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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

2022 Australian Open Stats Preview

Trying to predict the winner of any women’s Grand Slam over the last few years has been difficult. There has not 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.

Obviously, the last Grand Slam champion was so unpredictable as to be history making. Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph perhaps defines this current era of women’s tennis more than anything that can be written. It is difficult to fully rule out any member of the draw. This is also testament to the continued growth of the WTA Tour in so much as the depth of quality is now so vast.

Solving the 2022 Australian Open

To this end I have employed the use of statistics and mathematics. By taking different strands of form and displaying them together it is possible to tease out little details that can help to decipher the draw.

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In this case the information displayed is:

  • WTA Ranking
  • ELO Ranking
  • Exchange odds
  • WTA Tour match record – last twelve months
  • Career WTA Tour hard court record
  • Last 10 win/loss ratio
  • Grand Slam career win/loss ratio
  • Last 10 matches win/loss ratio vs Top 10 players

 

The Leading Contenders

Ashleigh Barty is the favorite for the 2022 Australian Open. Let’s not create any bogus jeopardy around that. The Australian dominates the rankings and the odds, and for good reason. She is a two-time Grand Slam champion, although neither of those victories came on hard court. Barty’s most impressive data comes from her excellent 2021 season. This is despite the fact that it was something of a difficult commitment for a person who loves home so much to be constantly on tour for so long. Also, she has the best current form record having won last week and also has won nine of her last ten against fellow top ten players. A difficult player to beat on paper.

Of the other leading contenders, Naomi Osaka obviously has some off-court baggage to carry at the moment but her data is exceptional. She has the best hold of serve numbers in the whole field and also the highest Grand Slam match win percentage in her career. As the defending champion she may well feel some pressure though, none of her four Grand Slam triumphs have been successful defences of her previous titles. Regardless, I think that Osaka is the clearest danger to Barty in this tournament.

2021 Form Provides Interesting Pointers

Looking into the last twelve months, mainly 2021 and the first two weeks of this season, there are a couple of players who deserve to be discussed. Simona Halep had a disrupted campaign but still displayed a level that showed that reports of her decline may be premature. Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur have played a heck of a lot of tennis but both maintained an excellent level despite this. Garbine Muguruza and Barbora Krejcikova collated excellent hold/break ratio numbers albeit through slightly different methods. Muguruza has outstanding return data whereas the Krejcikova serve is the bedrock of her game and the third most effective in the game in 2021.

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Conversely it is easy to pick out who has struggled comparatively to their peers at the top of the game. Sofia Kenin, again in a injury hit season, really struggled. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had an outstanding Roland-Garros but was inconsistent outside of that period. The same applies to Leylah Fernandez outside of her magnificent US Open run. Also, Belinda Bencic would be best advised to work on her return game as that is really holding her back compared to her peers.

Hard Court Queens

The undoubted hard court queen in the data has to be Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian is in the latter part of her career but cannot be ignored in this tournament. Her win% on hard court is sensational over almost 400 matches on the surface. She has broken her opponents practically half the time she received serve over that time too. Certainly a lower seeded player that the higher seeds wouldn’t want to have in their section of the draw.

Emma Raducanu shows up well in the hard court data too, but obviously this is mostly based on her US Open run. She has yet to produce this elsewhere. Another youngster that shows up well off a very small sample size is Clara Tauson, mainly down to a very good break of serve ratio.

However, Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty, and Simona Halep again come to the fore. Osaka has been the queen of the recent hard court Grand Slams, hoovering up four of the last seven played. However, many will be surprised to see that Halep has an excellent career record on hard. 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 quicker surface at the top level, but she has the data that suggests a good run should be expected.

Paula Badosa, Coco Gauff, and Elena Rybakina stand out as players who are comparatively poor on return on hard court. All three are emerging talents though so we can expect this to improve as they develop their games further. The data suggests that Badosa is improving from a low base but Maria Sakkari has the worst win-loss record on hard court across their career. She looks like a long shot for this event.

Important form lines

Aryna Sabalenka, the world’s number two ranked player, hasn’t been mentioned yet. Unfortunately, this isn’t a positive mention. The Belarussian comes in with some poor form. Krejcikova has the same four from the last ten record, except her four all come from this week in Sydney so she is definitely not out-of-form.

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Many players, unsurprisingly, struggle against the elite. Petra Kvitova is the player who has struggled the most recently with only 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 that isn’t the case,  I would certainly rule her out of contention in Melbourne. Amazingly, Emma Raducanu has yet to play a member of the top ten.

In terms of players who have excellent Grand Slam records, it comes as no surprise to see Raducanu and Osaka topping the tree. However, Iga Swiatek is an interesting player to point out. The Polish star is remarkably consistent across the Grand Slam tournaments. However, she is probably similar to Halep in that on this surface she may well find a player too good in the latter stages though.

Conclusions

Deep runs can be expected from Victoria Azarenka, Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, and possibly, Jessica Pegula. The American hasn’t been singled out in the analysis but she is consistent across 2021, good hard court data and impressive numbers against the top 10 players.

However, the data points towards the big two of Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka. If I were backing based purely on the numbers then I would lean towards the Australian. She has the highest win percentage of any player by far in both hard court career and 2021 matches. If we then add in the recent form and matches against the top ten players, she is a convincing favorite. The question marks against her are more circumstantial and mental. Can she handle the pressure in Melbourne?

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