The final of the women’s singles at the 2017 Australian Open is set for Saturday, with the Williams sisters facing each other in the championship match.
We managed to find a good value winner on Friday in Melbourne with the opening set of the men’s semi final between Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov being decided in fewer than 9.5 games at 2.40.
It’s the turn of the ladies on Saturday to take centre stage and we’ve got two players more than familiar with being the star attraction on Rod Laver Arena at 19:30 local time (08:30 UK) to fight for the title.
Serena Williams vs Venus Williams
We’re partying like it’s 1998 here at the Australian Open this year, with that being the date of the first career clash between the Williams sisters, which was in Melbourne.
Fast forward to 2017 and meeting number 27 will also take place at Melbourne Park and it’s for the title – their first clash in a major final since Wimbledon 2009.
Indeed, that Wimbledon final (won by Serena) was the last time that Venus was favourite against her sister and the elder sister has only beaten the younger once since 2009.
It could certainly be argued that Venus has been rather fortunate to reach her first Slam final since that Wimbledon loss to Serena, facing a highest-ranked opponent of world number 27 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
That was the section of the draw that I plumped for Elina Svitolina in, but the Ukrainian was beaten by Pavlyuchenkova, so it’s another all-Williams clash and these are notoriously tough to call (as if we haven’t had enough of those this week).
The last time the sisters clashed across the net was at the 2015 US Open quarter finals and Serena won that in three up and down sets 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 and we’re not going to pay the bills backing Serena at 1.18, so a different wager appeals to me in this most unique of contests.
Since May 2002 matches between this pair have featured at least one tie break on no fewer than 11 of the 19 occasions they’ve clashed and purely on that stat 3.75 about a tie break looks good value.
Serena’s tie breaks per set ratio is low at 0.11 over the last year and for her career as a whole on all surfaces it’s very low at 0.08, but in matches against Venus it leaps up to 0.22.
Venus has either taken at least a set or forced Serena to a tie break in 15 of their last 17 meetings, so it makes sense to be backing either tie break played or Venus to win a set at around the 2.32 mark.
Form-wise, Serena played pretty well against an injured Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the semi finals and it would have been more interesting to see her face Karolina Pliskova, but the Czech had her injury issues too this week and was beaten by Lucic-Baroni.
Serena did power past the challenge of many people’s fancy for the title, Jo Konta, in good style but she hasn’t been vintage Serena this fortnight, with a struggle against Barbora Strycova one example of a patchy performance.
Venus, meanwhile, has been rather in and out on serve in recent matches, with some weak serving coming from her racquet until the semi final against Coco Vandeweghe, where the veteran American was much more effective from the service line.
Obviously, serving well is vital to Venus’ chances, but looking at the service hold percentages of the pair in their last 14 matches against each other it works out exactly the same for both ladies at 72.2%.
It seems perhaps fitting that Serena breaks the record of Open Era Grand Slam singles titles that she currently shares with Steffi Graf in a match against her sister and that will probably be the outcome.
Serena does say though that her sister is her “toughest opponent” and the way their clashes have gone over the years suggests some good value can be found in backing a tie break.
1 point win over 0.5 tie breaks at 3.75