About the Author - Martin Ingram

Martin is passionate about good code and gaining insights from data with a particular interest in sports analytics. He completed a Bachelor Of Arts, Natural Sciences (Physical) at Cambridge before completing his Masters of Science, Computing Science. You can follow him on Twitter here.


It’s almost time for the US Open, the year’s final Grand Slam. In this preview, I rank the favourites on the ATP and WTA using a modified Elo rating. Elo is a player rating system which updates dynamically after each match (you can read more about it here).

The ratings shown here are calculated using an improved version which also takes into account differences in surface, as well as making larger updates when players win matches by a larger margin.


Men's

Here are the top 8 favourites for the men’s US Open this year, according to Elo:

Player ELO Rating
Novak Djokovic 2188
Rafael Nadal 2180
Roger Federer 2160
Daniil Medvedev 2060
Roberto Bautista Agut 1915
Milos Raonic 1868
David Goffin 1866
Stefanos Tsitsipas 1810

As they have been for so many years, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are the top 3 favourites on the men’s side.

Novak Djokovic has only played one tournament since winning an epic Wimbledon final, beating Roger Federer 13-12 in the fifth set. At the Cincinnati Masters, Djokovic won his first three rounds in straight sets but lost to Daniil Medvedev in the semi-final. Although Djokovic lost, the match was played at a high level, suggesting that Djokovic is in fairly good form.

Rafael Nadal also played only one tournament, Montreal, which he won. Nadal beat Evans, Pella, Fognini and Monfils (walkover) en route to the final, where he convincingly defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-3 6-0. Given how well Medvedev has been playing recently, this victory is particularly impressive.

Nadal has played a light schedule due to injury issues this year but has been strong when he did play. At the Grand Slams, he reached the finals (Australian Open), won (French Open) and lost in the semi-finals (Wimbledon), respectively. If he is healthy, he will be tough to beat.

Roger Federer played Cincinnati, too, but lost to Andrey Rublev in the second round. This loss was particularly surprising given that Federer typically does well in Cincinnati: he has won there 7 times. On the other hand, the additional rest might help Federer, and his performance at Wimbledon suggests that he is still capable of playing tennis at the highest level.

A newcomer occupies the fourth spot: Daniil Medvedev, 23 years old, has been the player of the US summer. Medvedev played Washington, Montreal and Cincinnati reaching the finals in the first two tournaments and winning the last. His most impressive win came over Novak Djokovic in Cincinnati, though he also defeated other strong players in his run, such as Dominic Thiem and David Goffin. At 2060 points, he is ranked around 100 points behind the big three, giving him about a one in three chance of beating anyone of them.

Roberto Bautista Agut comes in fifth with a gap of 135 points to Medvedev. Bautista Agut had a great run at Wimbledon, reaching the semi-finals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic in four tough sets. Since then, he reached the second round at the Swiss Open (l. to Sousa), the quarter final of Montreal (l. to Monfils) and the quarter final of Cincinnati (l. to Gasquet). His rating of 1915 points would give him roughly 17% chance of beating Djokovic.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Milos Raonic is ranked sixth by Elo (1868 points), around 47 points behind Bautista Agut. When healthy, Raonic can be a strong competitor but he has had ongoing struggles with injuries, most recently retiring against Felix Auger-Aliassime in Montreal, so his rating comes with a big asterisk.

No such asterisk is needed for David Goffin, ranked seventh (1866). After first-round losses in Washington and Montreal, he had a great run in Cincinnati, losing only to Medvedev in the finals. He also played well at Halle and Wimbledon before that, reaching the finals (l. to Federer) and quarter finals (l. to Djokovic) respectively. If he can carry his Cincinnati form to the US Open, he could be a tough opponent.

Finally, Stefanos Tsitsipas rounds out the top 8 with 1810 points. At just 21 years of age, he is the youngest player listed here, and he has had some impressive wins this year, particularly during the clay court season.

Recently, however, he has struggled somewhat, losing in the first round of Wimbledon (to Fabbiano), Montreal (to Hurkacz) and Cincinnati (to Struff). His one highlight was reaching the semi-finals of Washington, where he lost to Kyrgios in three tough sets. It will be interesting to see whether Tsitsipas can repeat his run at the Australian Open this year, where he beat Federer, but Elo thinks this is unlikely: his rating would give him just a 12% chance in a rematch.


Winners and losers compared to last year

Among the players ranked in the top 32 by Elo this year, the biggest gains over the last year were made – by far – by Daniil Medvedev. He gained an incredible +397 Elo points. To put this into perspective, this implies that this year’s Daniil Medvedev would be a 91% favourite against last year’s version.

Other players who have made big strides are Hubert Hurkacz (+235), Filip Krajinovic (+187), Jan-Lennard Struff (+178), Matteo Berrettini (+159), and Novak Djokovic (+122). On the other hand, Marin Cilic (-228), Alexander Zverev (-210), Milos Raonic (-105), John Isner (-105) and Kevin Anderson (-103) have struggled somewhat over the last year.


Women's

The top 8 favourites on the WTA, according to Elo, are listed below:

Player ELO Rating
Ashleigh Barty 2014
Karolina Pliskova 1991
Petra Kvitova 1975
Simona Halep 1927
Serena Williams 1923
Bianca Andreescu 1915
Madison Keys 1879
Naomi Osaka 1877

While almost 400 points separate the 8th-ranked player, Tsitsipas, and the 1st ranked, Djokovic, on the ATP, the WTA field is much more closely packed, with a gap of just 137 between Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.

Ash Barty is ranked first, with 2014 points. With strong performances at the start of the year, including her first Grand Slam win at the French Open, Barty held the number one spot in the official WTA rankings until recently, too. At Wimbledon, Barty lost to Riske in the fourth round, and she lost in the first round of Toronto (to Kenin). Most recently, she reached the semi-finals on Cincinnati, suggesting that her form may be improving (l. to Kuznetsova).

Just over 20 points separate Karolina Pliskova from Ash Barty. Pliskova had some highlights this year, winning the Italian Open as well as Eastbourne. At Wimbledon, she lost in the fourth round (to Muchova). In recent weeks, she reached the quarter finals in both Toronto (l. to Andreescu) and Cincinnati (l. to Kuznetsova).

Petra Kvitova had a strong start to the season, reaching the finals of the Australian Open (l. to Osaka). At Wimbledon, she lost to Konta in the fourth round. Since then, she has played only Cincinnati, losing to Maria Sakkari in the first round. She has been struggling with an arm injury, so it is not clear whether she will play, and if she does, at what level, so it seems questionable whether she can play to the level of her Elo rating.

Simona Halep is ranked fourth, with a slight gap. At a rating of 1927, her probability of beating Ash Barty is estimated to be about 38%. Halep had a big success at Wimbledon, winning her second Grand Slam title. She has played Toronto (retired against Bouzkova) and Cincinnati (lost to Madison Keys) since. Keys went on to win the tournament, so perhaps that third-round loss was not as negative as it might have seemed at first.

Halep is followed closely by Serena Williams, whom she defeated in the Wimbledon final. Williams had a good run in Toronto, reaching the finals, but had to retire there against Andreescu. Her back injury prevented her from playing Cincinnati. If she is physically fit, Williams is always a threat at Grand Slams, but that remains to be seen.

While the top five players all had mixed results since Wimbledon, Bianca Andreescu, the sixth-ranked player, had a great run in Toronto, winning the title with wins over Bertens, Pliskova and Williams (though the last was by retirement). Andreescu is just 19 years old and seems to be a player worth watching out for. With 1915 Elo points, she is estimated to have a 36% win probability against Ash Barty.

The other player of the moment, Madison Keys, ranks 7th. She most recently won Cincinnati, beating Halep on the way. Her form has been somewhat up and down, however: in Wimbledon, she lost in the second round, followed by first-round losses in Washington and Toronto. It will be fascinating to see whether she can continue the great form she showed in Cincinnati.

Finally, Naomi Osaka rounds out the top 8. Osaka was the player to beat at the start of the year, having won the US Open last year and the Australian Open this year. Since then, her results have been mixed, including losses in the first round of Wimbledon and the third round of the French Open. She reached the quarter final in Toronto (l. to Williams) and retired against Kenin in Cincinnati with an injured knee, which suggests that a repeat of last year’s victory seems unlikely.


Winners and losers compared to last year

Compared to last year, a number of players have made big strides. The biggest improvements were made by Bianca Andreescu, who gained a huge +373 points.

Ekaterina Alexandrova (+298), Karolina Muchova (+278), Dayana Yastremska (+257), Sofia Kenin (+253), Belina Bencic (+190), Marketa Vondrousova (+159), Amanda Anisimova (+149), Karolina Pliskova (+144) and Ash Barty (+127) also improved substantially.

On the other hand, Caroline Wozniacki (-191), Angelique Kerber (-172), Kiki Bertens (-136), Garbine Muguruza (-113) and Elina Svitolina (-90) have all dropped significantly in the ratings.


Conclusions

Overall, this year’s US Open is shaping up to be an interesting event. On the men’s side, the big three, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, are the favourites, as they have been so often in the past. However, some younger players, Daniil Medvedev in particular, are rising and may be able to challenge their dominance.

On the women’s side, the field is much closer, and it is harder to pick a favourite. Ash Barty is rated highest, but not by much, and it will be fascinating to see whether Bianca Andreescu and Madison Keys can continue their recent form, and how well Serena Williams will be able to play.


Betting Strategy

 BACK – Novak Djokovic to win the US Open

 BACK – Ashleigh Barty to win the US Open


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