Welcome to my preview and betting tips for the Men’s draw of the 2018 US Open Tennis Championship.
Qualifying certainly threw up a lot of unpredictable results, so will we be seeing the same in the main draw over the next fortnight? It is great to see so many of the top players fit and participating in the tournament, with a few ranked lower than usual, causing some commotion in some sections of the draw, and opening up opportunities for other players. It is the first time in a while that we have Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka and Del Potro all in contention.
Can anyone bridge the gap to Federer, Nadal and Djokovic? Will one of the NextGen team put their hand up and make a name for himself on the big stage? Only time will tell.
Below you will find that my preview is split into 8 sections. I feel this is the best way to approach looking at quarters, particularly when there is a heavy favourite within the group (as it helps highlight where their may be value on a bigger price for a player that wouldn’t encounter the favourite until later in the quarter).
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Main players included: Nadal, Khachanov, Sock, Edmund
Unseeded surprise packets: Nil
I actually wanted to take a look at the odds for the whole quarter before I saw where each player fell within the section. On form, I was taken aback to see Khachanov as $20+ to win the quarter, but a potential 3rd round clash with Nadal doesn’t help his cause. On form I would put him as a good chance of beating the other seeded players in this section, and the quarter, however it may be more worthwhile seeing how he is playing in what should be straightforward round 1 and 2 matches and then assessing the potential play against Nadal in some capacity when the time comes.
Edmund just hasn’t quite shown enough for me over the last couple of months. He has struggled a bit with the finishing touches on his game since Wimbledon, and some of that can be put down to his struggles with tonsillitis, barely being able to practice for periods after the grass season wrapped up.
Jack Sock? Not sure anyone can select him on his form this year. Has faded out at times in the best of 3 sets arena, so I am not sure how he is going to fare in best of 5 sets in these conditions.
No real surprise packets here, unless a player brings their absolute best form and maintains that level. Considering they aren’t seeded, history would suggest that those players are unable to maintain that level. Players include Basilashvili, Muller and Pospisil. I will pass on those, although may select them if the correct match-up arises.
The main name here is Nadal, and with the courts playing slow through qualifying, in a similar fashion to last year where he claimed the title. I think if Nadal brings his best tennis, and one has to assume that he will as he is stepping on court, then his biggest worries lie in the other half of the draw. Unless a player like Khachanov plays lights-out tennis, which is harder to sustain over the best of 5 sets than it is the best of 3 sets the rest of the year, then Rafa looks good to come out of this section.
Main players included: Thiem, Bautista-Agut, Shapovalov, Anderson
Unseeded surprise packets: Rublev, Querrey, Johnson
Bit of a funny little section here, but the fact that all of these guys get to avoid Nadal until a potential quarter final suggests why the 2nd/3rd/4th favourites to win this quarter come from this section. That being said, it is a bit of a lottery because a lot of the big names aren’t exactly in a great deal of form.
Last year’s finalist Kevin Anderson is the first one to keep an eye on this fortnight. When he plays with confidence, like he has at most Grand Slams this year, his top tennis can match it with the absolute best. Not many can say they have gone the distance with Roger Federer on Centre Court at Wimbledon and come out on top the way that he did last month, however the transition back to the hardcourt hasn’t gone as smoothly as I had expected for him. He struggled in his first match against Donskoy, before overcoming Ivashka and Dimitrov. He then found himself losing to Tsitsipas from a commanding position, nearly blew a 6-1 TB lead against Chardy (won 8-6), and then lost to Goffin 2-6 4-6. I think the odds on offer for him are a touch low for my liking, in what looks to be an open draw for whoever turns up and plays their best.
It is hard to gauge Roberto-Bautista Agut purely because he hasn’t been on the court recently. A few months ago he sadly lost his mother, and he hasn’t played on court for a month now. In fact he has played one tournament since he retired in Halle in late June, where he made the final in Gstaad on clay. His best tennis is right up there with the top players in the game, and he needs to be respected in this section.
Dom Thiem is a hard one to catch. On one hand you watch his best tennis and cannot help but be amazed with what he can do on the tennis court. On the other hand, his decision making under fatigue, which occurs a lot due to his busy scheduling at times, leads to some poor shot selection and some losses that he perhaps shouldn’t endure. Thiem has had an up and down run with injury, however looking at the information coming out of his camp, and Thiem’s mouth, he looks to be implying that although he hasn’t spent as much time on the practice court, he is ready to go physically for what he calls his “favourite slam” – something that surprises myself and I am sure many others. I think Thiem is going to pop up as good value early in the Slam, however as the opponents become more difficult, he could be found wanting here with less match practice.
Shapovalov will fall into the category of one of the great unknowns leading into this tournament. His best tennis is absolutely blistering, I just don’t know if I can trust him to maintain that level of effort across the best of 5 sets for enough matches to make a Semi Final push here and get out of this quarter. If he does, my opinion of him will go through the roof.
Of the others, you have to respect Rublev, Querrey and Johnson as opponents, however with Rublev still on the comeback trail, fitness may be a worry. The other two are probably undone by the speed of the courts, as they may find it a bit more difficult to hold serve consistently against better returners of serve.
Main players included: Del Potro, Coric, Tsitsipas, Verdasco
Unseeded surprise packets: Murray, Medvedev
Quite the loaded section here, and one I don’t think I want to get involved in for a few reasons.
The first is the fitness and form of Del Potro. A former champion here, Del Potro hasn’t had the best start to the hardcourt swing, and I don’t think there is any value in his price. To be honest, he even looks too short in round one against Donald Young.
Coric, Medvedev and Tsitsipas need to show me a bit more at best of 5 set level before I become interested in a play on them, and you don’t quite know what you are going to get from Verdasco, and then how Murray will go in the best of 5 format off such little tennis.
Tough call – perhaps Tsitsipas has the best chance of any at his price to stake a claim.
Main players included: Isner, Dzumhur, Raonic, Dimitrov
Unseeded surprise packets: Wawrinka
Matching with the top part of this quarter, there are a couple of incredibly solid players in this section as well. Isner has never quite lived up to expectations at the US Open, so I am happy to pass over him at his odds available. I think the main player you can make a case for in this section is Milos Raonic. He has Grand Slam experience deep in tournaments, he has solid recent form (including 3 set loss to Djokovic last week), and will only have to play one of Dimitrov/Wawrinka as they both play each other in the first round. I am also happy to exclude Dzumhur due to injury concerns.
At the odds, Milos Raonic seems to be the best value of any player in this section, and when you consider he is in the other part of the draw to the quarter favourite in Del Potro, it could also allow for some good trading opportunities later in the tournament if that is your thing.
Main players included: Cilic, Mannarino, Cecchinato, Goffin
Unseeded surprise packets: Haase, Tiafoe, De Minaur
Not going to spend too much time in this section – Cilic should make his way to the Quarter Finals if he brings something close to his best tennis. Goffin is coming in under an injury cloud, and Mannarino and Cecchinato have not set the world on fire of late on hardcourt. The only way I see Cilic being troubled is if the courts are in fact even slower than they were last year.
Main players included: Scwartzman, Nishikori, Krajinovic, Zverev
Unseeded surprise packets: Monfils
I am all for a potential 3rd round between Schwartzman and Nishikori. I think we will have a fair indication of how these guys are playing after a couple of rounds, and looking through the form, you would have to think that unless Krajinovic is absolutely 100% fit, then Nishikori and potentially Schwartzman are the only two players that can prevent a Zverev Quarter finals appearance here.
If Zverev brings his best tennis to the table, with the addition of Ivan Lendl, I won’t be opposing him a great deal this week. That being said, he has still had his moments in best of 5 tennis (really struggled against Gulbis at Wimbledon), so it is worth monitoring him in the first few rounds instead of backing him to win it all outright.
Not a lot of standout value through the quarter, where I predict a Cilic/Zverev Quarter Final, which I tend to lean to the Croatian due to experience.
Main players included: Djokovic, Gasquet, Pouille, Carreno-Busta
Unseeded surprise packets: Mayer
Hard to see Novak being troubled through the first four rounds of this tournament, unless something goes horribly wrong. It is amazing what a few months can do, and this have really changed since his French Open loss to Cecchinato. You could perhaps make a case for Carreno-Busta or Pouille at their absolute best, but it is hard to stake a claim for either of them on their recent form.
Main players included: Federer, Kyrgios, Fognini, Chung
Unseeded surprise packets: Paire
In a tournament where I feel Roger Federer may struggle for the first time in a while, he is surrounded by enigmatic players capable of absolutely anything on their day. It is hard to know how fit Kyrgios is for this, but a potential third round clash with Federer would be incredible viewing.
Watch out of Fognini – he has played well here in the past (see comeback win over Nadal from 2 sets to 0 and a break down), and his early draw is very favourable. Momentum could really build for him and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him in the second week. His odds look far too long to win the quarter for someone who has a lot of upside when it all comes together – but could also lose round 1 in straight sets.
Part of my reason for opposing Federer is that I think the slower hardcourt just doesn’t play in his favour at all, especially against the likes of Nadal/Djokovic, as well as the bigger hitters on tour (ie Kyrgios). I think he has been found wanting on a few occasions late in best of 3 set tennis (ie vs Coric on grass) and didn’t look to match Djokovic for long patches last week. That auro of invincibility doesn’t quite carry across to Flushing Meadows lately, and as a result I am happy to take him on. Again I would happily be proven wrong as he is one of my favourite players to watch, but the dip has to come at some point, and I think he may get knocked out in this quarter.
Novak seems the logical play, with a smaller play on Fognini a suitable option at $70+.
Other bet to consider - Roger Federer Stage of Elimination Rounds 1-4 ($3.25 at Unibet)
Bit of a funny draw that brings about some very juicy matches in the first week, which may be a sign of things to come with only the top 16 to be seeded in Grand Slams next year. That being said, I have had trouble splitting both Djokovic and Nadal in this one, as I have them a touch ahead of Federer/Zverev/Cilic. If the courts play similar to last year (and last week in qualifying), then the speed of the courts definitely favour Djokovic/Nadal moreso than Federer/Cilic/Zverev, but it will be interesting to see how the courts play and perhaps make some observations as the tournament progresses.
If I had to pick one player to win, it would be Rafael Nadal.
My favourite suggestions for the tournament from a value perspective are:
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