The two best men and women in tennis at present Novak Djokovic (going for a record equalling sixth Australian title) and Serena Williams (going for her fourth crown) sent out a very strong warning on Thursday that they’ll be without a doubt the overwhelming favourites come the finals this weekend.
Serena Williams already knows her final opponent on Saturday, Angelique Kerber, who is appearing in her first and long overdue Grand Slam final. With all of Serena’s experience at the elite level it’s sure to give her a big edge in terms of the nerves Kerber will be experiencing.
The two have met six times on the WTA all on hard courts, once at slam level in the US Open in their first meeting back in 2007 with Williams winning 6-2 7-5. Kerber won their next encounter at Cincinnati (6-4 6-4) and Serena has won the last four (two at the WTA Championship) all in straight sets.
This encounter looks like it may come down to how well Serena serves, which has been her main strength at this year’s tournament (and many others), as she leads the statistics for this area. However, Kerber leads the tournament statistics for first serve return, which means she may be good enough to apply some pressure in this area. However, Serena is also in the top ten in this area and is sure to inflict a lot of pressure on Kerber's serve, especially her second one, which is one of the weaker on tour.
In summary this is Serena’s title to lose and, with the most games she’s lost in the whole tournament so far being 12 in her first match (the next highest being 5), I expect this to be a straight sets win and most likely Under 19.5 games line. Another interesting bet for this match is The Most Number of Double Faults per player. Kerber has served 14 double faults in five matches so far and resides in the top-10 for this statistic, whereas this has not been an issue for Serena. You can get 5/6 for Kerber to serve more double faults in the match and with the pressure her second serve is going to be under this looks like a realistic outcome.
By the time you read this article Djokovic may well know who his final opponent will be on Sunday. While the statistics of the second seed Andy Murray don’t bode well for his chances of making a fifth final or winning the title this year (discussed in previous articles), there’s also the small matter of the tournament having a history of throwing up surprise winners and finalists. Furthermore, with Milos Raonic standing in the way, this could be one of the times the statistics prove to be right.
From a statistical perspective the omens don’t look great for Murray on this occasion as, not surprisingly, Raonic’s first serve win percentage is head and shoulders above Murray’s at present. However, it is Raonic’s tournament return statistics that impress the most and explain why he’s been able to get to this stage in such impressive fashion.
At the time of compiling this article, he stood fourth in the list for first serve return statistics (Murray second) and sixth for Second Serve Return statistics (Murray fourth). If he can replicate these numbers, it should be an extremely close match. The current head-to-head stands at 3-3, both winning two each on hard courts and Murray won their last encounter on clay at the quarter finals of the Madrid Masters 6-4, 7-5.
The key to this match will come down to how much pressure Murray can inflict on the Raonic serve, which is one of the hardest tasks in tennis right now. Just as importantly will be how well Murray serves himself (especially on second serve) as the more free points he can pick up on it, the more energy he will conserve. Raonic is likely to make mincemeat of the Murray second serve if he gets too many opportunities.
In Murray’s defence, he is one of the toughest competitors and tacticians on the tour right now and it’s certain he is going to relish the challenge of trying to unpick Raonic’s game.