US Open Women's Singles Day Five: Azarenka can oust defending champion Stephens

Belarus Tennis Player Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka is capable of an underdog victory tonight...
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Round three begins on day five at the US Open and a number of top players are in action tonight. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, examines the women's singles...

"In the last 12 months, Stephens has won fewer hard court points on serve (56.8% to 57.2%) and also on return (47.4% to 49.2%) and in addition, Azarenka has generated better data from more difficult matches in the opening two rounds this week."

One out of two from last night's recommendations

We went one from two last night in New York with Marketa Vondrousova easing to an underdog win over Eugenie Bouchard, but Ajla Tomljanovic was unable to covercome Katerina Siniakova, failing to serve out the match and also, failing to convert a match point in the deciding set.

There's some really interesting match-ups tonight, with the matches starting at 16:00 UK time, as has been the case all week.

In the opening batch of matches, Anastasia Sevastova looks a touch of value in a 'pick em' match against Ekaterina Makarova, while Barbora Strycova may be a little under-rated, with the Czech player as big as [3.10] for her meeting with Elise Mertens.

Following this, not before 17:00 UK time, Sloane Stephens faces Victoria Azarenka in what is the one of matches of the day on the women's side.

Stephens short for Azarenka clash

Despite strong careers culminating in Grand Slam triumphs, both players are a little inconsistent at times, but they've met twice this year and on both occasions, Stephens prevailed as an underdog on hard court.

Today is different - she's now pre-match favourite and defending champion, priced at [1.72] currently on the Exchange, which looks quite short. In the last 12 months, Stephens has won fewer hard court points on serve (56.8% to 57.2%) and also on return (47.4% to 49.2%) and in addition, Azarenka has generated better data from more difficult matches in the opening two rounds this week. I like Azarenka's price (considerably bigger than those previous head-to-head meetings this year) here - at least on return, she looks like getting back towards her best levels.

Venus unlikely to be outclassed by sister Serena

The other highlight of today's card sees the clash of the Williams sisters, and I can't help thinking Venus is a bit of value here at [3.40] against younger sister Serena - she's impressed against two difficult opponents in the opening two rounds, in the shape of Camila Giorgi and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Their head-to-head meetings are often pretty close with very few heavy defeats for either player, and in these, Venus has been able to reduce Serena's serve to a merely solid, rather than stratospheric level, holding 72.9% in these sibling match-ups and it wouldn't surprise me at all if this was an excellent, close match.

Barty looking short against prospect Muchova

In other action, one of outright selections, Elina Svitolina, is a heavy [1.33] favourite over Qiang Wang, and with her price having almost halved since our pre-tournament recommendation. Another win tonight and some favourable other scorelines could result in her tournament winner line moving into single-digit numbers.

We also see the likes of Karolina Pliskova on court tonight, as she faces the young American prospect, Sofia Kenin, while Ash Barty looks short again, this time at [1.25] against Garbine Muguruza's conqueror, Karolina Muchova. The 22 year old Czech, Muchova, hasn't got a huge sample of hard court data, but when filtered with indoor hard data too, from a lower level, she looks to have pretty decent potential - it will be interesting to see how she can build on a decent ranking boost from this tournament in the near future.

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