Predicting the AO winners: SF update

Published by Stephanie Kovalchik

Predicting the Australian Open winners: update
Who are the most likely winners of the men’s and women’s finals at the Australian Open? Our experts have their say.

On Day 1 of the Australian Open, the Data Analytics team at Tennis Australia published predictions for the 2016 AO singles champions. Now, with just two rounds left before the trophies are raised on Rod Laver Arena, we can ask how well we did? And who would we pick now that the semifinals have been decided?

Predictions for the Men

There were 10 players who were predicted to have a more than 1% chance of winning the title. The top 3 picks—Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray—are all still in the running. The remaining semifinalist, 13th seed Milos Raonic, was also in our top 10 picks. However, Raonic had the lowest chance of winning the title, making his accomplishments at this year’s Open especially impressive.

Now that each player has 5 more matches under their belt, we can revise their Elo ratings—an overall measure of player strength that considers all of a player’s wins and losses and gives more credit to players who have won against tougher opponents—and determine what their revised ratings suggest about their chance of reaching the final.

Using the same methodology as for our pre-tournament picks, we estimated that both Djokovic and Murray would have an equal edge over their opponent (71% vs 29%), making them each the most likely opponents for the 2016 men’s final.


Match Career matches Pre-Match Elo rating Predicted chance of reaching final
Semifinal 1
Novak Djokovic [1] 842 2518 71%
Roger Federer [3] 1306 2360 29%
Semifinal 2
Andy Murray [2] 722 2303 71%
Milos Raonic [13] 319 2150 29%


If Djokovic and Murray were to face each other in the final, their Elo ratings would increase to 2523 and 2308 respectively, which would give Djokovic a predicted final win of 77% over Murray. This makes Djokovic’s semifinal match against Federer slightly more difficult than a final against Murray.

Predictions for the Women

Three of our top 10 pre-tournament picks for the women’s champion have reached the semifinal: Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Angelique Kerber. Williams was the overwhelming favourite for the title, with a predicted 22nd Grand Slam win of 54%. Compared to Williams, the other women in the top 10 picks all had a similar likelihood of a shot at the title so, even though Kerber and Radwanska were lower down on this list, it isn’t a surprise to find them in the semifinals.

What is a surprise is the success of Johanna Konta, who we predicted had a less than 1% chance of winning the title. Konta, the only unseeded player in the semifinals, was aided by the early exit of Simona Halep and her own first round defeat of Venus Williams.

Considering their win ability going into the tournament and what they have demonstrated to reach the semifinals, the revised Elo ratings for each of the contenders for the women’s title suggest that the women’s matches will be more lopsided than the men’s. In particular, Serena Willams has a predicted chance of nearly 90% of defeating Radwanska. The Kerber-Konta semifinal matchup should be more closely contested but not by a lot, with Kerber having a 77% chance of putting an end to Konta’s Cinderella story.

Match Career matches Pre-Match Elo rating Predicted chance of reaching final
Semifinal 1
Serena Williams [1] 865 2452 88%
  Agnieszka Radwanska [4] 731 2114 12%
Semifinal 2
  Angelique Kerber [7] 718 2116 77%
  Johanna Konta 388 1904 23%


If the semifinals did unfold as predicted, setting up a Williams-Kerber final, the predictions for that matchup would give Williams an 87% chance of a record-breaking Grand Slam victory—making Williams’ semifinal and (probable) final challenges nearly equal.

Despite a tournament of upsets and surprises, by the penultimate round of the Aussie Open our picks have held up fairly well. Still, the semifinal and finals remain. And, though our updated predictions strongly favor the No. 1 on each side of the draw, a title win is within reach of all of the remaining competitors.

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