Ace Tennis Previews: US Open Tips

Ace is providing US Open Tips throughout the tournament with the penultimate Grand Slam of the year now upon us in this COVID-affected season.

Ace will provide his best bets for the tournament every single day so bookmark the page for all of his analysis across the two weeks.


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Zverev vs Thiem

We have a rematch of the Australian Open semi-final, with Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem set to do battle in the US Open Final. For Zverev this is his first attempt at a grand slam final, with his previous best effort coming in Melbourne this year. Thiem will be hoping it is a case of fourth time lucky, having placed as a runner-up on three previous occasions to Rafael Nadal (twice) and Novak Djokovic (once).

I thoroughly enjoyed the match between these two in Melbourne, and on that evening, I was on Zverev at the +3.5-game handicap. Thiem won the match 3-6 6-4 7-6 7-6, however, Zverev gave a terrific account of himself. Aided by 81% of first serves into play, Zverev was the one to generate more break point opportunities throughout that match and was able to win 61% of points on the second serve of Thiem in what were very warm conditions.

Zverev was able to do something he had never achieved before on Day 12, and that was coming back from a 2 sets to 0 deficit to claim victory. Whilst nobody will be rushing to watch the replay of the first couple of sets of Zverev vs Carreno-Busta, however, Zverev was once again able to find a way to victory.

He has started poorly in a couple of matches across the fortnight, however, I have been very impressed in his ability to dig in and put pressure on the return of serve late in his matches against Coric and PCB in particular. Zverev will have opportunities to break the serve of Thiem, who has an average first-serve speed in the mid 180s in terms of kilometres per hour, which could allow Zverev to attack at times, as we saw from Medvedev in the semi-final.

Having had a deeper look at the stats from Thiem in the semi-final and there were a couple of causes for concern in my opinion, even with the straight-set victory over Medvedev. Dropping serves early in sets 2 and 3 felt a bit out of character from Thiem, as did the significant increase in backhand slices from Thiem. He played two impressive return games when Medvedev serves for sets 2 and 3, however looked to struggle to sustain his best level. He was struggling with a foot/heel issue late, however I am not reading too much into it as he still seemed to be moving quite well within points in that third set.

There will be plenty of nerves on show in this one, as both are looking to be the first to break through the Nadal/Djokovic/Federer wall today. With the nerves we saw from Thiem early in sets 2 and 3, and Zverev’s ability to dig in the grind in some tough positions over the fortnight, I am more inclined to take the German at the +5.5 game handicap at near plus money today for 1 unit.

If Zverev’s last two matches are an indication, it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing match, however, at the end of this match, the winner will not care one bit.

BACK — 1 unit Zverev +5.5 games (recorded at $1.99)

Osaka vs Azarenka

The two undefeated players over the last three weeks in the US Open and Western & Southern Open bubble now meet in the final, in what I am anticipating will be a fantastic match. Both players have had their hiccups on the way to the final, however I must say it is nice to see the two form players of the last few weeks taking their deserving places in the final.

Let’s start by taking a look at Naomi Osaka. For those who read the outright preview, I was a little hesitant to jump into Osaka pre-tournament, given the nature of her hamstring injury keeping her out of the Western & Southern Open final. She looked a little proppy in her first round win over Misaki Doi, however has looked far more comfortable over the course of the fortnight. Her best performances have come against large strikers of the ball, namely Giorgi and Kontaveit, and has won her deciding sets 6-2 6-2 and 6-3 for the tournament. When the time asks for her best tennis, Osaka has been able to deliver it.

Whilst Osaka’s only significant scoreboard pressure came early in the third set against Kostyuk, Victoria Azarenka has shown her ability to come from a set down on multiple occasions in this fortnight. A set down against Muchova and more importantly Serena Williams in the semi-final, her composure in the situation, and ability to acknowledge things needed to change in her game, was what won her the match. If you watched the semi final, you may have noticed the significant increase in positive self-talk and activity between points. She started the match in a sluggish fashion, and her ability to save a break point early in set 2, increase her first serve percentage by 27% and hit her spots with incredible consistency.

In terms of late-game and late-match pressure, we have two of the best in the business here. Osaka is the deserving favourite, however we have a determined opponent in Azarenka who will know will maintain her level right until the very end of this match. For mine, the total going over 21.5 games looks to be a play for the match. If Azarenka can back up her high first serve percentage, taking a little pace off but hitting her spots well, she will be in this match up to her eyeballs. I cannot wait to watch what I anticipate will be a very hotly contested final.

BACK — 1 unit total games over 21.5 (to be recorded at $1.83)

Carreno Busta vs Zverev

Whilst it perhaps was not the quarter final that we were all anticipating, this match-up has a lot of questions that need answering. Alexander Zverev and Pablo Carreno Busta are scheduled to do battle here, with both looking to secure a spot in the first grand slam final of their respective careers.

Carreno-Busta has had to endure some tricky moments on court over the last fortnight, as well as handle some controversy off-court thanks to some comments about him in the media. A few big names in the tennis world have been very critical of PCB’s career on the surface, with some questioning the validity of his past run to the semi-final at Flushing Meadows.

Nevertheless, the Spaniard has been very quick to prove some of the doubters wrong with his performances over the course of this fortnight. It is refreshing to see a player capitalize on a situation like with saw with PCB/Novak, and not find themselves losing in the next round as a result. His tennis has been solid overall, however, there were a couple of concerns from his match against Denis Shapovalov that I wanted to address.

The first was the Spaniard’s inability to consolidate breaks early in this match. The first three times PCB broke the serve of Denis Shapovalov, he was unable to consolidate with his own hold of serve. He did what he needed to in a couple of tight moments in a tiebreak, and took advantage of Shapovalov’s inexperience in handling that fifth set coming off winning the 4th set 6-0, however, he won’t find himself able to use his experience to his favour as much today against Zverev.

Whilst the quality of the match was perhaps not to the standard many have come to expect of grand slam quarter finals over the past few years, Zverev did the one thing he needed to do: he found a way. After trailing by a set and a break, Zverev was able to claw his way back into the contest off the back of two very solid tiebreaks, taking control of the match to defeat Borna Coric 1-6 7-6 7-6 6-3 in 3hrs29min.

In years gone by, a shellshocked Zverev may have struggled to overcome such a deficit against such a capable player in Coric, however the German showed his progression as a player in the 5-set format with an impressive win. Perhaps the lack of crowd has helped him focus in the big moments? Nevertheless it has been impressive.

The experience of the semi-final appearance in Melbourne will certainly be of assistance to Zverev today, much like PCB’s past SF appearance at Flushing Meadows. I do not see PCB having his own way to the extent we saw through the opening four matches of the tournament, and his lapses against Uchiyama, and struggles on break consolidation against Shapovalov concern me.

For mine, the -4.5-game handicap here looks to be a very nice spot, as I think this is a great match-up for the German. The match is on his racquet, and I do not think PCB has enough variety in his game to be a major stumbling block for Zverev.

BACK — 2 units Zverev -4.5 games (to be recorded at $2)


Medvedev vs Thiem

This has the makings of the match of the tournament and presents an incredibly interesting match-up of styles from two of the best players in the game.

There is one little quirk for this match that needs to be addressed, and that was the struggles of Daniil Medvedev late in his match against Andrey Rublev. After seeing the trainer for what was reported to be a shoulder complaint. He was able to finish off the match 7-6 6-3 7-6, however, showed late in the third set tiebreak that he was needing to force the issue and ensure a fourth set did not materialize.

If you take fitness off the table, I would have this match with Medvedev sitting as a clear favourite on the tennis I have seen, however, the longer the match goes, the more I think we see Thiem starting to edge towards favouritism in this one.

When you look over the tennis of Thiem for the fortnight, it does make you step back and think. He struggled a little at times in his early matches against Munar and Nagal, and almost let a huge lead slip against Marin Cilic, were it not for some very clutch break point saves in the fourth set.

On reflection, the matchups of Auger-Aliassime and De Minaur were quite favourable for the Austrian, with FAA lacking the experience on the big stage and De Minaur lacking the power behind his serve to earn cheap points consistently. He did win well on both occasions, however, today is a step up.

Medvedev has both a quality serve and experience at the level of a semi final of a grand slam. My worry? As I said earlier, the fitness and ability to go 5 sets against Thiem, who was one of the most active players in terms of exhibitions in the tour break, is where I am a little worried.

As a result, I am looking to the first set in this one. I think the value on Medvedev lies in set one, and I am happy to oppose Thiem over the smaller sample size of one set and play that for 1.5 units. Medvedev is a couple of cents longer in the first set markets, which to me as value in this scenario.

I will comment on any potential in-play spots as this match unfolds on Twitter.

BACK — 1.5 units Medvedev first set winner (to be recorded at $1.85)

Osaka vs Brady

Here we have Naomi Osaka, who was the tournament favourite in the lead-up even with injury concerns, facing one of the form players on the tour since the restart in Jennifer Brady.

I will start this preview by discussing the run of Brady, as I have not previewed many of her matches across the fortnight. Brady was good to me in Lexington a couple of weeks ago, claiming the title with an impressive performance across the week. As far as runs to the semi-finals go, defeating Blinkova, Bellis, Garcia, Kerber and Putintseva does not seem like the strongest draws you will see.

Whilst we need to acknowledge the weaker draw here due to COVID, it is more the way in which she has won, having not dropped a set, that is most impressive for Brady. I commented when I saw her play Barty live in Brisbane that she had really taken her game to the next level, and it appears she has been able to elevate it even further over the tour suspension period.

When given the time to be assertive and dictate most points, she is incredibly hard to beat in her current form. Today, however, I do not think she will be able to dictate as much as the rest of the fortnight.

After watching her first-round 3-setter against Misaki Doi, I did have some question marks regarding the movement and fitness of Osaka. Whilst I thought they could have been masked a touch in her comprehensive win over Camilla Giorgi, I was most impressed with Osaka’s ability to deal with adversity in her third set against Kostyuk in Round 3.

After dropping the second set in a tiebreak, Osaka was able to dig in and save 5 break points at *1-2 in the decider. From there, Osaka has looked a different player, not losing another game to Kostyuk, and backing that up with dominant wins over Anett Kontaveit and Shelby Rogers, who have both been in impressive form. Osaka has looked her best this fortnight against bigger strikers of the ball, so I think this presents as a fantastic match-up for her.

As I said about, I like Brady when she has the chance to control and dictate play often. That will not be the case today against Osaka, who I think will be too good in this style match-up. In what is unfamiliar territory for Brady in a grand slam semi-final, I am looking for Osaka to get the jump on her early and control most of this match. I am happy to play Osaka at the game handicap of 3.5 games.

BACK — 2 units Osaka -3.5 games vs Brady (to be recorded at $1.89)


Williams vs Azarenka

I feel like I have been transported back in time, and I absolutely love it. What a massive semi-final we have in store between two of the best players in the women’s game over the last couple of decades.

I will not spend too much time on Serena Williams, as I have spoken about her quite a bit over the last couple of weeks. I mentioned before her match yesterday that this is arguably a danger spot for her without the day rest between matches, however, I have been incredibly impressed in her effort and performances in deciders across the fortnight.

She has had her back against the wall against Stephens, Sakkari and Pironkova, and managed to find a way to get the job done by running away with matches late. Her serve is going to be something that Azarenka has not encountered for some time, with Williams sending down 20 aces and 74% of points won behind her first serve against Pironkova. When her serve is on, it can set up her whole game so well.

I think there may have been a slight overreaction to some of the wins from Azarenka this week, as I do not entirely agree with the notion of her being a slight favourite in this match. Let us look over the fortnight (and yes, I do acknowledge Cornet, Vekic, Konta, Jabeur and Cornet in the lead-up tournament):

  • Defeated Haas – struggles for weapons and given the consistency and recent improved court coverage from Azarenka, it was always going to be difficult for the Austrian.
  • Defeated Sabalenka – you could make a case that Sabalenka defeated herself, with 27 of the 58 points won by Azarenka coming from unforced errors from Aryna. The form of Sabalenka has also been poor, however, Azarenka did control the situation well from start to finish.
  • Defeat Swiatek – To keep Azarenka on the move you need more power than Swiatek was able to impart on this contest. Swiatek was in this match early, however, the tenacity and experience of Azarenka led to Swiatek playing one or two more shots too often to be successful.
  • Defeated Muchova – this match was well and truly in the balance, with Muchova up a set before injury hampered her efforts. Regardless of the issues, Muchova continued to push Azarenka in the third, with 5-7 6-1 6-4 the final score.
  • Defeated Mertens – This was a fantastic example of experience in the moment having such a huge impact on the match. In the first set, Mertens won at least 2 of the first 3 points in 6 of the 7 games yet lost the set 1-6. Azarenka was able to continually build the pressure, and it broke the will of Mertens, who had no answers.

Without a big first serve, it makes it very hard to handle the consistency in the return game of Azarenka when she is in this rich vein of form. Williams does have the power game to be able to handle it, and I do not anticipate a semi-final to overwhelm her in these circumstances. After Azarenka winning several match-ups that favoured her stylistically, there is appeal here in Williams at what looks to be a value price.

Just a small play, as I am also invested in Serena from an outright standpoint, but this looks to be worth 1.5 units. Williams is battle tested over the fortnight and has shown she is well and truly up for the fight. Regardless, this has the makings of a match that I cannot wait to unfold as a tennis lover.

BACK — 1.5 units Williams to defeat Azarenka (to be recorded at $1.95)

Medvedev vs Rublev

Daniil Medvedev is well and truly the deserving favourite for the US Open given the events of the last 48 hours. Not only does the Novak Djokovic default throw him to the top of the list, he then made a massive statement, defeating Frances Tiafoe in incredibly quick fashion.

This is one of the more interesting matches of the second week, with two good friends battling for a spot in the semi-finals. These two met a couple of times last year, and it was clear that Medvedev had the clear advantage in this match-up, and for mine there is one glaring issue in Rublev’s game that is going to cause some issues for today. Had you read my outright preview, you may have a fair idea of why I am targeting Medvedev to win comfortably today.

I think the backhand of Andrey Rublev can struggle at times for consistency in key moments. We saw last week that targeting the backhand with varying pace, as Dan Evans achieved, made life very difficult for Rublev.

He was unable to effectively hit his backhand in an attacking fashion, and it meant opening the court for Evans to be able to attack back into the forehand wing. Matteo Berrettini was unable to exploit this, largely due to his equally deficient backhand that struggled immensely in patches.

Unless Andrey Rublev can absolutely redline it for an absurd amount of time in this match, I cannot see this one being particularly close. I remarked that coming into the net and forcing the issue at times against Medvedev is one of the best ways to approach Medvedev, however that is not a part of the game of Rublev. The -4.5 games is a touch short so it may be worth reducing the stake a touch and taking this one out to the -5.5 games.

Medvedev should be far too good in what looks to be a very favorable match-up for the US Open favourite.

BACK — 1.5 units Medvedev -5.5 games (to be recorded at $2.02)


Williams vs Pironkova

Serena Williams just keeps finding a way.

After trailing a break early in the third set against Maria Sakkari, Williams dug deep and was able to find a way to victory, running away with the third set 6-3 6-7 6-3. As mentioned in the outright, the day off between matches during a grand slam is crucial to her recovery between matches, as she has now encountered a couple of three set matches against Stephens and Sakkari for the week.

She has endured a very difficult first week in comparison to other players left in the draw, and those competitive battles will ensure she is primed to handle whatever comes her way today.

Tsvetana Pironkova continues to amaze on her return to the tour as a mother, and I wonder how many other former players are watching this comeback and wondering if they could follow suit. One of three mothers left in the bottom half of the draw, Pironkova has put together a very impressive run on her journey to the final. Wins over Samsonova, Muguruza, Vekic and Cornet have occurred over the last week, dropping only one set to Cornet along the way.

I remarked in my preview for Pironkova vs Cornet I didn’t feel we saw anywhere near the best of her first three opponents still rings true, and Cornet seemed to struggle a little more in the heat, unable to capitalize on a break lead early in set 3. Whilst the 34 unforced errors, and 9 double faults from Cornet were a bit of a surprise, the key stat that Pironkova was able to dominate was the 2nd serve return points won. Pironkova absolutely dominated the second serve of Cornet, winning 71% of points, something which will not be happening today against Serena.

The odds are one-sided, and justifiably so. The fight shown by Serena this week has shown just how much this means to her, and I like her in this power battle in the conditions. I am happy to take Serena at the – game handicap here for 1.5 units, as she should be able to progress to the semifinals in her quest for another grand slam.

BACK — 1.5 units Williams -5.5 games (to be recorded at $2.09)

Osaka vs Rogers

Whilst Shelby Rogers was fantastic in some particularly clutch moments against Petra Kvitova in her fourth-round match-up the other day, things will go to another level in her quarter-final against the tournament favourite, Naomi Osaka.

Whilst the question marks around the hamstring of Osaka continue to pop up from time to time, she continues to produce some very impressive tennis. A dominant performance against in-form Anett Kontaveit was on the agenda for round 4, with Osaka winning 6-3 6-4.

She lost only 9 points across her 9 service games, an utterly dominant performance. The night session is a set-up and conditions she is familiar with, and the slightly slower Arthur Ashe surface will play into her hands today against Rogers.

Rogers may have been on her way out of the US Open bubble were it not for some double faults from Petra Kvitova at crucial times, including on one of her four match points.

One of the key areas for concern for Kvitova, which allowed Rogers back into the match on multiple occasions, was the Czech spraying unforced errors in key moments, something that has plagued Kvitova consistently over the last 18 months.

Rogers did just enough to find a way out of the match and progress, however behind a high first serve point won percentage against players stronger than Rogers on return, Osaka should be far too strong here.

The total is currently sitting at 20.5, which I prefer in comparison to a -4.5 at lower odds.

BACK — 1 unit total games under 20.5 (to be recorded at $1.80)


Zverev vs Coric

Another smaller play, however taking Borna Coric here with a 4.5 game headstart looks to be a sensible play here in the conditions.

Coric made me look like a fool the other day, playing on of his best matches since the restart to comfortably defeat Jordan Thompson in the first round. He had one lapse when serving out the first set, however, responded well by instantly breaking back, and running away with the match.

Alexander Zverev also had quite an easy time of it in the fourth round, with a comprehensive victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who was troubled with a foot issue later in the match. ADF was comprehensively outmatched in this one, particularly in the backhand to backhand battles.

Zverev continued to play high-risk high-reward at times on serve, however the comprehensive scoreboard advantage assisted in his ability to go big on his second serve at times. At the end of the day, he is in the quarter-final with wins over Anderson (below 100%), Nakashima, Mannarino (injured mid-match), and ADF (injured mid-match).

The key to this one is the fact Coric was able to limit his time on the court in round 4, allowing him to recover a little more from his back to back marathon matches. His backhand matches up very well with Zverev, as shown by the career 4-1 head to head advantage.

Whilst not something I look at generally, this is something I will take into consideration given Zverev’s strengths are serve and backhand, which isn’t always as common at the top of the game.

One set could send this one to a covering position. Zverev has shown himself to have lapses through each of his first four matches, and with a handicap of this size against a player as proficient as Coric, I cannot pass it up for 1.5 units.

BACK — 1.5 units Coric +4.5 games

Cornet vs Pironkova

Two good friends go into battle in what is a bit of a surprising 4th round meeting in 2020. Whilst one is an outright trading selection in Alize Cornet, the surprise of the first week has been the form of Tsvetana Pironkova, making her return after more than three years away from the game of tennis.

This play is a continuation of the Cornet play against Madison Keys. I have a strong preference to take Cornet in value positions against larger strikers of the ball, and at near coin-flip odds in this one, she looks to be value again.

One area that will cause a slight drop in terms of units staked here is the weather conditions being on the warm and humid side for this match, however, I don’t see that as a significant advantage for either player. The big advantage for Pironkova through her first two rounds was her ability to lead the % of first serve AND second serve unreturned serves through the early rounds.

This is the first proficient return of serve she will face for the tournament, so the dynamic of this match will be very different from the previous three from Pironkova. The ability for Cornet to turn this match into a grind and look to extend rallies on a regular basis will hold her in good stead.

BACK — 2 units Cornet to defeat Pironkova (to be recorded at $1.96)


Medvedev vs Tiafoe

With increased expectations come pressure. Daniil Medvedev is your new US Open favourite.

I have had to add that section into the start of this preview as I had already written up the bulk of this prior to the Novak Djokovic default drama took place on Day 7. As a result of that situation, Medvedev has now found himself in unfamiliar territory, as the favourite of a grand slam for the first time. This is a huge opportunity for several players left in the draw, so I am fascinated to see how they all handle the next week.

Medvedev is a player who absolutely cannot afford to look ahead considering the opponent he is facing today in Frances Tiafoe. Whilst Medvedev has looked incredibly solid for the duration of the tournament, the odds below $1.15 do look on the short side for a match-up that caught me by surprise earlier in the year in Melbourne.

Medvedev has looked solid through his early rounds, with straight set wins over Delbonis, O’Connell and Wolf in his way to the 4th round. Whilst the wins were impressive, they were all obviously expected given the hardcourt pedigree of his opponents (ie. Delbonis), or lack of best-of-5 set experience (ie. O’Connell and Wolf).

He has only faced 8 points through the three matches, with Wolf the only person to break him, twice. As always for the Russian, the first serve is a key, winning upwards of 80% behind it in each match. To be able to beat him, you need to have an element of patience, and to be able to accept that there may be long periods of the match where chances may not eventuate.

I saw that mindset in patches from Frances Tiafoe, albeit when the form of both players was not quite what we are seeing now (both have improved). Tiafoe was completely overwhelmed early that day, however, was able to steady the ship and tie things up at a set apiece. After a tight start to the third, Medvedev was able to gain ascendency, running away with the match in 4 sets.

There were a couple of things I liked from Tiafoe that night that I would assume he will persist with coming into this match-up with nothing to lose. The first is having the courage to come into the net and force the issue where he feels comfortable.

He approached the net 43 times with a success rate of 60%. He also had a fair amount of success with the serve out wide on the Deuce side, then hitting back into the forehand wing of Medvedev (behind his direction of movement) and coming into the net. Medvedev plays some of his most dangerous tennis on the run, so being able to take a risk, hitting back behind him regularly is a tactic I would expect to see regularly from Tiafoe today.

Another key in terms of the appeal of Tiafoe was the ability for the American to make his way through the third round in quick fashion, defeating Marton Fucsovics in straight sets. He needed to win quickly as things got a little out of hand for him at times against Andreas Seppi and John Millman in the early rounds.

You may recall I opposed Tiafoe in round 2 when he played Millman, however, that performance to come back from 2 sets to 1 deficit against one of the fittest players on the tour was a fantastic sign. Tiafoe should not be fazed by the night session here, and clearly has the fitness base to handle a best of 5 match with a player with the style of Medvedev.

I very rarely back Tiafoe, and a lot of that has to do with his game style and his tendency to play low percentage tennis at times in his matches. He is a player I generally will struggle to support at a short price in matches, however, his style may come in handy here against a player like Medvedev. He is the type of player that I am happy to support here at $9+.

Do not take this as me saying Medvedev cannot win the US Open – if he wins and wins well here, he will be tough to beat for the rest of the fortnight. He is under the odds in this match-up, hence the play opposing him.

BACK — 2 units Tiafoe to defeat Medvedev (to be recorded at $9.30)

Coric vs Thompson

What an absolutely massive opportunity for Jordan Thompson.

Every once in awhile, a player is presented with an opportunity that has the potential to change the entire trajectory of their career, and this may well be the case with Thompson this year at Flushing Meadows.

Whilst the quality of opponent isn’t quite the level you would come to expect from a Grand Slam run to the 4th round, he has looked exceptional against Travaglia, Gerasimov and Kukushkin. If he has had lapses, as he had in the third sets against Travaglia and Gerasimov. He has generated consistent break point chances across all three matches and took advantage of his significant fitness edge over Mikhail Kukushkin coming of a 5-setter.

Thompson gets another player coming off a 5-set match, with Borna Coric winning his way through to the 4th round in absolutely absurd fashion. Coric played his second consecutive 4+ hour match, saving 6 match points, including triple match point on the serve of Tsitsipas, winning 6-7 6-4 4-6 7-5 7-6 in 4hr38mins. He continues to defy the trends of other players trailing off a touch backing up off long matches, and now has his own eyes on the quarter finals after being a point from being sent packing.

I personally think this is a great match-up for Thompson in the night session conditions. The Australian has continued to fly under the radar. This is the first match for Thompson that thrusts him back into the media spotlight.

The last time was a 5-set marathon with Fabio Fognini at the Australian Open, where he gave a fantastic account of himself over the long format. This match will be more of a grind than what we saw in the Coric vs Tsitsipas epic, and there must be an element of cumulative fatigue for Coric.

BACK — 2.5 units Thompson to defeat Coric (recorded at $2.58)


Goffin vs Shapovalov

Another player who found himself well and truly on the brink of defeat in Round 3 was Denis Shapovalov. Whilst he was able to come back and break Taylor Fritz when the American served for the match, I do not see the Canadian being as fortunate today.

I mentioned in round 3 the price on David Goffin was value against Filip Krajinovic, however, I was even surprised to see the ease in which he was able to get the job done. One of the weaknesses for Goffin in the past has been his tendency to spend longer than necessary on court in the early rounds, in turn finding himself vulnerable against quality opposition in the later rounds. This year is different, coming into the 4th round fresh against a player who has spent a long time on court.

Denis Shapovalov has been fantastic in some tight spots over the first three rounds, however part of the reason he found himself in those spots has been big lapses early in matches. He should not have dropped sets to Korda and Kwon this week, however with a couple of medical timeouts, lingering issues and 13 sets on court, plus doubles, will start to take a toll on the Canadian.

Whilst Shapovalov is young and may be able to handle the heavy scheduling physically, I think there is the potential for him to struggle a touch in terms of locking in for long periods in a stylistic battle against a player like Goffin. Whilst Shapovalov has a slightly higher level at his peak, I much prefer to take Goffin here over the longer format.

BACK — 3.5 units Goffin to defeat Shapovalov (Recorded at $1.88)

Cilic vs Thiem

I am not ready to give up on Marin Cilic just yet, however it is starting to look like many have jumped off the ship.

Whilst he may not have been able to produce his best tennis over the first two rounds, the important thing for Cilic was his ability to find a way to win. He came from two sets down to defeat Denis Kudla in round 1, before prevailing in a tight 4 set match against Gombos in round 2. He earned more break points in both matches, however the area of concern for Cilic would be the break point save category, with the Croatian broken 7 times from 12 break points faced on his serve. He will be looking to improve that save percentage today, as he faces number two seed Dominic Thiem.

Thiem has been solid without being spectacular through the first two rounds, defeating Munar (up 2 sets to 0 when Munar retired) and Nagal in straight sets. Thiem’s two opponents had a winners/unforced +/- of -38, with both struggling to impose themselves on the match. The first two sets from Nagal were quite competitive in patches, however Thiem did start to look a little more settled in the latter half of the match.

Whilst many have written off Cilic, I still feel like he is capable of some high quality tennis on the biggest stage, even in the latter stages of his career. In the back of my mind I have his performance against Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open earlier this year, where Cilic turned back the clock in a vintage 5 set performance. He is more than capable on the big stage, as we have seen time and time again, and seeing upwards of $4.50 in this match-up on a surface slightly faster than last year seems to be value in my opinion. This is a significant step up in opponent quality for both players, however I just do not feel as though I can justify Thiem sub-$1.25 here. He was showing visible signs up frustration against Nagal in circumstances that should not have fazed him. Whilst it has no impact on my pricing for this match, if Thiem were to lose today there would be a silver lining, with the Austrian able to travel to Kitzbuhel to attend his home tournament before the cut-off is made. Again, that isn’t something I have factored into the price; however, it certainly isn’t swaying me away from Cilic. Happy to attack another value price.

BACK — 2.5 units Cilic to defeat Thiem (recorded at $4.90)


Keys vs Cornet

I was waiting to see the order of play for this one, and I am more than happy with the fact this match is scheduled on Arthur Ashe Stadium as part of the night session.

Had this match been scheduled for the heat of the day, on one of the outside courts, it would have given a distinct advantage to Madison Keys in my opinion. Those conditions would have led to a faster surface, which I would say favours Keys. Instead it is to be played at night on Arthur Ashe, which from reports is playing a touch slower than the other courts (was not used during the Western & Southern Open last week). We saw Cornet put in one of her better performances of the last fortnight at night against Sofia Kenin, whilst Keys struggled a touch in similar conditions against Ons Jabeur last week.

I generally only oppose Keys at larger prices given most of her matches do rest on her racquet, however in the night-time conditions I do not mind the counterpunching nature of Cornet’s game tonight. At $3.70+ there looks to be value in the price on Cornet here. She has looked great in some key moments through the early rounds, so I am happy to make a 1 unit selection on Cornet to cause a night session upset.

BACK — 1 unit Cornet to defeat Keys (recorded at $3.80)


Caruso vs Rublev

When will the clutch serving from Caruso in key moments come to an end? I think today.

Through his wins over Ernesto Escobedo and James Duckworth, Caruso has managed to save 24/27 break points faced on his serve, an incredible effort given his previous form and level on hardcourt. Whilst Duckworth and Escobedo are both decent hardcourt players, today’s opponent in Andrey Rublev is a significant step up in quality.

Andrey Rublev has manoeuvred his way through to the third round with two solid straight sets victories over Chardy and Barrere. Rublev is one of the key players in the fortnight, and there is a need for Rublev to get the job done here whilst conserving as much energy as possible, with a potential 4th round meeting with Matteo Berrettini around the corner.

I just cannot find an area in this match that favours Caruso in any capacity. The rate in which Escobedo and Duckworth were able to generate break point opportunities gives me confidence in this total going under the current quoted total of 30.5 games. On recent form Rublev should be too strong in the conditions. The match is on his racquet, and I am looking for him to set the tone as he heads into the second week.

BACK — 2 units total games under 30.5 (recorded at $1.93)


Bautista-Agut vs Pospisil

Those who have read my previews around Milos Raonic matches will know that Pospisil’s win over him was not a particularly large surprise in my opinion, as the Canadian looked to struggle to find consistency as the game unfolded in the heat of the day. Has Pospisil’s win been a touch overrated by bookmakers? Looking at the game handicap for today I am inclined to say yes.

Break point conversion was one of the issues for Roberto Bautista-Agut, converting only 3/17 chances in his four-set victory over Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4. He continues to look solid, with no real significant area of weakness that stands out for me in this match-up with Vasek Pospisil.

Pospisil looked fantastic in his win over Raonic, especially after taking a medical timeout during the second set. He was able to rush Raonic consistently, using his ability to get to the net to his advantage winning 27/30 net approaches. Whilst it is a tactic that is effective against a player like Raonic, I do not see this being anywhere near as effective against Bautista-Agut today.

Break point conversion against a stronger server today will be key for Bautista-Agut. The -4.5-game handicap over a best of 5 set format looks to be great value. RBA is too solid off both wings for Pospisil to have a clear tactic in terms of coming into the net with purpose and confidence. I am happy to take the Spaniard at the -4.5-game handicap for 3 units.

BACK — 3 units Bautista-Agut -4.5 games vs Pospisil (recorded at $1.82)

Kerber v Li

I have been incredibly impressed with Angelique Kerber and her return to the tour this week, as it looks like she hasn’t missed a beat. The German former US Open champion has looked very clean at times on her way through to the third round, with wins over very tricky opponents in Tomljanovic and Friedsam, both capable of producing a very high level of tennis on their day. A play on the German here shouldn’t surprise too many reading this preview.

I have been very consistent in my thoughts on Alison Riske since the tour resumed. Her form as been incredibly disappointing (compared to her standard of the last 12-18 months), with the American knocked out 0-6 3-6 to Ann Li in 75 minutes. It was a dominant performance from Li, who has been loitering on the brink of the Top 100 for a little while.

You look at her wins over the last couple of weeks, and they have all come against bigger strikers of the ball. Kuzmova, Rus and Riske have all fallen to Li, and all play similar higher power games on their day.

Today will be a different look for Li, who also appeared to struggle against Karolina Muchova last week in similar conditions to those on offer today. Given the occasion, the third round of the US Open, the form of Kerber in the preceding rounds, and the change of match-up of great significance to Li, I will be taking Kerber at the -4.5 game handicap for 2.5 units at plus money.

BACK — 2.5 units Kerber -4.5 games (to be recorded at $2.10)


Thompson v Kukushkin

Backing up from a 5-setter is a tough ask at the best of times. Add in the conditions in New York, the extended layoff due to COVID and the physical nature of Kukushkin’s 5-setter against Cristian Garin in the previous round, and this makes for a great opportunity for a career-best result of Jordan Thompson.

Whilst other players have struggled somewhat in the conditions in the New York bubble, Thompson has thrived through the early rounds. I was on him in round 1, where he defeated Travaglia in a scoreline that probably flattered the Italian. Thompson struggled on break point conversion throughout, missing a couple of opportunities to strengthen his advantage. He backed it up with another very solid performance in round 2 against Egor Gerasimov.

Just as he did in the first round, Thompson did a fantastic job of regaining ascendancy in the fourth set after dropping the third. Through eight sets this week against two players with a solid first serve, Thompson has been able to generate 36 break point opportunities, which is impressive in the conditions.

Against a slightly weaker serve in Kukushkin, with heavy legs from his efforts in round two, look for Thompson to control this match. Look for him to continue his good form and I have him covering the -4.5 game handicap for 2 units.

BACK — 2 units Thompson -4.5 games (to be recorded at $1.86)


Krajinovic v Goffin

Given the form of Filip Krajinovic over the last couple of weeks, I was expecting to look at the odd for this match and see them somewhere in the vicinity of coin-flip odds. I felt Krajinovic deserved to sit in that range given his wins this week, whilst also keeping in the back of my mind that him facing Goffin in best-of-5 sets was going to be a bigger challenge than most he faced in recent times.

Then the odds popped up. Filip Krajinovic: $1.60.

I have sat on this match for a while, as after the two losses opposing Krajinovic for the week I thought I was erring on the side of caution a touch by thinking he would be edging close to $2 here. As a result, the preference at the odds certainly lies with the Belgian on this one.

After making his way through Reilly Opelka and Lloyd Harris, Goffin has been able to progressively build his form over the week. His third and fourth sets against Harris in particular were arguably the best tennis he has displayed since the tour restarted, and more of the same from him today would result in a victory in my opinion.

To be getting $2.30+ on the head to head pricing on Goffin is great value. As mentioned above I have him as an ever so slight favourite, so the value rests in the Belgian’s court for 2 units.

BACK — 2 units Goffin to win (to be recorded at $2.40)


Sasnovich v Putintseva

Aliaksandra Sasnovich was on the brink in the first round, down a match point in her second set tiebreak against Francesca Di Lorenzo. The situation seems to have sparked her into gear, with Sasnovich playing some inspiring tennis over the three sets since. Today she finds a much tougher task, with Yulia Putintseva putting together a very impressive patch of form in New York.

I had Putintseva as a clear favourite in this style of match-up, so I must say I am a little surprised to see her odds sitting around the $1.75-$1.80 range at the time of writing. Has the Sasnovich win over Vondrousova been perhaps a touch overrated? It was a one-sided win, yes, however the lead-in form from Vondrousova suggested the Czech wasn’t playing at her best level this week.

Whilst Sasnovich has fed off the pace of the ball coming from the other end of the court, which won’t be the case as much today, with the style of Putintseva significantly different to that of Vondrousova in the previous round.

Whilst I have particular match-up styles that I like to oppose players with at the right price, there isn’t a particular style weakness that Putintseva finds particularly difficult in my opinion. She has looked solid behind both first and second serve, and in my opinion is slightly better suited to the New York conditions.

Both have played well this week, however, given the massive opportunity that has arisen in this section, I am siding with Putintseva to capitalize and progress to the 4th round.

BACK — 1.5 units Putintseva to win (to be recorded at $1.80)

Bautista-Agut vs Kecmanovic

There are not many worse things in tennis in my opinion than having to play Roberto Bautista-Agut in hot and humid conditions, having played a 5-set match in the previous round.

Good luck, Miomir Kecmanovic.

I would be less inclined to be confident on such a large handicap if Kecmanovic had a slightly bigger serve, however, the consistency in which RBA will find his way into service games is going to be a huge concern for the Serbian.

Whilst he was a little shaky at times, Bautista-Agut navigated his way through a very tricky first-round opponent in Tennys Sandgren. Quick early wins are going to be crucial for the Spaniard, allowing him to recover from his full week of tennis last week in the lead-up. RBA was consistent off both his first and second serves, hitting his spots well to win 65% of points off each.

Kecmanovic looked to be in complete control of his first-round outing, having taken the first two sets 6-4 6-4 over Gianluca Mager in relative ease. Things became a little more difficult for him after losing a tiebreak in the third set, and the 4th set got away from him relatively quickly. He was able to recover and take it in the fifth, however the cumulative effect of his performance will take its toll today in my opinion.

With these two playing in the heat of the day, all signs point to a one-sided Bautista-Agut victory.

BACK — 2 units RBA -7.5 games vs Kecmanovic (to be recorded at $2.12)


Pospisil vs Raonic

In the battle of the Canadians, I have the underdog in Vasek Pospisil as the value in what will be an interesting match-up in really testing conditions.

I remarked in my outright preview for the tournament that I thought the best-of-3 format was going to be most suited to him currently, as he has played such little tennis over the course of 2020. Raonic has looked at his most vulnerable late in his win over Krajinovic and late in his loss to Djokovic last week.

He was not tested in round 1 in any capacity as Leonardo Mayer could only muster up 8 winners for the match, with the Canadian winning 6-3 6-2 6-3. With these two scheduled to play right in the heat of the day, this is going to be the biggest test of fitness for Raonic since the tour resumed.

It always helps to have the knowledge that you have the game to beat someone like Raonic, and Pospisil should feel confident having won their last battle on an indoor hardcourt in 2018. Pospisil did a great job of controlling the key moments in his 7-6 7-5 7-6 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber, with his only real lapse coming when serving for the match. Pospisil sent own 64 winners, including 23 aces, on his way to victory.

Pospisil should not be $5+ in this one, as the form of Raonic last week has been considered too strongly in my opinion. As a result, against a player like Raonic, the + game handicap has presented as value, so I will split a play across both options here.

BACK — 1.5 units Pospisil +4.5 games (to be recorded at $2.10)

BACK — 1-unit Pospisil to win (to be recorded at $5.50)


Millman vs Tiafoe

I backed Millman in as a trading selection for the fortnight, as well as backing him in the first round against Nikolaz Basilashvili. Nothing I saw on day 2 has put me off going back to the well again today as a -2.5 game handicap today.

Frances Tiafoe got the job done in round 1 against Andreas Seppi in largely unconvincing fashion. We had not seen Seppi since the restart outside of a loss from a set up to Kwon, where he was also overrun after a solid start.

Tiafoe, who has an incredibly poor final set record of late, did a great job of finishing through a tough spot, saving 8 break points in the fourth set against Seppi, including a double break point when serving for the match. As the match wore on, the consistency in which Seppi was able to find a way into the service games of Tiafoe is a concern for the American in my opinion, as he comes up against a far more consistent, in-form player today.

It is clear Millman loves the conditions that are on offer in New York, as he consistently delivers some of his best tennis on the big stage annually. After facing 0/40 in his first service game, the Aussie was too consistent in the conditions for Basilashvili, winning 6-1 6-4 6-4 in just under two hours.

A good barometer for the Australian is his second serve points won percentage, which sat at a very healthy 58% for the match. He looks good and will be keen to improve on what was a solid performance in round 2.

I cannot pass up taking Millman at the -2.5 games here. Whilst Tiafoe may be able to redline and deliver a higher peak in terms of performance, I like Millman’s consistency over the best of 5 format here.

BACK — 2 units Millman -2.5 games (to be recorded at $1.86)


Wolf vs Carballes Baena

Whilst I do enjoy the high-intensity style that is allowing JJ Wolf to charge his way up the rankings, I do have a little bit of a concern over his ability to sustain it in the conditions on offer in New York today.

In the back of my head I do have the match I caught a part of live in Melbourne during Australian Open qualifying. Wolf was in absolute control of his match against Marco Trungelliti, taking the first set 6-0 and pushing Trungelliti regularly on serve early in set two.

Then? He started to fade, ultimately going on to drop the match 5-7 in the third set without earning a break point in the decider. It was a little warmer that day, however as the temperature drops here the humidity has the potential to increase, which is still going to have a significant toll on his body.

This is not just a play opposing the physical nature of the game of Wolf, as RCB more than held his own when these two met in Noumea in a Challenger at the start of the year. Whilst Wolf won that match 6-2 6-7 6-2, Carbelles Baena did break first in both the first and third sets, in what was a pretty competitive match overall.

RCB looked incredibly solid in the condition in round 1 as well, getting the job done from a set down against Feliciano Lopez. He loves these weather conditions and will extend the match out to the best of his ability, knowing full well it will improve his chances today.

BACK — 1.5 units Carballes Baena to win (recorded at $3.55)

Londero vs Coric

Of the larger prices that are on offer on day three, this looks to be the most appealing in the conditions.

Whilst Juan Ignacio Londero has not had the greatest success on the hard courts over the last twelve months, he certainly seems to have an affinity with the conditions at Flushing Meadows. We saw him give Novak Djokovic an incredibly stern test here last year, albeit in three sets, and took out Sam Querrey in the first round. On Day 1 of the tournament this year, the Argentine stepped up to the plate in impressive fashion, defeating Evgeny Donskoy 6-3 6-3 7-5 to claim victory in under two hours.

The first-round performance from Borna Coric was on the disappointing side for mine. Pablo Andujar did not look to be at his peak conditioning, and it was noted across some of the exhibition tennis over the break that his fitness was perhaps lacking for the conditions.

It makes sense that Coric was going to run away with it after taking the first set, as it was going to be a large mountain to climb for Andujar. It looked as though Coric was struggling a touch in the conditions, as one of those players that is a heavy sweater in the humid conditions.

Due to the fitness doubts, the first set becomes my focus, and for Coric was the worry, with Andujar regularly making inroads into the service games of the Croatian, and even had a couple of set points in the tenth game of the match. 31 unforced errors from Andujar to only 12 winners told the story, with a 13/3 winner to unforced error tally to Coric in the third set making his stats a little more presentable.

Coric did not have the smoothest last couple of months either, struggling in exhibition matches including a retirement down a break to Lazarov in the third set of a long battle. Looking at the physical nature of the conditions in New York, and what I saw from both players in round 1, I am inclined to suggest that the longer odds on Londero here present as a value spot for round 2.

The cloudy, humid conditions will be a grind for these two, and I would rather be siding with Londero at odds over $5. I have him sub $3.50 in this one.

BACK — 2 units Londero to defeat Coric (to be recorded at $5.50)


Shapovalov vs Kwon

After a little scare at one set all in his first-round match against Korda, I am looking to the Canadian to steady the ship in round 2 with a much-improved performance.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen the gradual progression in the shot selection and defensive tendencies of Shapovalov in the best-of-3 set arena, however, his efforts over the longer format have been a little lacking. His Grand Slam record remains littered with winnable losses, as opposed to tough draws knocking him out consistently.

Where does he fall down at the moment? It is against experienced players with a solid serve, that can limit the breakpoint opportunities that they face, building up perceived pressure for the Canadian. That was the issue for Shapovalov in Melbourne, where he lost to Fucsovics in the first round, looking frustrated from beginning to end.

We saw an improvement yesterday, however, with the Canadian responding well to dropping the second set to Korda, turning things around for a 6-3 6-7 6-1 7-6 victory. He is looking to be a little more selective and defend in spots we did not see him defend in years gone by, and I think that will come in handy today against a player with a weaker serve in Kwon.

Kwon looked incredibly shaky early in his match with Thai-Son Kwiatkowski. After dropping the first set, he was able to get things heading in the right direction against after claiming the second set tiebreak. From there it was one-way traffic, with Kwon running out a 3-6 7-6 6-1 6-2 winner. He does have a well-rounded game and his still improving, however, I worry about his ability to consistently play on the back-foot against Shapovalov, especially over the longer format.

This match is on the racquet of Shapovalov, as are many of his matches. If he can be comfortable in neutralizing the serve of Kwon to find a way into rallies consistently, the -5.5-game handicap looks to be good value here. A 6-4 6-4 6-4 type result covers and has the potential to cover over a 4-set match if Shapovalov drops a tiebreak.

BACK — 2 units Shapovalov -5.5 games vs Kwon (to be recorded at $1.88)


Gracheva vs Mladenovic

I cannot take Mladenovic as a 3.5 game favourite here on what I have seen from both players.

Kristina Mladenovic continues to play with fire on serve, with several untimely double faults cropping up in some key moments in tight moments late in the first set. She got the job done against Hailey Baptiste 7-5 6-2, however, failed to serve out the first set at *5-4 and was the beneficiary of 35/72 of her total points won coming from unforced errors from her 18-year-old opponent. A key concern for Mladenovic? 28% of points won on the second serve.

Take away the 9 double faults, and her percentage of points won on her second serve still sits at a lowly 42%. From a personal standpoint, I can handle a high double fault rate for some players, however, they need to be attacking with the second serve. Mladenovic is not, and at times it is just a rally starter.

A rally starter, as a 3.5 game favourite, against an incredibly capable player in Gracheva, is going to cause her far more concern than she faced against Baptiste. Gracheva started her year slowly, which may have been due to a heavy schedule towards the back end of 2019 catching up with her.

The Russian was in control of her match early against Badosa Gibert in the first round, before needing a medical timeout for a shoulder issue. She recovered the break deficit in a tight service game late, going on to take the victory 6-4 7-5.

Whilst there is a slight concern around the shoulder issue that required an MTO, the 3.5 game headstart for Gracheva is too good to pass up. This should cover in the event of a 3-set loss as well.

BACK — 1.5 units Gracheva +3.5 games vs Mladenovic (to be recorded at $1.90)


Djokovic vs Edmund

This one is short and sharp, as Novak is someone I have already spent a lot of time writing about.

Whilst the Edmund at over 20-1 does catch my eye here, I am more inclined to make a play at the total games going over the listed total. We have seen lapses from the world number one over a couple of matches of late, which may be in part due to the lack of tennis played by Djokovic over the last couple of months.

Novak is very much a player that relies on the mental side of his game holding up for long periods to establish pressure on his opponent. When he locks in, he is unbeatable. The ability to maintain that level for long periods is where the issue lies for Novak now.

He again looked to tune out during the second set against Dzumhur, looking visible frustrated and rattled before running away with the third set against an underdone Damir Dzumhur.

The going will be a little tougher here with Kyle Edmund, who has a career win over Novak, albeit on clay. Edmund looked solid in round 1 against Bublik, running away with the last 9 games to record a 2-6 7-5 7-5 6-0 victory. He has been able to continue the good form we saw from him in the lead up to the tour being suspended, and at his current level, I see value in the total going over 28.5 games.

Edmund taking a set or pushing for a 7-6/7-5 set, which has occurred in each of their last 4 meetings, should go a long way to this total going over 28.5 games. I am happy to play this for 2 units.

BACK — 2 units Djokovic/Edmund total games over 28.5 (to be recorded at $1.97)

Duckworth vs Caruso

Had you told me a week ago that we would be getting a 4.5 game headstart for James Duckworth on hardcourt against Salvatore Caruso, I would have well and truly jumped at the opportunity. The big question here is: how much are we reading into the wins over Sinner and Thompson in qualifying for a lead-up event?

I think the run of James Duckworth in the lead-up to the tour suspension has largely gone unnoticed. His run in India, making the semi-final in Pune and then backing up to win the Bengaluru Challenger title the next week, continued a string of good form across Challenger and 250 level tournaments. Even with the bulk of his work being done at Challenger level, I would not classify Caruso as anything above a Challenger level hardcourt player as well.

Caruso holds an 11-12 record on hardcourt over the last 12 months, with both of his best wins coming last week against Sinner and Thompson. I just cannot find the reasoning for such a short price in this match-up. Slight favourite, maybe, but the head to head and the +4.5 game both present as value.

Since the start of 2018, Duckworth has had a horror run in terms of main draw opponents in grand slams. His list of opponents has included Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray, and Rafael Nadal.

We saw his best chance at a first-round win in some time in January this year, however, Aljaz Bedene is also a tricky customer, with Duckworth losing in 5 sets. The long-form is not an issue for him, and neither will the conditions, with a forecast top of 26 degrees expected when these two take the court.

I am happy to split this play across the game handicap and the head to head price, as I have them both as value today.

BACK — 2 units Duckworth +4.5 games vs Caruso (to be recorded at $2.01)

BACK — 0.5 units Duckworth to defeat Caruso (to be recorded at $3.00)


Stojanovic vs Kalinskaya

I have had some good success over the years supporting Nina Stojanovic as an underdog, however today I am more inclined to focus on the plus game handicap.

I am not entirely sure that I can see why Anna Kalinskaya is such a clear favourite to be giving up 2.5 games as a headstart to a player like Stojanovic. We had not seen a great deal from her in the back end of 2019, playing only four tournaments between the 2019 US Open and the COVID-19 tour suspension.

Much like Caruso above, her best performances of the last 12 months came in the warm-up tournament, with straight set wins over Tig and Cirstea, neither of which have shown significant form since the tour restart.

After a significant period out of the game due to injury, Nina Stojanovic made the long climb back to the top 100 over the course of 2019. She capitalised on some main draw appearances as a qualifier through the clay swing in May, reaching the quarter final in Nurnberg, before dropping back down to the lower levels to gain more points.

Another QF in Jurmala in July helped her back into the Top 200, however she hit a roadblock in qualifying, losing in the final round to Taylor Townsend 6-3 6-7 1-6, who went on to put together a very impressive tournament. With the tournament set up with new rankings, it allows Stojanovic to have a couple of months of tennis where players can have a free chance at improving their rankings situation.

I love the all-round game of Stojanovic and based on what I have seen from both players in the lead-up to the US Open, taking Stojanovic at the plus-game handicap looks to be the value side. I like her in the faster hardcourt conditions, and I am happy to back her.

BACK — 1 unit Stojanovic +2.5 games vs Kalinskaya (to be recorded at $1.93)


Anisimova vs Tomova

One of the players that I had my eye on in terms of the outright picture was this week was Amanda Anisimova. Whilst I did not ultimately pull the trigger on her outright at the price, I am still expecting a very solid showing from the American this week.

Viktoriya Tomova had a rollercoaster welcome back to the tour, as her name was pulled from the Palermo qualifying draw due to “illness”, which reports also mentioned a player had tested positive for COVID-19 and needed to be removed from the draw. If you join the dots from the whole process, it suggests that Tomova has not been at 100% in the lead-up. She had a great little patch during the exhibition series; however, this will now be her first competitive match in some time.

I do not see Tomova having the weapons to be able to match Anisimova in several facets of this game. In a similar way to Rybakina was far too strong for Zavatska yesterday, I would be anticipating a one-sided result in the conditions today.

BACK — 1 unit Anisimova -6.5 games vs Tomova (to be recorded at $1.95)


Bedene vs Ruusuvuori

I caught Bedene on a poor day last week, with the power and prevision of Daniil Medvedev proving to be too much in their third-round match. Personally, I am comfortable with the overall body of work from Bedene pre and post COVID tour suspension, and I am a fan of his price here against a larger striker, yet inexperienced grand slam player.

Emil Ruusuvuori was able to get four matches under his belt last week at the Western & Southern Open. After a comfortable win over Jeremy Chardy, he was the beneficiary of a Thiago Monteiro retirement early in the second set. He did not look at his best in the first round of the main draw, however, scraping by Korda 7-5 in the third set. The Finnish world number 92 put up stiff resistance against Italian Matteo Berrettini, however, was unable to get over the line, losing 5-7 in the third.

Ruusuvuori’s name is one we will be hearing plenty of times over the next decade, however, in this circumstance, I think his odds are a little too short. Bedene has looked right at home on the faster hardcourt, and this is the type of match-up that suits him. He is proven over the best of 5 set format, and with his comfort level in the conditions, and Ruusuvuori delivering some patchy periods throughout his matches last week, I am more than happy to take Bedene.

BACK — 2 units Bedene to defeat Ruusuvuori (will be recorded at $1.77)

Edmund vs Bublik

I remarked in my outright preview regarding the importance of fitness across the best of 5 arena off such little tennis. You will notice a bit of a common theme amongst some of the ATP selections in the first round.

Kyle Edmund and Alexander Bublik have had contrasting tour suspension periods. Whilst Edmund was able to continue with some of the good form he was building in February, which included an indoor hardcourt title in New York, albeit against a weak overall field.

He has been able to play a lot of tennis in the UK Exhibition series, including matches against the likes of Cam Norrie, Andy Murray and Dan Evans amongst others. Whilst he was a little rusty in his first round loss to Kevin Anderson last week, the generation of 10 break points, and winning 56% of points on the second serve of the South African.

On the flipside, Alexander Bublik had to endure double pneumonia for a month, which can take a significant toll on the fitness of even a high performance athlete. He looked short of a run last week against Karen Khachanov, dropping that match 4-6 4-6 in 85 minutes. He was unable to earn a break point opportunity for the match, and really struggled behind his second serve across the duration of the match.

Off such little tennis, I think Bublik is going to struggle across the longer best of 5 format. Between the form Edmund displayed prior to the tour suspension, his consistent performances during the break, and Bublik’s questionable fitness levels make Edmund at the -4.5 game handicap a solid play for day 1. All three of Bublik’s main draw losses have come in straight sets as well, so hopefully, Edmund can get off to a good start and apply some pressure early.

BACK — 2 units Edmund -4.5 games (to be recorded at $1.89)


Yastremska vs Sharma

These odds are looking a little ridiculous if out ask me, with Yastremska far too short in this match-up.

For those who have been following my previews over the last couple of weeks, you may have seen a play on Sharma in the Western & Southern Open qualifying against Taylor Townsend, where she was a clear underdog (around the $2.75 range). Part of the reasoning for the larger price on Sharma was due to the way in which Sharma started, with a handful of losses before fining form in Mexico when the tour was suspended.

There are reasons for the poor start to 2020, with Sharma looking as thought she was hampered by a knee issue. Unfortunately for the Australian she was unable to rest, with the bulk of her ranking points up for defending in the early months of the year, culminating with her finals appearance in Bogota.

The tour suspension, and ultimately the change in the ranking system has allowed Sharma to rest, refresh and reset ahead of the last couple of months of the year. She has a very nice service action; she is not afraid to come into the net and is able to generate some incredibly high-IQ tennis for longer periods of the match. I prefer her against bigger strikers of the ball, compared to a player such as Zvonareva who got the better of her last week and has been playing impressive tennis herself.

Dayana Yastremska had an…interesting…week in the lead-in to the US Open. Medical timeouts for a right ankle, a left knee and left foot for blisters made for a whirlwind week. The three set wins over Williams and Pera led her to a third round meeting with Naomi Osaka, and it was over in 70 minutes, losing 3-6 1-6.

I mentioned in the outright preview that she has all the talent in the world, but she continues to be held back by everything that occurs outside of a point. You look at a player like Sofia Kenin who can block out the external noise so well, and when you compare it to Yastremska there are glaring differences.

At the end of the day, Sharma is underrated based on her results instead of the circumstances, and three set wins over Williams and Pera, before being crushed by Osaka, is not the form that warrants such a short price for Yastremska. I am happy to take Sharma at the head to head price for 1 unit.

BACK — 1 unit Sharma to Win (to be recorded at $5.10)


Rybakina vs Zavatska

One of my outright selections in Elena Rybakina will look to get her campaign off to a good start here as she takes on Katarina Zavatska, making her Grand Slam main draw debut in these unusual circumstances.

Zavatska’s rise up the rankings is largely due to her efforts in the WTA level tournament in Tashkent in the latter part of last year, where she was able to make the semi final before a 0-6 3-6 loss to Sorana Cirstea. Zavatska can deliver a consistent brand of tennis overall, however she does find herself overpowered by several players on faster hardcourts.

An example of her consistency in her game was her ability to go over three hours with Flipkens last week, dropping the third in a tiebreak. It is the type of match-up that is far more favourable for Zavatska, whereas the power game of Rybakina is going to be incredibly hard to overcome.

Whilst it is a large handicap for the circumstances, I feel as though there is value in Rybakina at the -5.5 games on offer, and I am happy to make a 1.5 unit selection.

BACK — 1.5 units Rybakina -5.5 games (to be recorded at $1.86)


Linette vs Inglis

Considering the form that Magda Linette has displayed over the last couple of weeks, this in an incredibly steep handicap in the circumstances.

I have kept a close eye on Maddison Inglis this year, as she has continued to make her push towards the top 100. Most of her success has come on Australian soil, however over the last 12 months I have felt she is a better against stronger strikers of the ball.

She travelled outside Australian for one match over the last 12 months, and that was in Monterrey Qualifying which she lost to Arruabarena. She looked very solid during the My UTR series back in Australia earlier this month, and whilst she did retire from her last match with an upper leg complaint, it did not look too serious. She would not have travelled to the other side of the world into the bubble with an injury given the rules around effort in round 1, so I am expecting her to be at 100% here.

Inglis is a tricky customer as she is incredibly comfortable when it comes to directional changes in rallies, notably on her backhand down the line. Her game is really starting to evolve, and I feel as though the +5.5 game handicap here is solid.

Linette is 1-2 over the last fortnight, with her only win coming over Lauren Davis. She started like a house on fire against Vera Zvonareva last week, before fading to lose 6-1 3-6 1-6. I just do not feel she is playing well enough to justify a -5.5 game handicap against a very capable player in Inglis.

BACK — 1 unit Inglis +5.5 games (to be recorded at $1.98)

Another grand slam is upon us, and it will be unlike any in recent memory. Off such little tennis, players will be up against it in the Flushing Meadows bubble, with fitness more crucial than ever before with such little tennis in the lead-up.

We could see a wide range of conditions from a weather standpoint, with heat and humidity likely to play a role at some stage during the fortnight. Given the lack of exposed form for a number of big names, I have added an ‘under consideration’ heading to the summary, as there are a few players I would like to watch for a match or two before investing in their outright prices.

This looks like it will be a lot of fun, and I cannot wait to get things started. Keep an eye out on twitter as I will look to run some live streams and competitions across the fortnight.

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Wishing you all a great fortnight of tennis.


Quarter 1

Novak Djokovic – Under $2 for the outright. After a rather up and down tour suspension period, it has long been assumed that this is Djokovic’s tournament to lose. For someone that is gunning to go down as the best of all time, and very well may when it is all said and done, that is weirdly a position the Serbian does not enjoy overall.

To take a bit of the pressure off, Djokovic has thrown in a couple of medical timeouts against Berankis and Bautista-Agut for a neck issue, and added another little question mark into the mix by missing his press conference after the semi final due illness. The majority of the issues tend to pop up when he is losing, so I am going to ignore them.

Should win the quarter, and should win the tournament. Is there any value in the price? Probably not in these conditions. With the performances this week and the new player council being announced, at least he has given himself an out this week if things don’t go to plan…

Jan-Lennard Struff – Whilst he was able to take a set off Novak Djokovic in the first round of the Australian Open, Struff is just a little too close to him in the draw again for my liking in the outrights. No appeal in the outright price as a result. Round 1 looks like a bit of a danger match too, with Pedro Martinez a difficult player to put away at times.

Pablo-Carreno Busta – I would have preferred the surface speed to be the equivalent of 2019, as the faster surface isn’t quite ideal for the Spaniard. Like Struff, he is a little too close for Djokovic for me to be interested at a big outright price, and Uchiyama was pretty solid in his Western & Southern qualifying, so he will need to be on from the outset here. Got some time on the court in the doubles this week, which will help him early.

John Isner – The surface brings Isner back into the equation here, as his fortnight will largely hinge on his performances in tiebreaks. As I mentioned last week, the lack of crowd isn’t an issue for Isner as he has never been a heavy crowd favourite.

Losing a couple of tiebreaks to Tsitsipas isn’t the worst form from last week, and as I have remarked in the past I have always been frustrated with Isner turning up to the US Open tired due to the volume of tennis played in the weeks building up to New York. He will be fresh this time, however it may be a little too late on his career to capitalise fully. That being said, I would love to see him play Djokovic in a best of 5 set format in an empty stadium, and may get involved if such a match were to arise.

Denis Shapovalov – Denis looks to have all the talent in the world, the question is around his composure an ability to maintain his level across the long form. He let a winnable match slip through his fingers again last week against Jan Lennard Struff. I think I would prefer to focus on him in particular match-ups for the fortnight than consider him for an outright. He should be making the third round at a minimum, however, he is too close to Djokovic for my liking.

Taylor Fritz – Looked fantastic against Lloyd Harris last week, and then struggled against Aljaz Bedene in very contrasting performances. He looks to be slowly building in the right direction, however like Shapovalov I would rather get involved with Fritz in particular match-ups.

Filip Krajinovic – Whilst his performances at the Western & Southern Open were impressive, right up until serving for the match against Milos Raonic, I do have a bit of a question mark over his ability in the best of 5 set format. We saw in Melbourne that it took one long match to wipe him out, as he looked incredibly laboured backing up against Federer in the next round. He is a player that I would be inclined to oppose in hot conditions if the right opportunity became available.

David Goffin – It was another disappointing loss from a solid position last week for Goffin, after breaking instantly in the third set against Jan-Lennard Struff. At times he can become a little too reliant on errors from the other end of the court, and I don’t feel as though I can consider him from an outright perspective, even in what is a weaker field than most grand slams we have seen in recent times.

Unseeded Players of Note

Reilly Opelka – The knee injury in the Western & Southern Open is enough to make me look elsewhere. The injury looked legitimate, with the Americans’ knee heavily bandaged when he retired up 6-5* against Tsitsipas.

Kyle Edmund – After a solid run during the exhibitions in the UK, it was a disappointing loss to Kevin Anderson first-up. Like a few others, he is too close for Djokovic for my liking to consider in the outrights.


Quarter 2

Stefanos Tsitsipas – I bet he is glad to see the name Milos Raonic on the other side of the draw, after falling to him for a second time on a big occasion this year. I will keep things short and sharp here – this is his quarter for the taking based on the other seeds here.

Zverev and Hurkacz look to be the biggest match-up threats here, and they would need to play each other before a potential quarter-final with Tsitsipas. I think this is the perfect spot for him – a solid draw, and the potential to meet Djokovic in a semi-final with a little less pressure on the moment. The opportunity is there, he just needs to take it with both hands.

Borna Coric – I have been waiting for Coric to take his game to the next level and it just hasn’t eventuated. He has the potential to build into this week if he is good enough, however, I would be surprised to see him progress beyond Tsitsipas.

Dusan Lajovic – Prefer others in these conditions. One to watch on the clay in the coming weeks.

Cristian Garin – Prefer others in the slightly faster conditions that are now anticipated. I will be writing about Garin a lot more when the tour transitions over to the clay.

Diego Schwartzman – Whilst the best of 5 set layout of the US Open does play into his hands, the surface change isn’t going to be overly helpful for him this fortnight. We saw in the Cincinnati/New York tournament that he can find himself outgunned at times, and that is a worry. I will be more interested in him over the long form of the game at Roland Garros in the not too distant future.

Hubert Hurkacz – A really intriguing prospect. I am going to keep Hurkacz safe here. Heat and fatigue made for a disaster for the Pole in Melbourne earlier this year. Needs to win well to be able to make a push into the later stages of the tournament, and he has all the tools in his game to be a threat against most match-up styles. One to watch.

Adrian Mannarino – I don’t feel as though Mannarino is a major threat in the outright department, so I will be more interested in taking him in certain match-ups.

Alexander Zverev – The second serve issue reared its ugly head again last week, really struggling to find his range as a mix of nerves and past bad experiences led to a loss to Andy Murray. I was big on the chances of Zverev in Melbourne at the start of the year, however, he continues to make life difficult for himself.

With the news that his dad has tested positive and had to head home from a Challenger tournament with his brother in Europe, and the issues that continue to plague him in terms of his serve, I prefer others this week I think. The key behind his Melbourne run was a high first-serve percentage, and he will need to find that form again this week.

Unseeded players to watch

Kevin Anderson – What a first-round we have in store, with Anderson facing Alexander Zverev. Anderson did a great job first up in the bubble, defeating Kyle Edmund in three sets, before a one-sided loss backing up against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Sitting around 4th in the betting for the quarter winner, with Zverev second, so it shapes as a huge first-round match. The winner out of this? Tsitsipas sitting at the top of the quarter.


Quarter 3

Matteo Berrettini – This is a big opportunity for the Italian, as a Top 8 seeding gives him the chance to avoid the top names until the pointy end of the tournament. He has all the tools to make a big run, however his backhand can still let him down at times. The draw for the Italian looks pretty favourable as well. It is a bit of a tricky one trying to place Berrettini in this quarter at his price. I think on potential and what I have seen over the last 12 months, I prefer Medvedev at his price.

Casper Ruud – I just haven’t seen enough from him on hardcourt over the journey.  A tough little section of the draw, and I cannot make a case for him in the outrights.

Benoit Paire – Another I will be focussing on moreso in the European clay swing. He retired from his match last week, and I cannot trust him off such a limited amount of tennis. (Update: Paire has tested positive for COVID-19, and at the time of writing a second test is awaiting a result.)

Andrey Rublev – A really intriguing prospect here overall. His best can match it with most on the players on tour, however I do feel he is still a little bit vulnerable on the backhand side. He was found out against Dan Evans, and given past performances at grand slam level, I am inclined to side with Medvedev and a long shot trading selection that I will discuss later.

Grigor Dimitrov – Testing positive for COVID-19 at the Adria Tour was not part of the plan for Grigor Dimitrov, who remarked at how long it took him to get over the virus. Looked a little better through his first two matches last week, and will have the pressure off this fortnight as he doesn’t have to worry about defending his semi final points from last year.

He showed a bit of promise against Humbert last week, however it was a poor showing backing up against Fucsovics. I don’t think he matches up too poorly against Medvedev and Rublev, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds for him. To start, he will need to avenge his first round loss to Tommy Paul at the Australian Open.

Nikolaz Basilashvili – This preview is long enough. I will pass here.

Guido Pella – Markets have him as an underdog in round 1 to JJ Wolf, and it won’t get any easier from there. Missed the lead-up tournament as a close contact to a COVID-19, and isn’t favoured by the faster conditions.

Daniil Medvedev – A solid week build-up for Medvedev, who showed more than enough in his loss to Bautista-Agut to suggest he has been able to maintain a high level post the tour suspension period. Proven performer in New York, having reached the final and pushing Rafael Nadal to the absolute limit. I think the faster surface doesn’t quite suit him as much as last year, however, I did note his best performances across the fortnight of the US Open in 2019 were during his night matches.

There may be a potential spot opposing him early in the tournament against the right style of player, however as the tournament progresses, he should really build into the fortnight, especially if he is able to command a couple of night sessions. I won’t be opposing him early, however, may look to jump into his outright price in the middle rounds based on what I have seen.

Unseeded players to watch

John Millman – Some of his biggest performances of Millman’s career have come at Flushing Meadows (like that time he beat someone named Federer), and one key area for the Australian is that we know he has the fitness levels to be able to last the distance in what could be a hot and humid fortnight. I will be keeping an eye on him, and would love to see him against a Medvedev on a hot afternoon in the right conditions.

Quarter 4

Roberto Bautista-Agut – One of the players I wouldn’t want to be facing in New York over the next fortnight. With such little competitive tennis for all players in the lead-up, the thought of playing up to 5 sets with the Spaniard on the other side of the court does not sound like a lot of fun.

In the past I have been a little bit critical on the somewhat stubborn style of play that RBA can produce at times, however what I loved to see from him against Medvedev a couple of days ago was his ability to accept that his early plan wasn’t working and try and shake things up a little bit.

He was ultimately rewarded, and hopefully he will gain a bit of confidence from that. The fact he doesn’t look out of place against any style of opponent or court surface does play in his favour. Happy to support here.

Milos Raonic – Took me be surprise in this last week, however off such limited tennis I have some concerns if he has to play consecutive long matches given limited tennis. His forehand was exceptional during the Western & Southern Open, and it takes a great level to be 6-1 2-0 up on Djokovic, regardless of the final result. I think so soon into his comeback that the best of 3 set format is more suited for him, and this little pocket of RBA/Raonic/De Minaur/Khachanov is a difficult section for him.

Alex De Minaur – I was hoping to have seen a little more from Alex in the build-up but it was not to be. He looked incredibly rusty against Struff last week, and coming off his injury in the exhibition tournament a couple of weeks ago, it is a little difficult to make a case for him here. That being said, his first round could allow him to find his range and comfort levels, so it will be interesting to see how he fares this week. The time on court in claiming his doubles title will have also helped.

Karen Khachanov – Saw some really positive signs from Khachanov on court in the tournament this week. Looked very good early in a three set loss to Bautista-Agut, which is turning out to be pretty solid form from the week. I don’t normally read too much into form in the week before a slam, however I was impressed with his ball striking off both wings. Tricky first round, however looks to be building a consistent base of form.

Felix Auger-Aliassime – There is a real opportunity here for the young Canadian, he just needs to take advantage of it. His game continues to evolve, and the body of work that he was producing prior to the pandemic is pretty impressive.

I was not overly keen on him during this phase of the season last year, however that was largely due to Auger-Aliassime playing so much tennis in the front end of the season. He should be too good for Monteiro in Round 1, and would be favoured in my opinion over best of 5 sets against the winner of Murray/Nishioka.

He also has the game and movement to not be too fazed by the variety that would come from a potential meeting with Dan Evans. Looks to be a genuine chance of making the final 16, or even the final 8. I am happy to lock him in at a trading price and see where his week takes him.

Dan Evans – Another player that has shown the value of having an exceptional backhand slice. It neutralised Andrey Rublev in their meeting last week, as he was unable to attack with any sort of consistency off his own backhand wing as a result. I am fascinated to see how his backhand matches up against the left-handed forehand of Seyboth Wild in round 1. I think at the odds, I prefer Auger-Aliassime to come out of this little pocket of the draw.

Marin Cilic – The struggle to place the former US Open champion in terms of form and potential at this stage of his career remains on the difficult side. He looked solid on his way to the fourth round in Melbourne, with wins over Moutet, Paire and Bautista-Agut. He may have an upset on the cards here, however given his overall body of form, I must say it is a little difficult to see him making a deep tournament run.

Dominic Thiem – It was a simply strange performance from the Austrian on his return to the ATP Tour in the Western & Southern Open last week, losing in quick fashion to Filip Krajinovic. The fact the court speed in New York looks to be a little faster this year after the resurfacing does not play into the hands of Thiem either.

Initially when the 2020 tour calendar was announced, Thiem had made the decision to bypass the 2020 Olympics to allow himself to play his home tournament in Kitzbuhel. This presents a real dilemma for Thiem, as Kitzbuhel does have an overlap with the US Open. It is a dilemma as Thiem was knocked out of the US Open in round 1 last year, so this is a massive opportunity for the Austrian to earn a significant chunk of ranking points.

I don’t quite understand his performance earlier this week, and with question marks around where Thiem wants to play, and the weight he previously placed on Kitzbuhel over the OLYMPICS, I am struggling to place him this week. The faster hardcourt doesn’t help, and I prefer others on current odds.

Unseeded Players to Watch

Andy Murray – Whilst it was great to see Murray back at the top level after another unfortunate injury, I do have my reservations around supporting him in the best of 5 set format. I think the cumulative fatigue that may eventuate is an issue for the fortnight.

We saw his struggles against Raonic, after backing up from a long 3-setter last week, and although there are rest days for the fortnight, best of 5 sets for him at this stage of his career, off such little competitive tennis seems to be a tough ask.

Jannik Sinner – I will be writing about him for years to come, however I am not quite sure Sinner is at a point to be a threat in grand slam outrights. He will need to be on from the outset though, as a round 1 meeting with Khachanov looks fascinating.

Sam Querrey – He will need to find another level this week.

Richard Gasquet – I have enough question marks over the longer format to sit out making a play on Gasquet. He has shown flashes of late, however this is a tough ask.

Vasek Pospisil – Unfavourable draw for the Canadian, however at his best is capable of a big upset. Will be heavily reliant on his first serve to make inroads.

Tennys Sandgren – Made a fantastic run at the Australian Open, and seems to prefer the big occasion. Tough draw first up makes it hard to get involved.


Summary

I am not sure there is value in the price on Novak Djokovic, so I am happy to work around some other players in other quarters and see if a potential match-up with the Serbian evolves.

In the second quarter, the appeal lies with Stefanos Tsitsipas from an outright standpoint, and he looks to be fit enough to be able to start pushing Djokovic across the longer format. He is a deserving favourite for the section, and should be primed for a big fortnight.

In the third quarter I do have Daniil Medvedev as the favourite from this section, however I will watch and wait on this selection early. I will also take a trading selection on John Millman in the bottom portion of the quarter. This tournament more than ever the fitness base will be key, and Millman could have his draw open up with a victory over the 22nd seed Basilashvili in round 1.

The final quarter is in a way dependent on what we see from Thiem. He has the fitness edge, and could really make a big push here. The faster court surface is a bit of an issue however, so I would rather look elsewhere at some longer odds from a trading standpoint.

My main selection in double figure odds here is Roberto Bautista-Agut, who put together a very impressive week in the lead-up, having served for the match and more than held his own against Djokovic. I also think the trading price for Felix Auger-Aliassime looks solid given his draw overall, and I will be looking for him to make a push towards the second week if he can bring a level close to his best.

To summarise a long preview. Djokovic should win but under the odds. Tsitsipas biggest threat of the top half, and Medvedev, Bautista-Agut, Auger-Aliassime and Millman could make runs on the bottom half. I want to see Medvedev get through the early rounds first in the conditions, and unless Novak is knocked out, I would anticipate his outright price to still be decent as we enter week two.


Betting Strategy

BACK – Stefanos Tsitsipas to win the US Open

BACK – Roberto Bautista-Agut to win the US Open

Trading Selections

BACK to LAY – Felix Auger-Aliassime

BACK to LAY – John Millman

Players to monitor

Quarter 1

Karolina Pliskova – Another opportunity for Pliskova to claim her maiden grand slam title presents itself this week, with the Czech the top seed as a result of Barty and Halep skipping the North American phase of the tour. I wouldn’t read too much into her loss against Kudermetova last week. She has played enough tennis over the last couple of months to have maintained a level of match fitness. Personally, though, I just don’t see enough value in her outright price at the end of the day.

She is in a section of the draw that includes either hard hitters that have solid court coverage skills (ie. Brady, Riske), or counterpunching types that have had success against her in the past (ie. Kerber, and even CC Bellis). Whilst she does have the weakest of the 5-8 seeds in her section in Petra Martic, she still cannot take this draw lightly.

Jennifer Brady – Winning Lexington has probably taken a lot of the value out of her price, especially with her close proximity to the top seed in Pliskova. Whilst I do feel she would have a great chance in a potential meeting between the two, I would rather be looking elsewhere in the outright markets, hoping for her to do the hard work of knocking off the top seed if it came to that.

Angelique Kerber – One of the unknowns of the tour overall, given we haven’t seen her since the Australian Open. She lost to Pavlyuchenkova in the 4th round, which was impressive given her hamstring injury in Adelaide in the week prior to the tournament, so I am fascinated to see how she starts this week. We will know a little more once she takes to the court against Tomljanovic in round 1. If she looks solid, I will comment on a trading opportunity for her if she looks to be moving well (and the price is right!).

Alison Riske – The American hasn’t come back in the best form since the tour resumed, which is a shame as the first couple of rounds of her draw look relatively favourable. I just cannot pull the trigger on her in any outright capacity based on what I have seen the last couple of weeks.

Marketa Vondrousova – Disappointed me last week, however, I am considering her given she is in the 8th of the draw with Petra Martic as the highest seed. Minnen/Di Lorenzo/Sasnovich/Golubic/Lapko/Montgomery/Putintseva are who stand between her and the second week of the tournament. She *should* be making her way through this portion of the draw, and the fact she has made a grand slam final in the past, albeit on clay, shows that she is comfortable in handling the situation of running deep into a grand slam. One to keep an eye on this week. She may struggle against Putintseva if her loss to Siegemund last week is any indication.

Yulia Putintseva – Whilst most draws would have put me off Putintseva in an outright capacity, this draw seems pretty friendly for her. May be worth a longer odds selection in the quarter winner markets, as on her day is capable of challenging most in this section. I will be keeping an eye on her, that is for sure, and she looks a decent trading option at very long odds.

Kristina Mladenovic – The fluctuations in level on court recently from Mladenovic makes it hard to consider her from an outright capacity. The three-set loss to Mertens holds up as solid form, however the double faults that are plaguing her at times in early rounds would be putting me off her in later round. I will look elsewhere.

Petra Martic – Sneaks into a solid draw positioning as the 8th seed, however, her performances on clay a couple of weeks ago is a cause for concern in my opinion. I would be more inclined to be with her in Paris in a couple of weeks than here. Tough to place.

Unseeded players to watch

Ajla Tomljanovic – Much like I will be interested to see if Kerber is fit, if Tomljanovic can deliver an impressive performance in round one, she has the ability to snatch the draw of a seed and make a push. Not in the outright picture in my eyes.

CC Bellis – She boasts a win over Karolina Pliskova, and Jennifer Brady wouldn’t be the worst match-up for her in round 2. She has the potential to shake things up for others in the outright market.

Arantxa Rus – Pushed Serena Williams to the limit last week, and has been producing some solid results of late. In other sections of the draw she would be left off this list, but there looks to be some significant opportunities for players to make a deep push in this quarter.


Quarter 2

Naomi Osaka – Had you asked me on Friday where I had Osaka placed in terms of this draw, I would have had her as the favourite. The injury appears to be legitimate, with Osaka grabbing for her hamstring moving out wide to take a backhand a 1-1 in the tiebreak against Mertens.

Even if it were tightness, considering there has been such little tennis played in the last couple of weeks, conditioning will be key coming into this fortnight. I think we will know a lot about her after her first-round match with Misaki Doi, who will test out the hamstring for all of us watching at home. If she is fit, I have her on top, so it does make for some tricky decision making. I don’t think much value will be lost in her price waiting for one round.

Anastasija Sevastova – The Latvian has performed well in the past at the US Open, however it is near impossible to consider her off her last couple of tournaments. A round 1 meeting with Coco Gauff also doesn’t help her case here. Prefer others.

Magda Linette – A win over Lauren Davis and losses to Jennifer Brady and Vera Zvonareva are not the best lead-in form. Linette practiced a lot with Sofia Kenin over the break, so I was a little disappointed with her last couple of outings. Prefer others in the outright space.

Anett Kontaveit – Such has been the case on a couple of other occasions with Kontaveit, an opportunity in the Western & Southern Open went begging with a close loss to Naomi Osaka. I don’t think there is value in her price given the firepower that is apparent in this section of the draw. She looks to have a genuine danger game in Danielle Collins, who can produce a ruthless performance out of nowhere.

Elena Rybakina – One of the players that I am willing to forgive coming off an early loss last week, in what was a very competitive match against Ekaterina Alexandrova last week. Rybakina remarked that she was unable to practice in the early stages of her lockdown, as she was forced to stay in her apartment. It wasn’t a poor performance last week, and I think she is a genuine chance to make a big push this fortnight. A huge couple of months ahead for her from a rankings standpoint.

Dayana Yastremska – She has all the talent in the world, by my goodness is she frustrating. My new nickname for her is Massively Talented Overall, or MTO for short, so the nickname serves multiple purposes. I just don’t think the psychological side of her game is there yet. I have a high opinion of what she can produce point to point, however everything outside of that is holding her back at the moment. No value at the price, and under the odds in her round 1 meeting with Sharma.

Rebecca Peterson – Not interested in the outright picture here. Elise Mertens first up off a couple of months without tennis was a nightmare scenario for the Swede, so look for a better performance this week. If she were to win round 1, a meeting with Pegula/Bouzkova looks mighty tough on what I have seen from both players.

Petra Kvitova – The Czech is not a lover of the humidity, however when the heat starts to pick up later in the first week, things could become a little difficult for her. So much of her success here will come down to when she plays her matches. She faded in the heat against Bouzkova last week, so may be vulnerable at times.

She is the type of player I would love to jump in at the right price with at the start of the second week, as the potential for evening play builds. That, and the fact she is proven at this level as a past grand slam champion, plays in her favour. She will be VERY hard to beat in the second week, the question is: will she make it there?

Unseeded players to watch

Coco Gauff – Another that I will writing about for the next decade at least. She is almost value here from a trading standpoint, especially with the question marks around the fitness of Osaka. I have no desire to oppose her early this fortnight. She has all the tools, and may actually benefit from a reduction in pressure with the lack of crowd at Flushing Meadows this year.

Danielle Collins – A massive underdog in round 1 given injury concerns from last week and a lack of form since the tour was suspended. Hard to have on form.

Jessica Pegula/Marie Bouzkova – It is unfair these two players must meet in the first round here given their form. I would give the winner a great chance of upsetting Kvitova in round 3, however I am struggling to split them in their head to head.


Quarter 3

Madison Keys – Which Madison Keys are we going to see this fortnight? It was a disappointing loss against Ons Jabeur last week, however I am keeping Keys safe early in the tournament. She has made the final here before, and is another that could make a deep run and benefit from the lack of crowd and pressure. Time will tell.

Shuai Zhang – I haven’t seen enough from her over the last 12 months to consider her from an outright standpoint.

Donna Vekic – Disappointing since the restart. I just haven’t seen enough from her at grand slam level in the past to consider her for an outright. Could take advantage of the draw in week 1 if Muguruza is injured, however it would take a significant uptick in form to progress deep.

Garbine Muguruza – The Spaniard is tricky to place here. She was brilliant in Melbourne, only a set from claiming another grand slam. The ankle injury that forced her to miss the Western & Southern Open is a major concern for mine, and enough to put me off her current quote on the exchange.

Maria Sakkari – Struggled to back up her win over Serena Williams last week, losing to Konta in straight sets without breaking her serve. I just fear from an outright perspective that she will be found lacking the necessary firepower to get through seven matches unscathed. The second serve also worried me at times in her matches against Williams and Konta.

Amanda Anisimova – Before the tour resumed I was really excited to see what Anisimova was going to produce in the lead-up to the US Open. A shoulder injury ruled her out of Lexington, however I was impressed with her performance against Riske last week.

The back-up performance against Pegula was not so great, and off such little tennis in 2020 I have to wonder if seven matches across two weeks, with a shoulder issue in the lead-up may be a tough ask. My worry for her here is the close proximity to Serena, however if Serena manages to stumble early and Anisimova looks good, I will take another look at her odds.

Sloane Stephens – Former champion, however I just haven’t seen enough from her to consider in the outrights before the tournament. I will be watching her closely though.

Serena Williams – I am incredibly torn here. There are a couple of different ways to look at this her lead-up. The first? You look at the losses that came to Rogers and Sakkari, both from incredibly dominant positions. What contributed to those losses? Cumulative fatigue that comes with playing back to back days in the smaller WTA tournaments.

If she enters those matches fresh, she probably rolls Rogers and Sakkari in straight sets. The other advantage this fortnight? The scheduling. With no crowds, there will be a major emphasis on putting Serena in prime time spots, which will lead to a number of night sessions for her across the fortnight. Whilst I was against her in the lead-up tournaments on a couple of occasions, I cannot oppose her from the outset here. Draw and scheduling wise, I have her as value in the outright market to be honest.

Unseeded players to watch

Jil Teichmann – She would probably want the going to be a little slower, however she has played some solid tennis in the lead-up. More likely to be in the outright picture at Roland Garros for mine.

Alize Cornet – Had her chances against Azarenka last week, and all of a sudden that doesn’t seem like the worst form. Another player that isn’t a big fan of the heat, so may find the going hard on a hot and humid day. Worth a small trading spot in this part of the draw.

Quarter 4

Aryna Sabalenka – The draw has not been kind to Sabalenka. A first round meeting against Dodin, then potential second and third round meetings against Azarenka and Kudermetova, and it won’t get any easier after that. Still yet to completely break through on the biggest stage, so I still have some question marks.

Veronika Kudermetova – Featuring deep into grand slams isn’t too far away for the Russian, however I think this still may be a little soon. As we saw last week, she doesn’t match up too badly against some of the bigger strikers of the ball, so I don’t mind her match-up against Sabalenka on form. The problem? She faces Swiatek in round 1.

Karolina Muchova – Another with an unfavourable draw, with no real value in her outright price. Has Venus Williams in round 1 as well to get things off to a tough start.

Johanna Konta – Sprung back into form over the last week, and appeared to enjoy the faster conditions on offer in New York. Whilst she has never fully broken through at grand slam level to claim a title, she has consistently produced impressive results, with a career best quarter final at Flushing Meadows last year. Keep safe early, and I will be more inclined to be backing her in a couple of select match-ups are they to eventuate at the odds I predict.

Elise Mertens – After a poor outing in Palermo on the tour resumption, Mertens has put together two incredibly impressive weeks in two contrasting environments. As one of the most solid, consistent, all-court performers, Mertens needs to be respected in almost every draw, and I won’t be opposing her.

Ekaterina Alexandrova – One of the few players on the tour than can dictate the outcome of almost every match she takes part in on tour. I would have loved to have seen her in a section of the draw with the likes of Pliskova, Keys and co., however much like you will see below with Ons Jabeur, I would have loved her to avoid the likes of Mertens and Kenin in this draw.

Ons Jabeur – Continues to improve her game, with another couple of weeks of solid results in the lead-up to the US Open. There are a group of players that I would have preferred her to avoid from a seeding standpoint, and they include Mertens, Konta and Kenin. With all three of them in the quarter, it is hard to make a case for her. One of the best to watch on tour, however the low first serve percentage is something that I think could be her undoing at some point over the fortnight. She will continue to improve, and I am fascinated to see where this fortnight leads for the Tunisian.

Sofia Kenin – The American is playing her first grand slam as the hunted, instead of the hunter. Kenin was able to spend a lot of time on court over the tour break, however that lacks the competitive intensity that is required at the top level. Kenin found this one out the hard way against Alize Cornet last week, losing in straight sets first-up. Whilst I won’t be actively opposing Kenin in any capacity early, I don’t see a great deal of value in her current price to be honest.

Unseeded players to watch

Leylah Fernandez – it is a little too soon to be talking grand slams, however the Canadian does have a big future ahead of her.

Victoria Azarenka – The big surprise of the lead-up week of tennis. Whilst she certainly upped her game with some brilliant tennis across the week, I don’t see any value in her price for this tournament now as a result.

Iga Swiatek – A little short in the market as well, however, I cannot wait to see her in round 1 against Kudermetova.


Summary

Where to begin to summarise?!

In the first quarter, I think Pliskova is vulnerable in an overall weak quarter compared to the others. If she were to win her first round match, I will consider taking Angelique Kerber in the outright markets, however I need to see her play first. In the second portion of the quarter, a case can be made for Yulia Putintseva to make a run in her part of the draw as well. Keep an eye on her.

In the second quarter, outcomes may hinge on the fitness of Naomi Osaka. 3 days ago I had her as a clear favourite for the tournament, so the hamstring injury is definitely a concern here. I will look to the bottom portion of the quarter to find a play in the first instance, and for me, it is Elena Rybakina. Her form and consistency over the last 9-12 months warrant a selection here, and she won’t be afraid of any match-up that stands in her way for the fortnight.

The third quarter is Serena Williams’ to lose in my opinion. As I mentioned above, the playing on alternate days and the likely heavy night scheduling for her is a massive advantage, so she looks value at the price. A long-odds trading position could be on offer in the top portion of the quarter for Alize Cornet at very long odds.

I am leaning towards Elise Mertens in the bottom quarter of the draw, as I give her the edge slightly over Kenin, Konta and Sabalenka. Her all-round game appeals and she has looked great in the lead-up over her last two tournaments.

To pick an outright from the top and bottom halves to summarise: Williams and Rybakina. It is imperative that Williams gets through the first week without much time on court, otherwise, it has the potential to come back and bite her in week 2.


Betting Strategy

BACK – Serena Williams to win the US Open

BACK – Elena Rybakina to win the US Open

BACK – Elise Mertens to win the US Open

Trading Selections

BACK to LAY – Yulia Putintseva

BACK to LAY – Alize Cornet

Players to monitor


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