Tennis - US Open Preview
The fourth and final Grand Slam of the season the US Open gets underway at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York, USA tomorrow and, with a new state of the art roof finally being installed on the Arthur Ashe court, there will thankfully be no more major weather delays. The quality of the men's tournament has been diluted considerably with two-time winner Djokovic, defending champion Wawrinka, 2014 finalist Nishikori and, most recently, Raonic and second seed Murray all withdrawing due to injury.
In addition to this third seed and five-time champion Federer (Back) is carrying an injury and fifth seed and 2014 winner Cilic has not been seen since his dramatic capitulation in this year's Wimbledon final, which was supposedly injury related. In terms of the remaining top 10 seeds this leaves two-time winner Nadal as the top seed along with Federer, Thiem (seeded six), Dimitrov (7), Goffin (9) and Kyrgios (14) all in a highly competitive top half of the draw.
Fourth seed Zverev, Tsonga (8) and Isner (10) make up the top 10 seeds and they reside in the much weaker bottom half of the draw alongside fifth seed Cilic, Carreno-Busta (12) and Sock (13). The top seed has a good record at the US Open over the last decade winning four titles in this period (last Djokovic 2015) and they were a losing finalist three times in this period (last Djokovic 2016), which bodes well for the second favorite's (Nadal) chances this year.
The second seed also has a decent record over the last decade winning the title twice (last Nadal 2013) and they were a losing finalist three times in this period (last Federer 2015), but these statistics are obsolete now due to Murray withdrawing after the draw was made. A Lucky Loser will take his place rather than Federer moving up to the second seed and moving to the bottom half of the draw.
Seeded players in general have a very strong record at the US Open over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than fourteen won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than three won eight of the last ten titles. Also, a player seeded no higher than ten was a losing finalist in the last ten finals and a player seeded no higher than three was a losing finalist in eight of the last ten finals.
I'm happy to oppose the first and second favourites (Nadal and Federer) at this stage of the season as, while they have dominated up to now, I think they will both struggle physically this fortnight and they could easily be knocked out before the second week commences, if not before the final and we will no doubt see them both play sparingly between now and World Tour Finals in November.
I've already advised seventh seed Dimitrov (20/1) for the tournament and I'll throw 14th seed Kyrgios (13/2) in there as well to win the Second Quarter, as he's showed a potential return to form at the Cincinnati Masters reaching the final and he has beaten Federer (who is in his quarter) before.
With Murray out and fifth seed Cilic having not played since Wimbledon, the bottom half of the draw is wide open for a first-time finalist and fourth seed Zverev is the favourite after winning his first Masters Series on hard courts at Montreal recently. However, his record in Grand Slams to date is distinctly average and I'm happy to oppose him in search of a more experienced player at better value. Tenth seed Isner (100/1) has been in good form back on home soil winning Newport on grass, Atlanta on hard courts and most recently he just missed out on reaching the final at the Cincinnati Masters losing to eventual winner Dimitrov in the semi-finals.
His best result at Flushing Meadow is a quarter-final run back in 2011 and he will never get a better chance to better that and reach his first Grand Slam final this year as none of the Big Five will be there to stop him this time. On home soil, with the best serve in the men's game and over the best of five sets he will fancy his chances against any of the potential opponents he may face on route to the final and at triple figure odds he's worth siding with to spring a surprise this year.
The women's tournament is as wide open as ever although there has only been one real surprise winner over the last decade when Pannetta won in 2015. Kerber is the defending champion but her form slumped alarmingly as soon as she was confirmed world number one. However, it now looks like Wimbledon champion and third Muguruza (7/1), who won Cincinnati recently, maybe finally ready to take over the mantle of world number one, which she will become if she wins this year's title.
Her form has been good since winning Wimbledon, unlike when she won the French Open in 2015, and, as a result, she is now the joint 7/1 favourite to win the US Open along with top-seed and 2016 finalist Pliskova, which looks like good value to me. One other player who I think is good value this year and is moving ever closer to challenging for the Grand Slams is fourth seed Svlitolina (11/1). She has been in great form this year winning five titles already including Montreal recently and if she can repeat that level of form this fortnight she will be very tough to beat.