Ahead of the first round of the Australian Open, I take a look at the top prospects for the women’s title at the Australian Open. Could it be Karolina Pliskova’s year?
Karolina Pliskova is coming off a strong performance on hard courts at the end of 2018, where she reached three finals after her quarterfinal loss at the US Open, ending with her close loss to Elina Svitolina at the WTA Finals. Her start to 2019, where she defended her title in Brisbane, suggests she could be a major threat at the Australian Open. Pliskova is, in fact, the No. 1 pick to take the title this year according to GIG predictions, which give her an overall chance of 13% to earn her first slam title.
These win predictions are based on GIG player Elo ratings, a rating system that tracks player strength from match to match, adjusting for opponent difficulty, surface, and tour absences due to injury.
The fact that Pliskova is the most likely title winner with little more than a 1 in 8 chance tells us that it is going to be another close contest for Aussie Open women’s title. We can see that with the close forecasts of the No. 2 and 3 top contenders, Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber, with 11% and 7% title chances respectively.
Svitolina is coming off her win of the WTA Finals title, while Kerber, a winner of 3 Majors including the 2016 Australian Open, will have strong slam experience on her side.
The predictions also show that Federer, who is defending back-to-back AO titles, is the second most favoured player to win with an 18% chance being closely trailed by Nadal in the 3rd spot at 15%.
The 4th pick goes to the defending champion, Caroline Wozniacki, who is given a little under a 1 in 20 chance of a back-to-back win. Wozniacki had an up and down 2018 season, but her recent title win in Beijing showed how tough a competitor she can be when at her best.
The low prediction for Serena Williams and the absence of Simona Halep from the top ten both deserve mention. Both players get penalised in GIG’s Elo system because of the long gaps in play they have had in 2018. Halep also drops in our predictions because she landed in one of the toughest quarters of the draw, which I breakdown next.
|Player||Chance of Title Win (%)|
Will the luck of the draw make a difference for the men this year? GIG examined the difficulty of each quarter by seeing how much the win chances of the top seed in each quarter would be helped or hindered by the quarter.
GIG’s analysis shows two quarters that are expected to give their top seeds particular trouble and one quarter that will go far in helping their top seed thru the quarterfinal.
Which is the most favourable quarter? GIG’s analysis shows the 4th quarter is the only one to give a substantial help to its top seed and is expected to add to the top seeds chance of reaching the semifinal by 5 percentage points. That makes Kerber the clear winner of the draw.
The top half, on the other hand, is equally challenging for it’s top seeds, Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka. Halep could have to face both Williams sisters and still need to beat top pick for the title Karolina Pliskova to survive her quarter. Osaka’s draw is made difficult by having the Elina Svitolina, GIG’s second pick of the win, at the other end as well as multiple players in early rounds who are all capable of playing above their ranking on hard court, including Anastasja Sevastova, Qiang Wang, and an unseeded Victoria Azarenka.
|Quarter||Mean Change in Top Seed's Semifinal Chance|
TOP FIRST SLAM
Five of the 8 slam winners since the 2017 Australian Open have been first slam winners. With Pliskova and Svitolina taking the top two spots in the GIG forecasts for the title, GIG is giving that trend a strong chance to continue. In fact, GIG predicts a 2 and 3 chance that a woman will win a maiden slam here in Melbourne.
TOP AUSSIE CONTENDERS
Ashleigh Barty is not only the top contender among the Australian players in the women’s draw, her chance of 3% for the women makes her a viable contender among the field. In fact, Barty is the 10th overall in GIG’s forecasts for the most likely title winner.
Still, with the tight race this year a win is far from certain for any of the competitors. But those odds suggest that Barty is well positioned to make it to the second week, which would make it her best career result at her home slam.