Australian Open Women's Final Tips: Don't write off underdog Brady

The Australian Open women's final takes place on Saturday with Naomi Osaka strong fancied to beat Jennifer Brady but Dan Weston believes the underdog could be a value bet...

Brady and Osaka meet on Saturday in the final

After 128 players started the tournament last Monday, there are just two remaining - Naomi Osaka and Jennifer Brady. We discussed Brady before the tournament as a player to watch slightly away from the top of the match, and she duly converted for us in our quarter-winner outright bet, while Osaka's prowess at the top of the WTA Tour has been in evidence for a few years now.

Brady will need to inflict first hard court, post-lockdown defeat on Osaka

As the bigger name and higher ranked player, it's not a surprise to see Osaka trading as a strong market favourite at a current 1.26, although numbers-wise, I'd actually contend that she looks short-priced at these lines.

Saturday's price on Osaka is shorter than their US Open semi-final in September, where she started around the 1.45 mark and edged a tight three-setter. According to my model, Osaka should be priced around those lines.

If we look at the hard court records of the two players since the tour resumed, Osaka is 20-0 and simply based on this, it's obvious that Brady will have to be the player to inflict Osaka's first hard court defeat since she lost to Cori Gauff in this tournament in round three last year.

Underlying data shows Brady is playing at a very high level

Interestingly though, Brady's underlying hard court data in this sample size isn't much worse than Osaka - Brady is around 2% worse on combined service/return points won yet has lost four times out of the 18 matches she competed in, and only won 0.7% fewer points as well. Despite the win-loss records, Brady's record is pretty similar to Osaka on hard court in recent months.

This is also the case for the duo so far in this tournament across their six wins, with similar games won percentage around the 67% mark, and points won percentages around 57%. Numbers-wise, at least, there doesn't appear to be a huge difference between the two players on hard court right now.

What we don't know, of course, is how Brady will cope in her first Grand Slam final. Will she be nervous and how will that affect her performance level? That's an intangible.

Osaka has competed in three Grand Slam finals and won all three, albeit the latter two against Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova were very competitive.

Game handicap an option in likely serve-orientated match

I'm expecting a serve-orientated match, and the game handicap line is set at +4.5 games for Brady. She covered this line with ease in their US Open meeting in September, and she also did on clay in Charleston in 2018 against Osaka - despite being an unspectacular clay-courter. The game handicap market is still forming on the Exchange but we should get around 2.10 as the market settles on this outcome, and this is the final recommendation of our women's tournament at the Australian Open this year.

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