It's the final at WTA Palermo on Sunday, and after a fascinating week's play as the tour resumes, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the match...
"My model also agreed with the market line, pricing Kontaveit at [1.65] given a reasonable discrepancy in opponent quality, plus around a 4% edge in service hold percentage over Ferro."
In the first WTA final since March, Anett Kontaveit meets Fiona Ferro to decide who lifts the trophy in Palermo, and in Ferro's case, she must travel to Prague for next week's event - she faces Aliona Bolsova in her opener in the Czech Republic, probably on Tuesday.
Yesterday's semi-final was a relatively straightforward victory for Kontaveit, getting the better of Petra Martic in straight sets, although she was much more clinical on break points (converting 5 from 9, as opposed to 2 from 6 for Martic) en route to that win. Ferro, on the other hand needed to comeback from a 6-2 opening set loss to nick a tight final set against Camila Giorgi, in a match where both players won exactly the same number of points.
Justifiable market preference for Kontaveit
Kontaveit starts as the [1.67] favourite for the final, and it's interesting to note that in the four rounds of the tournament so far, she's got extremely similar data to Ferro - a marginal advantage on service points won, but a slight deficit on return points won, and a similar games won percentage - despite facing a higher calibre of opposition on average (average opponent rank of 80 compared to 114 for Ferro).
My model also agreed with the market line, pricing Kontaveit at [1.65] given a reasonable discrepancy in longer-term opponent quality as well, plus around a 4% edge in service hold percentage over Ferro, whose adjusted data also takes into account some qualifiers.
Solid projected hold percentages expected even at a slow venue
Despite taking place at a venue which has shown itself to be pretty slow in terms of court speed (as anticipated from the 2019 data as well), I'm expecting a slightly serve-orientated encounter. My projected hold model, which takes into account court speed as well, has Kontaveit expected to hold serve 67.6% of the time, with Ferro slightly behind at 64.1%, and both of these figures are above the 62.5% clay court mean figure from the start of 2019 onwards.
In addition, historical in-running data suggests that Kontaveit is better than average for retaining break leads, so I'm expecting the Estonian to be a pretty solid front-runner should she get in front in the match. Ferro has the potential to be a little more vulnerable in that respect.
After five months of no tennis taking place, it's fantastic to be discussing a final on the WTA Tour, and moving on, next week we have two events in Prague (clay) and Lexington (hard court), and I'll be returning tomorrow to give my thoughts on those.
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