It's women's semi-finals day at the US Open tonight, and back to preview the match-ups, is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...
"Sevastova has won 15 of her last 17 matches and this year on hard court, has held 66.1% and broken 42.5% (combined 108.6%). In addition, she actually boasts better return data at this year’s US Open than Williams does."
Osaka and Keys progress with strong serving displays
Yesterday's action in New York saw Naomi Osaka trounce Lesia Tsurenko 1&1, while Madison Keys' straight-set win over Carla Suarez Navarro was also relatively facile, with a solitary break of serve enough in either set - Suarez Navarro was unable to convert her two chances in what was a pretty strong serving display from Keys. The American big-server recorded 64% first serves in, and won 80% of these first serve points - numbers in excess of her 12 month hard court mean.
Keys with more late-stage Slam experience
Following these victories last night, Osaka and Keys meet in the second semi-final tonight, at 01:30 UK time, with Keys knowing that a victory here will enable her to defend last year's runner-up ranking points at the very least. That semi-final win a year ago, over Coco Vandeweghe, was her solitary Grand Slam semi-final victory, with her other two appearances at this stage resulting in defeats - albeit both times as underdog, to varying degrees - against Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens.
Conversely, this stage is uncharted territory for Osaka. Yesterday's victory was her first ever Grand Slam quarter-final, and it will be interesting to see if she can overcome any nerves - obviously an unquantifiable variable, in any case.
Osaka will need to make more inroads into the Keys serve
Having said this, not only will Osaka need to overcome nerves potentially, but she'll also have to get her first win over Keys in her fourth head to head meeting. So far, with two of the three matches on hard court, Keys has won six of their seven competed sets - all within the last two years - and the main issues have come on return in these historical match-ups, with Keys holding 83.3% of service games against Osaka previously.
The market makes Keys the [1.74] favourite, and while Osaka does have marginally better hard court data over the last 12 months (helped by a stunning tournament here this year) this head to head must be factored in as well. I often discuss irrelevant head to head scorelines, but this particular meeting does have to be considered, and with this in mind, I make the market about right.
Sevastova with impressive recent data
Prior to this meeting, though, it is the first semi-final, between Serena Williams and Anastasia Sevastova, starting at midnight. While the players will be delighted to have cooler evening temperatures, such scheduling (a 7pm New York start) does European fans and bettors no favours whatsoever, with both matches suitable for night owls only.
Williams is a heavy [1.23] favourite to make the final, and I make this a little short against a rapidly improving opponent - Sevastova has won 15 of her last 17 matches and this year on hard court, has held 66.1% and broken 42.5% (combined 108.6%). In addition, she actually boasts better return data at this year's US Open than Williams does, against at least similar opponent quality, if not a higher calibre.
Sevastova capable of keeping matters close at least
As with Osaka, this is Sevastova's first Slam semi-final, and it will be anyone's guess as to how much the stage will affect her, but what I do know is that if she plays as she has done throughout the event, she'll give Serena a decent match, at the very least.
If this is the case, then the 4/6 with the Sportsbook giving her a 5.5 game head start looks a viable proposition, and this is today's recommendation.
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Dan's US Open 2018 P/L
P/L: + 2.12pts (9.64% return on investment)