Australian Open Women's Singles Day One: Minnen to get revenge over Sasnovich
We have 32 matches scheduled from the top half of the women's draw at the Australian Open, and back to discuss his thoughts is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...
Retiring Wozniacki among big names in action
While the men's singles event starts with the bottom half of the draw, we have top half action on the women's side, and this features a number of big names including Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys and Ashleigh Barty as we get the tournament underway.
As is usually the case with big names, they start as heavy favourites for their openers, although of this quintet, I think Wozniacki and Osaka look the most vulnerable to an upset.
The Dane, Wozniacki, is playing the last tournament of her career and her hard court numbers have taken a bit of a beating over the last year. While opponent Kristie Ahn hasn't ever made a huge impact on the WTA Tour - she's just about breaking the top 100 at the age of 27 - Wozniacki looks short at1.18. Osaka is [1.14] against an improving opponent in the 21 year old Czech, Marie Bouzkova, who is on the cusp of breaking into the top 50 for the first time and who reached the semi-final of the Toronto Masters, even taking a set off Serena Williams in that semi-final.
However, as is often the case, there looks to be slightly more value in looking at some of the lower-profile matches, and I've found a couple which particularly catch my eye.
Minnen value to get revenge on Sasnovich
In the first, Gretje Minnen looks some value as an underdogat 2.36 against Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The Belgian, Minnen, has qualified to be here - in truth, against a gift set of opponents in qualifying - but at 22 years of age is on a nice upward curve. Having qualified also last week in Auckland, she lost in her opener in straight sets against Julia Goerges - no disgrace on a quick hard court - and prior to that tournament, actually met Sasnovich in the semi-final in the Limoges Challenger event in December.
That day, Minnen lost 6-2 2-6 2-6 but was a woeful 2/10 on break points, and actually had more break point chances than Sasnovich, who has really struggled of late in main tour matches, going 4-16 from Rome onwards in May and my model suggests Minnen should be a slight favourite here and she is our recommendation.
Badosa with potential against clay-courter Larsson
Another that I quite like is Paula Badosa as a slight underdog at2.16 against Johanna Larsson, but there's some concerns to me in several areas. Badosa had some fitness issues at the end of last season - retiring in an ITF event in Hammatsu, Japan, while it's also worth noting that her ITF data is somewhat padded by playing against a lot of very low level opposition indoors at the end of last year.
However, it's also prudent to make the point that the 31 year old Larsson has never particularly impressed statistically on hard court in her career - she's more of a clay courter - and perhaps the market is over-reacting to her winning three qualifying matches as an underdog in straight sets.
Zhang a solid favourite over Stephens
In other matches, Alison Riske looks a little shortat 1.46 against solid opposition in Yafan Wang, while I'm interested in seeing how Sloane Stephens fares in her clash with Shuai Zhang. Looking at Stephens' hard court data over the last 12 months, it's difficult to say it's been anything other than pretty mediocre - particularly on serve - but the market generally remains cautious on her given the higher levels that she has previously shown. However, Zhang at1.68 looks pretty big if we are looking at that 12 month data.
Zidansek vulnerable against Han
Finally, I also think that given her hard court record, Tamara Zidansek is far too short at1.45 against the Korean wild card, Na-Lae Han. Zidansek has impressed much more on clay, and if Han was in a little better form, I'd be much keener here. However, as she's stepped up in opposition quality, she's not been able to maintain the winning streak that she managed in some fairly low-level ITF events in the second quarter of 2019.