The third Grand Slam of 2021 is Wimbledon, which commences on Monday at SW19. In advance of Friday's draw, Dan Weston gives his thoughts on the potential contenders for the ladies title...
"However, some players at bigger prices who fall into this bracket include Karolina Muchova 50.049/1, Amanda Anisimova 95.094/1 and Maria Sakkari 42.041/1, while a couple of 'second-tier' players who show up well from this analysis, and have strong historical grass data are Garbine Muguruza 16.5 and Petra Kvitova 17.016/1."
Competitive outright market as usual for women's event
After a quick couple of weeks of warm-up events, we are back into another two week Grand Slam, as the tours continue apace throughout the European summer. The grass courts of Wimbledon beckon, and as usual for a women's Grand Slam tournament, there is an extremely competitive-looking outright market.
Before looking at the outright prices, however, I want to have a brief discussion on the likely conditions over the next two weeks. In both the women's and the men's tournaments, historical data suggests that conditions will be medium-slow for grass, with aces per game and service points won less than the three-year surface average figures. However, it's worth making the point that these are still quicker conditions than the average hard court, and completely different to the average clay court. Furthermore, until the last week or so, the weather in England has been dry and warm for the time of the year, which could also have some influence on court speed.
Williams marginally leading the outright market
Leading the outright market - just - is Serena Williams, currently trading at 8.27/1. She edges Ash Barty 8.88/1 as the only other player in single-digit pricing, while Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova are all available between 14.013/1 and 17.016/1, in the next tier of players.
Difficult to ascertain who is likely to be pre-tournament value
Predicting who is going to be value in the outright market in advance of the tournament is a pretty tricky process. There were no grass tournaments last season and just a smattering of events this year, so we have no real usable grass data to assess the likely level of players. We can't use longer-term grass data for many players, as many players will have improved or declined during the last two years and so longer-term grass data won't reflect those changes.
What I have done to help people work out which players come into the event playing at a decent level and in at least slightly quicker conditions, is to create a chart (below) which shows the 2021 hard/indoor hard combined data for each of the main contenders for the women's title:-
With the intersecting lines showing the WTA Tour mean figures on those surfaces this year, we can see that there are 13 players who are in the top-right corner, with above-average serve and return data - it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see the winner come from that group of players.
Williams market edge looking justified
Players with a strong serve are likely to be more rewarded on grass so trying to find some value players from that group of 13 players makes a lot of sense. Two further filters which we can put into play would be strong longer-term grass data (which would have more value knowing these players have some strong hard court numbers going into the tournament, and including young players who may not have much evidence of grass court success but being due to a small surface sample of matches which is unlikely to have captured their more recent improvement.
Based on these chart at least, the market has got the top two - Williams and Barty - the right way around. Serena's numbers this year might be a surprise to some people, but she looks like a fair favourite here.
Five to follow in advance of tomorrow's draw
However, some players at bigger prices in the outright market who fall into this bracket include Karolina Muchova 50.049/1, Amanda Anisimova 95.094/1 and Maria Sakkari 42.041/1, while a couple of 'second-tier' players who show up well from this analysis, and have strong historical grass data are Garbine Muguruza 16.5 and Petra Kvitova 17.016/1.
These five players in particular look well-worth following in tomorrow's draw. If they can get through a kind opening two or three rounds, in a tournament where many players are capable of beating each other, it would be likely that their odds will markedly shorten by that stage.
I'll be returning over the weekend to discuss the draw in depth and finalise our outright selections in advance of Wimbledon 2021.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
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