Forecasting the Women's 2018 Australian Open

A strong pre-AO run and a bit of luck put Elina Svitolina at the top of a tight race for the Australian Open women’s title. Who are the other women with the best chances for the first Major win of 2018?

With Serena Williams delaying her return, the 2018 Australian Open could be a huge opportunity for one of the other WTA stars. With the draw now out, which players can we expect to go far at Melbourne Park?

Just as with the men’s draw, I will use surface- and injury-adjusted Elo ratings to predict how the women’s Australian Open is likely to progress over the next 2 weeks.

Top 8

Of the eight most likely quarterfinalists, only 2 are former Grand Slam winners—Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko— making it very likely that it could be a first slam win for one of the top WTA players. The three women with the best chances of earning that achievement are Elina Svitolina, Simona Halep, and Caroline Wozniacki.

The chance of title win differ by mere percentage points among these three. A very different picture from the men’s side where Federer leads the winners circle by a large margin. This highlights the depth on the women’s tour and the opportunity for one of these players to make a big statement in the coming weeks.

Luck of the Draw

Some might be surprised that Halep doesn’t end up at the top of the list of most likely winners. But for the 2018 Australian Open the edge goes to Svitolina owing to a stronger Elo rating going into the event (2240 vs 2228 for Halep) and an easier draw.

When we look at how the top pick in each quarter would do in each of the women’s quarters, we find that Halep’s quarter would drop their chances by 5 percentage points on average. Svitolina’s quarter (quarter 3), on the other hand is the second easiest draw of the four.

Wozniacki and Ostapenko end up in the easiest quarter of the group, which is why we see Wozniacki with such a high chance of making it to the semifinals. Getting further in the draw, however, will be a fight.

Top Picks for First Round

Two of Australia’s stars, Ash Barty and Sam Stosur, are in the top 5 picks for the first round. Both matches could be tough though Stosur’s is expected to have the bigger test when she takes on Monica Puig. We can also expect the meetings of Kaia Kanepi vs Dominika Cibulkova, Varvara Lepchenko vs Anastasija Sevastova, and Irina Begu vs Ekaterina Makarova to keep fans at the edge of their seat in the first days of the Australian Open.

Player Opponent Player Win Chance Opponent Win Chance
Aryna Sabalenka Ashleigh Barty 38.2 61.8
Kaia Kanepi Dominika Cibulkova 33.0 67.0
Varvara Lepchenko Anastasija Sevastova 33.1 66.9
Irina Begu Ekaterina Makarova 25.5 74.5
Monica Puig Samantha Stosur 49.2 50.8

The data and code for this post can be found here.

Stephanie Kovalchik avatar
About Stephanie Kovalchik
Blog Founder, Senior Data Scientist at the Game Insight Group at Tennis Australia, and researcher at the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University.
Graeme Spence avatar
About Graeme Spence
Data Scientist in the Game Insight Group at Tennis Australia and researcher at the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University.
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