The women's event at the US Open looks as competitive as ever, and there's much to discuss ahead of the tournament. Dan Weston is here to analyse the market leaders...
"Such exhibitions of dominance are rare on the WTA Tour, where many players are of a similar level, and Barty's all-surface season combined service/return points won figure of around 110% shows why she is top of the outright market."
Williams and Kenin among absentees at Flushing Meadows
A glance at the outright market points to several notable absentees for the women's US Open, with Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin two high-profile players who will not be at Flushing Meadows across the next fortnight.
This leaves seven players currently priced below 30.029/1 in the outright market - the main market contenders - who I will discuss below in advance of the draw.
This doesn't mean my opinions are solely restricted to those players, but with so many players capable of beating each other, it makes sense to bring some other names into the discussion following Friday's draw.
Barty capable of dominating rivals
Ashleigh Barty 4.77/2: Barty is the tournament favourite, in line with her world number one status. Despite her shock loss to Sara Sorribes Tormo at the Tokyo Olympics in round one, Barty has won her other two tournaments out of her last three, including on grass at Wimbledon (where the only sets she dropped were via tiebreaks) and on hard court in Cincinnati, where she didn't even drop a single set.
Such exhibitions of dominance are rare on the WTA Tour, where many players are of a similar level, and Barty's all-surface season combined service/return points won figure of around 110% shows why she is top of the outright market, and the player to beat in advance of the tournament.
Osaka needing to show upturn in form
Naomi Osaka 7.87/1: The clear second favourite in the outright market, Osaka is expected to put up the greatest fight to Barty, although could be draw in the same half of the draw to her - preventing them from meeting in the final. Osaka's quality is clear - she lifted the Australian Open trophy in February - but she hasn't got past the quarter-finals of any event subsequently, so it would take a real upturn in form for her to get to the latter stages in New York.
Aryna Sabalenka 15.014/1: The third favourite is out of line with her world ranking (two) but Sabalenka hasn't reached a final on the WTA Tour since she beat Barty in the final of Madrid on clay at the start of May. By and large, though, she's lost to solid opposition and that dynamic can occur in a rather level playing field on the women's tour currently. However, her return data this year is fairly unspectacular (around 1% above the all-surface mean figure) and this would be the main issue Sabalenka would need to address over the coming two weeks.
Swiatek and Pliskova slightly further back in the outrights
Iga Swiatek 17.016/1: In my view, Swiatek is the highest-variance player in the outright market. Her upside is incredible - she's already close to being unbeatable on clay, yet has still something to prove away from her favourite surface. Swiatek has already shown some upside on hard court by winning in Adelaide earlier this year, but has still yet to defeat a top ten player on the surface in her career which is something that the Pole needs to address immediately - she will almost certainly have to do this if she is to win the US Open.
Karolina Pliskova 20.019/1: The Czech comes into the tournament with some solid form, having reached the final in Montreal and semi-final in Cincinnati in consecutive weeks, although losses to two lower-ranked players when priced as a solid pre-match favourite is rather concerning. Also concerning is that we have to go back to January 2020 to find a tournament which Pliskova has won, and there's potential that the outright market is overvaluing her slightly based on those results in recent tournaments.
Krejcikova one to watch from a value perspective
Cori Gauff 22.021/1: Gauff has shown huge improvement in recent months (she's running at over 103% combined service/return points won in the last six months across all surfaces) but there's still a suspicion that she's rated by the market on potential, as opposed to current ability. Her service numbers, which are lower than most top ten players, look to have some need to improve and of course, at her age, are likely to do so. However, whether that's a short-term process is still debatable, and I'm unconvinced of her being any value at market prices.
Barbora Krejcikova 23.022/1: Another Czech player who is among the market leaders, Krejcikova shocked the tennis world by winning the French Open several months ago as an unseeded player. She's subsequently shown that this was no fluke, or a surface-driven victory, by winning on hard court in Prague, losing a tight match to Barty at Wimbledon on grass and beating Garbine Muguruza last week in Cincinnati. The world number nine has excellent hard court data (107% combined) and looks to be better value than some of the players shorter than her in the outright market currently.
As for the other players in the market - you'll have to wait. I'll be discussing these in detail following Friday's draw, and looking to move forward with our finalised outright selections.
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