Australian Open Women's Semi-Final Tips: Swiatek can swoop into the final

With just four players remaining in the tournament, the women's singles semi-finals take place at the Australian Open on Thursday. Dan Weston returns to preview the two matches...

Victories for Danielle Collins and our outright pickIga Swiatek, on Wednesday helped them join Tuesday winners Ash Barty and Madison Keys as the four players still in contention to lift the Australian Open trophy on Saturday. Collins ended the journey of Alize Cornet in straight sets to ease into the semi-finals, while Swiatek had to battle against Kaia Kanepi to extend the Estonian veteran's losing streak in Grand Slam quarter-final matches - Swiatek won just five more points in the entire match.

First up on Thursday in the semi-finals are the Tuesday winners, Barty and Keys, and it's unsurprising to see the world number one and home favourite, Barty, chalked up as the 1.20 market favourite.

This price on Barty is much shorter than in any of their previous three meetings, although the critical context for those is that Barty wasn't ranked inside the top five in any of them at the time, and now she's dominant world number one and has got to this stage without dropping a single set.

In fact, Barty has played nine matches this season and has lost only one single set, against Cori Gauff in her season opener in Adelaide, and having faced five players in and around the top 20.

Considering this, the signs look pretty ominous for Keys, despite her strong start to 2022 too.

On hard court in the last 12 months, Barty has won over 6% more service points - despite Keys being a strong server herself - and around 1% more on return, so all the numbers are pointing to the market being totally realistic in pricing up Barty as a strong favourite to make Saturday's final.

Even isolating for 2022 data only, where Keys has got back to her previous levels, Barty still has around a 4% combined service/return points won edge, and the Australian has held serve almost 90% of the time this year - truly incredible numbers. No value here on either side.

I thought the market might react to the nature of the two quarter-finals today, won by Collins and Swiatek, for their semi-final meeting tomorrow. Obviously, as discussed previously, Collins won pretty easily and Swiatek didn't, and often in these situations, long term data will indicate pre-match value on the player who had to fight to make it through, even though essentially both players have lost two sets apiece in total, en route to this stage.

However, I think the market has this about right making Swiatek the 4/6 favourite. She has around a 1% edge on each of service and return points won on hard court in the last 12 months, and my model broadly agrees with the market. Swiatek has drifted a bit from opening lines, and if that continues, anything in excess of 1.85 looks like some actionable value.

We also have the pre-tournament outright position on Swiatek to consider. There's an opportunity to at least part-hedge, if desired, although I think she's pretty justified in being the favourite to progress. However, of course, we know that (assuming they both win tomorrow), Barty will be a big challenge for the Pole to overcome in the final.

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