US Open Women's Singles Preview: Garcia and Svitolina best value in tough field
With the women's singles event at the US Open starting on Monday, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns to preview the tournament and give his outright picks...
"Svitolina does have much better data and if I have to pick one player at prices of the duo, it would be her at [24.0], despite losing to Stephens a fortnight ago in Montreal, in a match which was closer than the scoreline suggested."
Tough to find value in this year's women's field
Picking a winner from this women's singles field is an incredibly difficult proposition. The last seven Grand Slam events have had different winners, and with fitness concerns abounding over many players in the field, any bettor whose rationale was to just decide to put 20 names in a hat and draw one out would be forgiven on this occasion.
Despite sympathy for such an approach, we must adopt a rather more detailed assessment of the contenders for glory at Flushing Meadows over the coming fortnight, and with conditions likely to be on the slow side of medium for a hard court, certainly there isn't any particular benefit for the many big-servers at the forefront of the outright market.
Serena drifting following tough draw
After a slight drift, Serena Williams is now [7.4] joint favourite with Simona Halep, and having priced up the markets pre and post-draw, this isn't a huge surprise.
I actually made Halep the tournament favourite, based on raw stats with her 108.3% 12 month combined hard court serve/return points won percentage the best in the field, but we have the obvious potential clash with Serena in the fourth round, with both players placed in the top half of the top quarter.
There's also the slight injury doubt over Halep, although Williams hasn't particularly given an abundance of evidence that she's remotely close to her peak levels in recent years, especially on return, herself.
Muguruza and Pliskova complete brutal first quarter
Also in a pretty brutal top quarter is Garbine Muguruza, at [24.0], and the out of form Karolina Pliskova, at [30.0]. Both have looked below par in recent weeks and months, but do have strong long-term hard court data. If they can get back to their best, they would be decent value at these bigger prices.
Svitolina better value at current prices
Quarter two is bookended by defending champion Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina. Stephens is the tournament fourth favourite, at [10.5], but doesn't convince with her data (103.9% combined serve/return points won percentage) and I have the suspicion that she's flattered by her current ranking and market status.
Svitolina does have much better data and if I have to pick one player at prices of the duo, it would be her at [24.0], despite losing to Stephens a fortnight ago in Montreal, in a match which was closer than the scoreline suggested.
In that quarter, however, there are some dangerous floaters, including Victoria Azarenka, who is scheduled to meet Stephens in round three, and also Elise Mertens, Julia Goerges (one who I do think is under-rated, as I did at Wimbledon), Donna Vekic and Agnieszka Radwanska will also fancy their chances.
Garcia could have potential in quarter three
In the third quarter, Caroline Garcia, Maria Sharapova, Jo Konta, Jelena Ostapenko, Madison Keys and Angelique Kerber are the main contenders, and the Garcia v Konta match in the opening round is probably the pick of the first round matches. I'm surprised to see the market make this a 'pick-em' match, given Konta's fitness issues of late.
Of these contenders, not one particularly stands out at market prices, with the French player, Garcia, looking as good as any at a current [80.0]. It's certainly difficult to side with Kerber at [9.2] given her 14-14 record against top 20 opposition in the last year, and her tennis continues to appear quite hit or miss.
Question marks surround Kvitova fitness
Petra Kvitova in quarter four is another one who fits this hit or miss bill, and her shoulder injury picked up this week in New Haven does her no favours at all - it would be a brave bettor to chance the Czech at [18.5], with New Haven finalist Aryna Sabalenka a dangerous potential round three opponent in the bottom quarter.
Other threats in this bracket include Naomi Osaka, Belinda Bencic, Naomi Osaka, Kiki Bertens and Caroline Wozniacki, if the Dane is fit - a big if.
As readers may have suspected from the opening paragraphs of this preview, I don't have a particularly strong lean on any player, unlike at Wimbledon where I was so keen on Julia Goerges at a big price. For a small stake, Svitolina at [24.0] and Garcia at [80.0] can be chanced in an event ravaged by fitness and form issues for many of the top players.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
Back Elina Svitolina at [24.0]
Back Caroline Garcia at [80.0]