Australian Open Women's Day Two Tips: Fitness question marks over numerous players

There are many more first round matches in prospect in the women's singles at the Australian Open, and plenty to discuss for the day ahead. Dan Weston gives his thoughts...

Gauff the major exit on opening day

Pre-tournament market leaders Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka won in straightforward fashion on day one to go one step closer to their anticipated fourth round clash, and most big names made it through with the exception of Cori Gauff, who exited at the hands of Qiang Wang. Madison Keys won the clash of the day, with a tight 7-6 7-5 win over 2020 champion here Sofia Kenin in a fairly serve-orientated match with few break point chances.

Big names getting their tournaments underway tomorrow include Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, and all are strong favourites to get an opening round win, although Sabalenka is a bigger price for her clash with home wild card Storm Sanders.

Jang capable of edging Kovinic

A lower-profile clash catches the attention from a pre-match value perspective, with Su Jeong Jang facing the very out of form Danka Kovinic. Kovinic, from Montenegro, has had a really tough year on the main tour in 2021 and has really struggled on hard courts in recent years, with very uninspiring data indeed. She has also recently withdrawn from qualifiers in Melbourne several weeks ago.

Now there isn't much to suggest that Jang is an above-average hard courter herself, with her Challenger results being strongest on clay, but those clay performances give her some upside and having qualified, she has some wins here under her belt as well.

In this instance I'm quite happy to keep the player who has picked up good results onside and Jang is 2.02 to get the win.

Raducanu needing to prove fitness

A few other matches are of interest generally too, with some excellent-looking fixtures in prospect. Emma Raducanu is a 1.97 favourite against Sloane Stephens, which in normal circumstances would look a gift line, but Raducanu's comeback from Covid ended up in a 6-0 6-1 thrashing by Elena Rybakina. Stephens, however, hasn't even played a match this season after losing to Ludmilla Samsonova in November, and there's little to see in her 2021 results to suggest she could challenge a fully-fit Raducanu.

Market defensive on Kvitova's chances

After a tough start to the season, Petra Kvitova isn't one of the main contenders in the outright market and the market is, relatively speaking, fairly defensive on her chances against Sorana Cirstea. She's drifted a few ticks and is now trading at 1.60 to get the win, although it's worth noting that Cirstea didn't exactly impress during the second half of 2021 either.

Kerber favourite over Kanepi

Finally, we also see a battle of veteran players with Angelique Kerber meeting Kaia Kanepi. It's Kerber, the 2016 winner here, who is the 1.57 favourite although she hasn't played a single warm-up event in Australia over the last few weeks. Kanepi played several, losing to Ana Konjuh in Melbourne, and looking at hard court data over the last year, her status as underdog to Kerber looks about right to me - although I don't think this is a match where you can assert what will happen with much of a degree of confidence.

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