Trying to predict the winner of a women’s Grand Slam over the past few years has been difficult. There hasn’t been a repeat winner in a calendar year since 2016 and since that year only Simona Halep, Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka have won more than one.
Clearly, the last Grand Slam champion was so unpredictable that he made history. Emma Raducanu’s triumph at the US Open perhaps defines this current era of women’s tennis more than anything that can be written. It is difficult to completely exclude a member from the draw. It is also a testament to the continued growth of the WTA Tour as the depth of quality is now so vast.
Solving the Australian Open 2022
For this purpose I have employed the use of statistics and mathematics. By taking different shaped strands and displaying them together, it is possible to unravel small details that can help decipher the design.
In this case, the information displayed is:
- WTA Ranking
- ELO rating
- Trading odds
- WTA Tour match record – last twelve months
- WTA Tour hard court record
- Report of the last 10 wins/losses
- Grand Slam career win/loss ratio
- Win/loss ratio of the last 10 games against the top 10 players
The main contenders
Ashleigh Barty is the favorite for Australian Open 2022. Let’s not create false peril around that. The Aussie dominates the rankings and ratings, and for good reason. She is a two-time Grand Slam champion, although none of those victories have come on a hard court. Barty’s most impressive data comes from his excellent 2021 season. This despite the fact that it was something of a tough commitment for someone who loves his home so much to be constantly on tour for so long. Also, she has the best current form record after winning last week and has also won nine of her last ten against other top ten players. A tough player to beat on paper.
Of the other main contenders, Naomi Osaka obviously has some off-court baggage to carry at the moment, but her data is exceptional. She has the best number of serves in the entire field and also the highest Grand Slam match winning percentage of her career. As defending champion she may well be feeling some pressure, none of her four Grand Slam triumphs have been a successful defense of her previous titles. Either way, I think Osaka is the most obvious danger to Barty in this tournament.
The 2021 form provides some interesting insights
Looking at the last twelve months, mainly 2021 and the first two weeks of this season, there are a few players worth discussing. Simona Halep had a troubled campaign but still posted a level that showed reports of her decline may have been premature. Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur played a lot of tennis but still maintained an excellent level. Garbine Muguruza and Barbora Krejcikova put together excellent numbers of hold/break reports, albeit by slightly different methods. Muguruza has outstanding return data while Krejcikova’s serve is the bedrock of her game and the third most efficient in the game in 2021.
Conversely, it’s easy to determine who struggled against their peers at the top of the game. Sofia Kenin, again in an injury season, really struggled. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had an exceptional Roland-Garros but was inconsistent outside of this period. The same goes for Leylah Fernandez apart from her magnificent run at the US Open. Also, Belinda Bencic would be better advised to work on her comeback match as it really holds her back against her peers.
Hard Court Queens
The undisputed queen of the hard court in the data has to be Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian is in the latter part of his career but cannot be ignored in this tournament. His hard court winning percentage is sensational over nearly 400 surface games. She smashed opponents nearly half of the time she received a serve during that span as well. Certainly a player ranked lower than the top ranked would not want to have in their section of the draw.
Emma Raducanu also shows up well in the hard court data, but that’s obviously mostly based on her run at the US Open. She hasn’t produced that elsewhere yet. Clara Tauson is another youngster who stands out well from a very small sample, mainly thanks to a very good service break ratio.
However, Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep return to the fore. Osaka has been the queen of recent hard-court Grand Slams, winning four of the last seven games played. However, many will be surprised to see that Halep has an excellent career record on hard court. The Romanian is known as a clay-court specialist but has been an elite hard-court performer throughout her career. Halep often finds a player too good on the surface faster at the highest level, but she has the data to suggest a good run should be expected.
Paula Badosa, Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina stand out as relatively poor players on hard court return. All three are emerging talents, so we can expect that to improve as they develop their games. The data suggests Badosa is improving from a weak base, but Maria Sakkari has the worst hard-court win-loss record in her career. She looks like a long shot for this event.
Important form lines
Aryna Sabalenka, the second player in the world, has not yet been mentioned. Unfortunately, this is not a positive mention. The Belarusian arrives with poor form. Krejcikova has the same four of the last ten records, except her four all come from this week in Sydney, so she’s definitely not out of shape.
Many players, unsurprisingly, struggle against the elite. Petra Kvitova is the player who has struggled the most recently with just two wins in her last ten. I would be moved to suggest that Kvitova’s time at the top of the game may be over. Even if not, I would definitely rule him out of competition in Melbourne. Surprisingly, Emma Raducanu has yet to play a top ten member.
In terms of players who have excellent Grand Slam records, it’s no surprise to see Raducanu and Osaka at the top of the tree. However, Iga Swiatek is an interesting player to highlight. The Polish star is remarkably consistent in Grand Slam tournaments. However, she is probably similar to Halep in that on this surface she might just find a player who is too good in the later stages.
We can expect deep runs from Victoria Azarenka, Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and possibly Jessica Pegula. The American wasn’t singled out in the analysis but she’s been consistent throughout 2021, good data on hard courts and impressive numbers against the top 10 players.
However, the data points to the big two of Ashley Barty and Naomi Osaka. If I was backing based on numbers alone, I’d go for the Aussie. She has by far the highest winning percentage of any player in hard court and 2021 career matches. Then add in recent form and matches against the top ten players, she is a compelling favorite. . The question marks against her are more circumstantial and mental. Will she be able to handle the pressure in Melbourne?