As with the men's tournament, service hold statistics for the women were similar to average last year. 64.0% of service games were held compared to an average of 62.9%. It's interesting that many women favourites are priced very short for today's opening matches (as they often are in first rounds of Grand Slams) and that's a mistake to me. They don't enjoy the extra sets for class to show in the long run so logically they are much more vulnerable than the men to an early exit. The reason why I don't feel comfortable opposing the likes of Jamie Hampton, Sloane Stephens or Angelique Kerber today is more to do with huge doubts over their opponents than anything else. I'm sure there will be opportunities to lay sub 1.20 prices players with a positive edge this week in the women's tournament.
Whilst I'm on the subject of doubts about players I must say that I can't remember a Grand Slam with so many fitness issues around players. When I was compiling the Player Watchlist I thought I'd be doing it all day...
Laura Robson, Kaia Kanepi, Madison Keys, Nadia Petrova and Lesia Tsurenko have all not played for a while whilst Shuai Peng, Sorana Cirstea, Yaroslava Shvedova, Polona Hercog and Monica Niculescu also retired last time they played. Being careful in the first round definitely appears to be the way forward with the ladies...
Before I go any further it has to be said that only Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka can realistically have any expectations of winning this. Both players stand head and shoulders above all others on hard courts. In 2013, Williams has held 84.0% and broken 49.9% on hard court with Azarenka proving less solid on serve (73.6%) but breaking a huge 59.8% of the time. No other player even comes close to those stats - they are far more dominant than any of the 3 elite men players over their competition.
Williams is available at 1.85 with Azarenka 4.10 currently. After the recent win for Azarenka over Williams, and the similarity of their stats, the value definitely is on the Belarussian.
Looking at back to lay chances, we need one of two things to happen for a big price to significantly shorten. Either one of the two favourites (ideally Williams) to be eliminated, or our player to get at least to the quarter finals and probably the semi finals realistically.
I'm looking at players who are close to full fitness (which eliminates Kaia Kanepi and Venus Williams for a start) with over 110% service hold and opponent break combined in the last 12 months on hard courts to compile a shortlist. This rules out a number of players:-
Sloane Stephens (105.4%) who is a ridiculously short 44 to win the tournament anyway.
Ekaterina Makarova (107.4%)
Sabine Lisicki (102.2%) who doesn't even boast a winning hard court record in this time!
Jelena Jankovic (106.9%)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (99.5%)
Dominika Cibulkova (103.1%)
Sara Errani (109.4%)
Maria Kirilenko (109.4%)
Roberta Vinci (108.4%)
This effectively leaves me a shortlist of Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, Na Li, Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Sam Stosur and Ana Ivanovic as possible back to lay choices.
Kerber is in Serena Williams' quarter so is tough to recommend unless you are willing to trade out before the probable quarter final starts. No doubt she is hugely better value than the over-rated Stephens.
In the second quarter, I much prefer Na Li at 28 over Agnieszka Radwanska at 24. The Chinese player boasts better stats on hard court and is much better against elite players as well so she's a reasonable possibility.
In the weaker third quarter, how can I oppose my starlet Simona Halep? Having recommended her at 16/1 to win last week in New Haven her price has collapsed and I can't see her being any value at 50 on Betfair. I wish I could have seen the future there...However, the poker 'loudmouth' Tony G has now got his own betting company and is offering 92/1 on her currently. I've got no idea of any limits with them or what the company is like but that's clearly a mistake.
In the final quarter, Petra Kvitova, Sam Stosur and Ana Ivanovic can all beat each other but Azarenka is the ultimate pick. The problem is that I can't see her being much shorter than her 4.1 against Williams in the final so effectively the only way you significantly gain is if Williams gets knocked out early.
The women's outrights is a tough conundrum and therefore I like just the one recommended position.
Back to Lay Na Li at 28 (lay if she plays Serena Williams in the semi finals).
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