Australian Open Women’s Day Six: Kanepi v Vekic

Favourites dominate on day five

We managed to pick up a winner on day five with Fiona Ferro covering the game handicap in defeat to Iga Swiatek, and after a tough start we are starting to make a little progress in the women’s event.

All eight favourites won on Friday with seven of them doing so in straight sets, but there aren’t quite as many heavy favourites on Saturday as the third round continues.

The likes of Elina Svitolina, Ash Barty, Elise Mertens and our outright pick, Jennifer Brady, are among those who the market considers very likely to win tomorrow, although both Barty and Svitolina look a little short against very competent opposition.

Alexandrova capable of testing Barty

Ekaterina Alexandrova has impressed this season and could well give home favourite Barty a tough time on Saturday. The Russian is 7-2 this year and her losses were close matches against strong opposition, and she’s already beaten both Simona Halep and Iga Swiatek this season already. Barty is 1.384/11 to get the win and it will be interesting to see Alexandrova’s level here.

Vekic looking a little too big for Kanepi clash

However, my pick for tomorrow is still rather tentative and it’s another underdog, with Donna Vekic looking a little big at 2.829/5 for her clash with Kaia Kanepi. 18 months ago at the US Open, Vekic was around a 1.501/2 favourite in her win against the Estonian, and while Vekic’s level post-lockdown hasn’t been great, she impressed against Nadia Podoroska in round two – surprisingly beating the improving Argentinian for the loss of just four games and winning 20% more points in the match – which is a positive.

I think that if these two met in round one of a warm-up tournament last week, the prices would be different and there’s arguably a little recency bias attached towards Kanepi’s recent performance level, which has admittedly been good. Even though the duo have contrasting records since the tour resumed (from a win-loss perspective), there’s only around a 4% combined difference in service/return points won and Vekic has grossly underperformed on key points on her serve, which is something that should mean-revert positively over time.

It’s not a confident lean, but Vekic at that underdog price is tomorrow’s play.

Serve-orientated battle likely between Muchova and Pliskova

In other action, I’d be surprised if Jessica Pegula was defeated by Kristina Mladenovic, while I’m very much looking forward to the all-Czech encounter between Karolina Muchova and Karolina Pliskova. Both players are very strong servers so it should be a tight match with few chances, and projected hold percentages according to my model for both players are in the 80%s, which is very rare for a match on the WTA Tour.


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