WTA Australian Open Pre-Draw: Serena still the one to beat but there is value at bigger prices

With the Australian Open starting next Monday at Melbourne Park, our tennis columnist Dan Weston, returns with his pre-draw thoughts on the market...

Plethora of contenders for women's singles glory

While the men's event is generally a closed shop among elite players, the women's tournament is - as is usually the case - rather more open, with a plethora of contenders. A glimpse at the Exchange market odds gives plenty of insight into this, with there being 13 players priced at 50.00 or below at the time of writing, and a further 11 available between 50.00 and 100.00. Naturally, this covers the majority of the top 20.

Serena still the best player on tour

However, while the tournament is expected to be rather competitive, we still do have a fairly strong tournament favourite in Serena Williams. Despite a perhaps more limited schedule than in her younger years, Williams at the age of 38 is still the best player on tour statistically (as we will see below) and deserves her status as the 5.40 market leader. She also comes into the tournament having won the warm-up event in Auckland last week.
We can see here that, when looking at 12 month hard court data in the table below, Serena still holds a considerable advantage over the rest of the field - greater than 5% based on combined service/return points won percentage:-
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Stats give interesting insight to the main contenders

It is also apparent that there is very little difference statistically, when looking at this metric, across the vast majority of those players priced at around 100.00 or below, with the majority falling between the 103%-107% bracket - again giving weight to the prediction that the tournament will be extremely open and competitive.
Even prior to the draw, it's probable that this table will demonstrate which players I'll be keen to swerve in the post-draw preview with regards to outright options. Certainly those towards the bottom of the list, and those who aren't performing at their best level across the last six months, will be tough to recommend from a statistical standpoint, so what I thought I'd do here is highlight three players who are currently trading at prices of 50.00 or greater who I think can offer some long-shot potential prior to the draw.

Vondrousova, Muchova and Mertens players to watch

Marketa Vondrousova 75.00 - The Czech left-hander is fourth on tour for 12 month hard court data, and while she ended her 2019 season at the start of July, she has destroyed her opposition so far this week in Adelaide, dropping just four games across two matches. She also has a strong record against top 20 opposition, so has demonstrated a potential higher gear as opponent quality increases.
Karolina Muchova 90.00 - The serve-orientated Muchova goes into this event perhaps a little light on warm-up matches, having only played once this year, but was one of the most improved players on the WTA Tour in the second half of 2019, reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, and winning a title in Seoul.
Elise Mertens 120.00 - Another improving player across the last few months is Mertens, whose six-month data compares extremely well to the main contenders for the title. Her losses during this period have come against high level opposition in usually tight matches - often in three sets - while she's generally won easily when priced as a solid favourite as has been the case this week so far in Hobart.
Much will depend on Thursday's draw, however, but hopefully this piece will give you some insight into the relative statistical merits of the main contenders for the women's singles title, in advance of my post-draw preview over the weekend where I'll finalise my outright considerations.

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