Zhu looking like a value favourite



Big names dominate on opening day

Rather like the men’s tournament, Monday’s matches at Melbourne Park saw big names emerge relatively unscathed from their first round matches. There were straightforward wins for Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Iga Swiatek, Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka, among others although 2016 winner Angelique Kerber exited at the hands of Bernarda Pera.

Ash Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina are some big names scheduled to take to the courts on Tuesday, and the former three are very heavy favourites to progress to round two against opposition ranked outside the top 70.

Zhu looking like a value favourite

There aren’t an abundance of spots which I like on Tuesday’s schedule though, and again, I recommend a cautious approach to round one as I have written about many times. My preferred spot is Lin Zhu, as a slight 1.654/6 favourite over the American qualifier, Whitney Osuigwe.

Osuigwe has struggled to make an impact on the main tour to date, and it appears that she has quite major serve issues when looking at her numbers.

Even in her three qualifiers which she won to make the main draw, she barely held serve 60% of the time, and this is a relatively similar number to her hold percentage at the lower ITF level as well across the last couple of years.

Opponent Zhu has much better numbers at that lower ITF level, and also at the higher WTA Tour, and I’d be surprised if she didn’t make much impact on the Osuigwe serve in this match. Zhu missed most of 2020, not playing after the tour stopped in March, but hasn’t exhibited too bad a level in two defeats this year. Osuigwe was thrashed 6-3 6-0 by Anastasia Potapova last week in the Gippsland Trophy, and I think Zhu can progress here.

Kuznetsova and Muchova also looking likely to progress

At a similar price is Svetlana Kuznetsova for her match with Barbora Strycova, which again I quite like as a value spot. Strycova’s numbers in the last 12-18 months aren’t great at all, and paint a picture of potential long-term decline. The duo are similarly aged but Kuznetsova has a clear edge to me, and I am surprised to see her priced at this level.

Again, at a similar price is Karolina Muchova for her meeting with former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. The Czech 25th seed, Muchova, has far better service numbers – she won around 10% more service points last year – and Ostapenko’s return advantage isn’t enough to negate this.

I think Muchova, who has shown strong future potential, should be shorter here against a player who has struggled following that shock Slam triumph.

Expect breaks of serve in Sorribes Tormo versus Gavrilova

Finally, there are also a couple of very return-orientated clashes on the schedule, with Sara Sorribes Tormo meeting Daria Gavrilova in what has been priced up as a ‘pick-em’ clash. I agree with the market, finding it hard to split the duo, but I wanted to make the point that my model doesn’t rate the chances of service holds highly here – both players have projected hold percentages below 50%, and we could quite conceivably see more breaks than holds here.

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