Australian Open Women's Day Seven Tips: Serena looking slight value as underdog against Sabalenka

American Tennis Player Serena Williams
Serena Williams looks a little value as an underdog on Sunday...

There is women's fourth round action tomorrow at the Australian Open, with four matches on Sunday's schedule. Dan Weston returns to preview the day ahead...

"Serena is a very slight underdog here, and year-long numbers actually make her a marginal favourite, with just below a 1% edge on service/return points won since the tour resumed."

Vekic joins big names in round four

We managed to pick up an underdog winner on Saturday to continue the upturn in our campaign, as Donna Vekic earned a three-set victory over Kaia Kanepi. Vekic saved a match point in set two, but ultimately had ten more break point chances in the match. The likes of Ash Barty, Elina Svitolina, Elise Mertens and Jennifer Brady all progressed to Monday's fourth round matches, but ahead of these are four matches tomorrow as round four gets underway.

Vondrousova a solid favourite over Hsieh

First on court is Su-Wei Hsieh against Marketa Vondrousova, with the 21-year-old Czech a solid 1.501/2 favourite to get the win over the veteran from Chinese Taipei. Vondrousova didn't kick on as I hoped she would in 2020 - I had high expectations for her - but she looks like a justified price here against Hsieh.

It's worth pointing out, though, that Hsieh did get a final-set tiebreak win over Vondrousova at the start of the season in Abu Dhabi, priced around the 1.384/11 mark. Vondrousova struggled on break points in the match, which is unlikely to consistently manifest itself. She's a slightly bigger price tomorrow and that looks about right, in my opinion.

Serena looking some value against Sabalenka

The next three matches on the schedule promise to be high-quality, competitive clashes with Garbine Muguruza facing tournament favourite Naomi Osaka at the same time as Hsieh versus Vondrousova. Osaka is the 1.538/15 favourite, which again looks pretty accurate - in the last 18 months on hard court, Osaka has around a 4.5% edge in service points won, while Muguruza has almost a 2% advantage on return points won. Data for the last year also has similar differences.

That match should be pretty serve-orientated, with both players having strong hold percentages on the surface, and this dynamic should also be in evidence in the clash between Aryna Sabalenka and Serena Williams, with projected hold percentages for both players not far from the 80% mark. Serena is a very slight underdog here, and year-long numbers actually make her a marginal favourite, with just below a 1% edge on service/return points won since the tour resumed.

For all of Sabalenka's good work this year already, it's actually Williams with better 2021 numbers too, and she has better numbers in this tournament so far in their three matches to date as well.

The 2.166/5 about Serena looks the best value spot of the day, and while it's not something I think is huge value, it looks reasonable enough. Both players are yet to drop a set in the tournament, so something has to give here.

Halep favourite for clay-courter battle

Finally, there is an interesting clash between two players who could well be the favourites for the French Open in a few months time. Iga Swiatek and Simona Halep have generally done their best work on clay but Swiatek looks to have a little more upside on hard court long-term.

Halep almost exited to Ajla Tomljanovic in round two, and is the 1.824/5 favourite to get past Swiatek tomorrow. My model went slightly lower on the Romanian, Halep, but it's not a spot that I think is particularly noteworthy.


Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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