US Open Tennis Betting Preview

by Nancy Houston
on August 24, 2017

The year’s final grand slam, the US Open, gets underway at Flushing Meadows next week, and with a number of big names missing both the men’s and women’s draws are wide open.

It may only be August, but in the world of tennis, it’s been a grueling eight months that have taken their toll on some of the game’s top players. Of the top 11 players in the ATP rankings, four – Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic – have already called time on their seasons due to injury, while Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Marin Čilić head into the US Open with injury concerns.

The lengthy list of absentees and walking wounded could open the door for a surprise victor, the first since Čilić’s shock win in New York in 2014. That should have punters rubbing their hands with glee as legitimate contenders at long odds are rarely seen in men’s tennis.

On the women’s side of the draw, Serena Williams will be a presence at the event, but only to cheer on her sister, Venus, as the younger of the Williams siblings prepares for the birth of her first child. An unfortunate child-care issue means , but former winner Maria Sharapova returns to a grand slam for the first time since her doping violation.

The Men’s Draw

The Favorites

For all the talk of an open field, there are three familiar faces heading up the odds – Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray. On Monday, Nadal returned to the top of the world rankings for the first time since July 2014 in what has been an incredible turnaround for the Spaniard. The 31-year-old appeared down and out as injuries and a loss of form saw him tumble to tenth in the rankings and saw him fail to make the semi-final of a grand slam for ten consecutive tournaments leading up to the start of 2017.

That tale of woe seems like ancient history now, with Nadal a beaten finalist at the Australian Open (he lost to Federer in five sets) and the winner of an incredible tenth French Open title in June. Nadal has played just three tournaments since, losing in the last 16 at Wimbledon and the Rogers Cup, and in the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Masters last time out. It’s a run of results that doesn’t inspire too much confidence, and at +250 to win a third US Open crown, I don’t think a tiring Nadal represents good value.

Should Nadal have a deep run over the next fortnight, he could set up a meeting with likely third seed Federer in what will be their first meeting at the tournament during their 13-year rivalry; at time when the two legends are enjoying a renaissance, it would seem fitting that such an oddity is rectified.

Federer is looking to emerge from the injury cloud that hampered him during his defeat to Alexander Zverev in the Rogers Cup final and resulted in his withdrawal from the Cincinnati Masters. With two grand slams already to his name this year and five US Open trophies already in his cabinet, it’s no surprise that Federer has been installed as the tournament favorite at +137. Those are shorter odds than prior to Wimbledon when the stars really were aligning for the Swiss and that makes it hard to go all in on Federer. The 19-time grand slam winner has lost just three times this year, but those odds suggest he’s indestructible and he’s not. A fully fit Federer will win the US Open, but a lingering back injury is a serious concern for the 36-year-old and all those looking to profit off of small margins.

Even more concerning than Federer’s back is Murray’s hip. The Briton has not played since the injury saw him slump to a disappointing quarter-final defeat at the hands of Sam Querrey at Wimbledon. There was speculation that Murray would undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the year, but the world number two has decided to stick it out. To me this suggests that while he may not be 100%, he’s not being hindered too much. If the injury was still really taking its toll then I don’t see what Murray would gain from soldiering on at half speed, he must feel he can still challenge for the title. I’m not convinced he will though, and at +650 to win I would avoid Murray.

The Chasing Pack

For years now the tennis world has been waiting for the next generation to step up and lay claim to the thrones that for so long been occupied by the Big Four (and Stan Wawrinka). Every year those hopes end in disappointment. Forty-eight of the last fifty grand slams have been won by one of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray or Wawrinka – players who are all over the age of 30. Can a young gun steal the show this time around?

The 20-year-old Alexander Zverev is the bookmakers’ favorite to do so, with the German positioned at insanely short odds of +700. Given that Zverev defeated Federer to take the title in Montreal just two weeks ago, you may be wondering why I think he’s hugely overrated, and the answer is simple: stamina. Zverev simply doesn’t have the stamina to do it. The youngster has never made it past the fourth round of a grand slam and part of the reason for that is that he struggles with matches that exceed three sets; in best-of-three set matches Zverev has a 79% win-loss ratio, a ratio that drops to 60% in best-of-five set matches. Zverev has the makings of a grand slam champion, but it won’t be at this year’s US Open.

Marin Čilić (+1400) is one of only two players not part of the dominant five to win a grand slam in recent memory, with his success at the 2014 US Open something of an outlier. Was it not for an adductor injury in the build-up, the Croat would look a real dark horse for another title at Flushing Meadows. However, Čilić hasn’t played since breaking down in tears during the Wimbledon final when blisters cruelly put pay to his hopes. I don’t see the world number seven returning to the fold in a blaze of glory.

Victory at the 2009 US Open was meant to be a sign of Juan Martin del Potro’s ascent to the upper echelons, but instead, it stands as a mark of would, could have been were it not for a string of wrist injuries. The Argentine is on the up, and at +1400 would be a much-loved winner in the eyes of the Flushing Meadows faithful and punters the world over, but I don’t think ‘Delpo’ has it in the tank – as much as I wish he did.

The Dark Horses

Sitting alongside Cilic and Del Potro are Nick Kyrgios (+1400) and Grigor Dimitrov (+1600), two thoroughly intriguing candidates. , with the Australian seemingly equally capable of winning the US Open and he is of losing in the first round. The man himself perhaps summed it up best after his Cincinnati Masters semi-final victory over David Ferrer when he remarked: “Where I was three weeks ago, it wasn’t good at all. Now I’m in a Masters final. That’s a very Nick Kyrgios thing to do. I don’t know. It’s crazy.” I don’t usually go for crazy, but I’m tempted to have a punt on the Australian simply because if he does win it will be on the back of an incredibly entertaining two weeks of tennis. A run into the latter stages of the tournament is more likely, but if injury hits the old guard, Kyrgios is well placed to pounce.

At the start of the year even considering Dimitrov as a potential grand slam winner seemed outrageous. The Bulgarian has largely been unable to deliver on his early potential, and was, until recently, consigned to the scrapheap – but there is hope once more for the 26-year-old. After winning just four titles in his first nine years on the ATP Tour, Dimitrov has won three this year, including a victory over Kyrgios in Cincinnati. Depending on his draw, Dimitrov can go far in New York and with a 24-6 record on hard courts this year it shouldn’t be a surprise if he does.

The Long Shots

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a solid performer on hard courts and has made it to the last eight in New York for the past two years. He comes into the US Open on the back of very little form, but did bag three titles earlier in the year. At +6600 you’ll certainly be rewarded for taking a chance.

Fancy an American victory? It’s incredibly unlikely, but Jack Sock is the man I would keep an eye on if you’re desperate. I don’t think big servers John Isner or Sam Querrey can go all the way, and despite a poor second half of the year, Sock has the talent. However, odds of +10000 should tell you a lot about his chances.

The Women’s Draw

The Favorites

Garbine Muguruza was roundly written off in the build up to Wimbledon, with the Spaniard having struggled with injury and a horrible loss of form since her win at the French Open last year. It’s fair to say the 23-year-old has had the last laugh! Muguruza has been in top form since capturing her second grand slam title at the All England Club, underlying her strength by absolutely pummeling Simona Halep in the final of the Cincinnati Masters last week. At +450 for the title, Muguruza is the favorite at Flushing Meadows and with what has evolved into an all-round baseline game and new-found composure under pressure, the trophy is hers for the taking.

World number one Karolina Pliskova might have something to say about that though. A finalist at the US Open last year, the 25-year-old’s big serve and strength from the back of the court will no doubt serve her well in New York. The Czech is the sixth player to reach the top of the rankings without winning a grand slam, but she has a great chance to end that drought. Pliskova holds a 6-2 head-to-head advantage over Muguruza, and a 6-1 record on hard courts, but it’s tough to ignore that the one match that went in the Spaniard’s favor was a comprehensive straight sets victory in Cincinnati a week ago. With the number one ranking to protect, Pliskova needs no additional motivation, and at +700 she looks appealing, but I think a rampant Muguruza may prove too much.

The Chasing Pack

Always there or thereabouts, Simona Halep is once again on the fringes at +900. In one sense, a final berth on the eve of a grand slam suggests good form, but the manner in which Halep was dispatched by Muguruza suggests that her wait for a maiden grand slam will continue.

With five titles to her name in 2017 and career-best showings at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Elina Svitolina (+1000) is certainly a player moving in the right direction. The 22-year-old heads into the US Open fresh from victory at the Rogers Cup, but while one to watch I’m not sure it’s her time just yet.

If there is one thing we should know by now it’s never to write off Venus Williams. At 36, Williams continues to mix it up at the top of the field after an incredible comeback from a debilitating illness. It seemed a moment of true tennis magic was on the cards when Williams progressed to the Wimbledon final, but the American came unstuck against a resurgent Muguruza. Buoyed on by a partisan crowd, Williams is one to watch all the way out at +1600.

The Dark Horse

Madison Keys (+1400) has flown below the radar somewhat this year as she continues her recovery from wrist and shoulder injuries. The 22-year-old beat Muguruza on her way to winning in

Stanford earlier this month, and gave the Spaniard a run for her money in Cincinnati before going down in three sets. An American winner would certainly make for a good story, and this is one fairytale I’m willing to put a bit of money behind.

The Long Shots

Angelique Kerber will be hoping to salvage something from a disastrous 2017, and as the defending champion the German certainly knows what it takes to win on the big stage. However, the former

world number one can’t catch a break at the moment and is 25-17 for the season. That said, if, and that’s a big ‘if’, Kerber can get going there is no reason she can’t go all the way. At +1600, this is a long shot that has an outside chance of coming off.

for the first time since the 2016 Australian Open following a suspension for a doping violation. The Russian will be incredibly motivated as she looks to silence her critics with a second US Open title. Unfortunately, the 30-year-old’s build-up has been hindered by injury, and it’s because of that I’m wary of backing her at +1400.

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