French Open Ladies Singles Day Nine: Market has Williams-Sharapova right but Mertens can shock Halep

Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova has struggled in head to head matches against Serena...
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It's day nine of the French Open today, and ladies singles action sees the conclusion of the last 16. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, looks to see who will make the quarter-finals...

"Looking at the head to head records, there is little doubt as to who the dominant player is here - Williams has won 19 of their 21 meetings, winning the last seven in straight sets. However, with over two years passed since their last match-up, it's difficult to give too much credence to such a historical head to head lead. "

Putintseva converts for us at odds-against

With bad light stopping play yesterday, only three of the four women's fourth round matches were concluded, and Darya Kasatkina and Caroline Wozniacki resume today with Kasatkina a set up, with the second set on serve.

The other three matches were all decided in straight sets, with Sloane Stephens blitzing Anett Kontaveit, while Madison Keys emphatically despatched Mihaela Buzarnescu. In addition, our recommended bet, Yulia Putintseva, also won in straight sets despite being a pre-match underdog.

Williams dominant in previous meetings with Sharapova

Despite there being four fresh matches on today's schedule, there is only one match that most of the neutrals are interested in - Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova.

Looking at the head-to-head records, there is little doubt as to who the dominant player has been - Williams has won 19 of their 21 meetings, winning the last seven in straight sets. However, with over two years passed since their last match-up, it's difficult to give too much credence to such a historical head-to-head lead. My personal perception is that it has some relevance, but not to an overwhelming extent.

Williams strong on serve but poor on return

Perhaps, what is more reasonable to go on is Williams' data so far here at Roland Garros. In the three matches so far, she's held serve 85.7% of the time, which is extremely impressive and illustrates she's back to her best on serve, but has broken a mere 26.5% of the time on return. In addition, she's overperformed her return points won expectation by 5.6% on break points on return, so it can even be argued that this mediocre percentage that she has broken opponents may even flatter her.

Sharapova's data is more impressive overall, and certainly on return, and raw numbers made her a slight favourite. However, factoring a slight adjustment based on this previous head to head record, the current market prices, which have Williams a [1.74] favourite, look about right.

While this meeting between two of the legends of the WTA Tour takes most of the focus, I'd rather look at one of the lower profile matches today for our recommendation.

Mertens with potential to shock Halep

Tournament favourite Simona Halep takes on Elise Mertens, and the Romanian, Halep, is a [1.25] favourite to make the quarter-finals. My model made this short, with Mertens one of the most improved players on the women's tour in the last year or so, and particularly this year.

On clay in the last 12 months, there's not a lot to split them. Halep has held serve 71.1% and broken opponents 52.0% (combined 123.1%) and this is world-class data. However, Mertens is also approaching elite level, holding 67.4% and breaking 47.1% (combined 114.5%) - while Halep is the better player, it's not by the extent that the markets are suggesting.

The game handicap market is still forming on the Exchange, but stands at [2.12] on the Belgian talent having a 4.5 game head start in the run-up to the match. Having said this, looking at Mertens' career, most of the time she's covered this line when a similarly priced underdog on clay, she's actually won the match, so a bold recommendation of her to actually win the match at [4.90] is in order.

Garcia value after overnight drift

Caroline Garcia also looks some value at [2.04], having drifted overnight, as she faces Angelique Kerber today, with both players having impressed with combined service points/return points won percentages in excess of 110% at the event so far. Garcia has the edge here and also does so when looking at longer term data.

Muguruza a heavy favourite to beat Tsurenko

Finally, Garbine Muguruza is a heavy [1.18] favourite to beat Lesya Tsurenko, and my model largely agreed with this line. However, it's more of a reflection of Tsurenko's deficiencies at this level on clay than any ringing endorsement of Muguruza, and it will be interesting to see market lines on the Spaniard assuming a quarter-final against either Williams or Sharapova.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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