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Apr 26, 2017
Apr 26, 2017

Is Sharapova a value bet after her ban?

How fast can Sharapova improve her ranking?

Sharapova’s pre-ban statistics vs. WTA Top 10

What to look at before betting on Sharapova

Is Sharapova a value bet after her ban?

Credit: Getty Images

After a year’s absence from the WTA Tour, Maria Sharapova returns in Stuttgart on April 26. What is the impact of her rejoining the tour? How well can she do after a year away? Dan Weston looks at the current WTA statistics to determine whether she is still a value bet. Read on to find out. 

There has been plenty of speculation in the media, and on social media, regarding whether Maria Sharapova’s ban following testing positive for Meldonium. Some believe it was justified, others too short, or too long. In the run-up to her return in Stuttgart, on April 26, there will be even more discussion about this, and her entry as a wild card in the Stuttgart event has even proven controversial in itself.

At this point, it is worth mentioning that Sharapova is only able to play this event with a Wednesday first-round match following the date of the ban expiring, so it is fair to assume that the tournament organisers have done everything in their power to ensure she is able to attend the event.

It is highly unlikely that the tournament organisers at Stuttgart will be the only ones keen to offer a wild card to Sharapova. As she is currently unranked, Sharapova will require these wild cards to compete in events, and given the commercial benefits of her appearances, it would take a brave tournament director to deny her one. 

Various players have expressed differing points of view on awarding Sharapova wild cards, but there is nothing to prevent events from doing this currently. Therefore, it should be expected that this situation will continue until Sharapova regains a ranking high enough to allow direct entries.

How fast can Sharapova improve her ranking?

Probably the best comparisons to make, in terms of a time scale for this happening, would be ATP players Viktor Troicki and Juan Martin Del Potro. Both lost rankings following over a year away from the tour with a ban and injury respectively, and it took Troicki just over six months to break the top 50 while Del Potro, with a less demanding schedule, needed almost an entire year to do so.

Sharapova’s pre-ban numbers and Serena Williams’ current level are head and shoulders above the rest of the WTA overall.

While both of these players are not quite at the same level that Sharapova was in the WTA, it provides some interesting context as to the time-scale that Sharapova faces to improve her ranking. Certainly, it would be quite surprising if she was able to break the top ten by the end of 2017, given that around 4,000 ranking points will be required to do so.

The major issue Sharapova will face in this quest is the likelihood that she will draw top 10 players early in events, as she will be unseeded as a wild card. Draws for the Russian will be much tougher than if she was a top player (who would have the added benefit of a first-round bye in many events), and we have seen with both Del Potro and Azarenka the effect of this - both have received many brutal draws during their previous comebacks to the tour.

However, one large positive for Sharapova is the current mediocre state of the WTA. At this point in time, it is fair to suggest that most players, on any given day, can beat each other. The days of Serena Williams, Azarenka and Sharapova dominating the field on a regular basis have gone, with Azarenka again missing from the tour, this time following her pregnancy, while Williams is declining from her utterly dominant level, and is injury-prone.

The current state of the WTA is illustrated in the table below, with Sharapova’s level pre-ban statistics compared to the current 12 month data of the WTA top 10:

Key statistics: Sharapova vs. WTA Top 10

Key statistics: Sharapova vs. WTA Top 10

Player

Rank

12 Month Hold
%

12 Month Break
%

Combined
%

Break Deficit Recovery %
(July 2014 onwards)

Dominant Break Deficit Recovery %
(July 2014 onwards)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Sharapova

 

79.9

42.1

122.0

80.00

83.33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angelique Kerber

1

70.5

42.0

112.5

57.72

45.61

Serena Williams

2

84.4

38.0

122.4

76.56

76.19

Karolina Pliskova

3

76.3

38.2

114.5

51.28

52.63

Dominika Cibulkova

4

66.1

41.8

107.9

59.35

59.32

Simona Halep

5

70.2

47.8

118.0

52.00

60.42

Garbine Muguruza

6

71.9

39.5

111.4

54.21

50.00

Johanna Konta

7

78.8

38.2

117.0

48.39

38.24

Agnieszka Radwanska

8

68.2

47.9

116.1

62.73

53.70

Svetlana Kuznetsova

9

69.1

41.4

110.5

54.72

55.10

Venus Williams

10

67.8

40.1

107.9

63.22

58.33

Immediately it is apparent that Sharapova’s level pre-ban is almost identical to Serena Williams’ data currently, and Sharapova’s numbers are better than all of the other WTA top 10 players by at least 4% combined hold/break percentage. No other player with the exception of this duo can boast a combined percentage in excess than 120% - typically the percentage required to be elite level.

Can Sharapova replicate her success?

Sharapova would have at least a 10% edge over the weaker members of the top 10, and assuming that she can recover her previous level, this difference would make her a heavy favourite to beat these rivals in head-to-head matches.

The break deficit recovery data is also of great interest. Sharapova’s pre-ban numbers and Serena Williams’ current level are head and shoulders above the rest of the WTA in this respect overall. Furthermore, from the dominant break deficit perspective (situations where they need to recover a break deficit if they are to avoid defeat) they have significantly better percentages than the rest of the top 10.

From a betting perspective, it is difficult to price up Sharapova’s first matches upon her return. We are likely to see significant odds fluctuations as bettors will be assessing the data from her opening matches. If she can replicate her previous numbers in what is a relatively weak WTA Tour currently, her opening odds are likely to be a good value for money and her returning to the upper echelons of the women’s game will be guaranteed.

Now that you know how to assess if Sharapova is a value bet, don't postpone making money until her return. The ATP Challenger Sophia Antipolis and ATP Challenger Panama City are under way. Get unbeatable tennis odds online only at Pinnacle. 

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As an analyst and trader specialising in tennis, Dan uses statistical analysis to research and write about tennis pre-match and in-play betting markets. With a degree in Accounting & Finance (BA), Dan devised his own pre-match pricing model and writes daily match previews and betting articles for his website, www.tennisratings.co.uk.

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