientated, with all six players having projected hold percentages above the WTA mean.
Johanna Konta's tournament has been impressive so far, and her demolition of Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday was a superb boost. The Brit is yet to drop a set in the event and she's lost just 17 games across three matches so far. Ekaterina Makarova is next in the firing line, and the market makes Konta the favourite, at a current 1.3130/100.
Third on the schedule are two of the unlikelier names in the last 16 - Jennifer Brady and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. The Croat, Lucic-Baroni, has at least shown a high level on her day, but the 21 year old American, Brady, ranked outside the top 100 before the event, has surprised most observers and has now won six matches at Melbourne Park after winning three deciding sets in qualifiers.
Brady also got past Heather Watson in an epic second round match, where the Brit failed to convert a number of match points, but surprisingly eased past Elena Vesnina on Saturday. Quite correctly, the current price on the Exchange of 1.618/13 makes Lucic-Baroni a comfortable favourite.
Finally, Karolina Pliskova looked down and out at a double break 2-5 down against Jelena Ostapenko in the third round, but the Czech player - now into tournament second favourite following Kerber's demise - ground out a 10-8 win. Backers of Pliskova will need to decide how much that victory has taken out of her, but she is favoured to beat the Australian, Daria Gavrilova, at 1.292/7 at the time of writing.
It wouldn't be a shock if Gavrilova struggled under the pressure in this if she gets close to the finish line - it is a trait she has exhibited many times throughout her young career.
Lay Barbora Strycova if she leads by a break, and is leading/level in sets against Serena Williams
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