The US Open – Men’s Singles Preview

August 31st, 2015 | Marten Julian's Guest Contributor News

The final tennis major starts today at the Billie Jean King Tennis Centre in Flushing, New York. The Centre contains the largest tennis stadium in the world, a 22,500 seater venue named after the inspirational black American Arthur Ashe. The second show court, named the Louis Armstrong Arena, holds 10,200.

The courts are standard Deco Turf hard courts – reasonably paced and offering virtually perfect conditions for the players. Occasionally high winds can get up, and it’s worth knowing that Djokovic is sometimes vulnerable in very windy conditions – Nadal has proven to the best player in extreme wind, while Murray is good too.

The New York crowd never fails to deliver its unique atmosphere, particularly during the night sessions. The crowd is rowdy and they like to cheer for their tennis stars just like they do for their football teams. The current top players thrive on the atmosphere – Djokovic, Murray and Federer all seem to love the gladiatorial atmosphere the crowd generates.

This year will be no different, with matches going on long into the night and sometimes well into the early hours, but the crowd seems to stay until the finish.

The top four seeds this year are Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nishikori with Nishikori drawn into the same half as Djokovic. Nadal has dropped down the ranking and he is seeded 8th and unfortunately has been drawn into the top quarter with Djokovic.

Novak Djokovic is the rightful favourite at 2.32 on Betfair. He has a great record at the US Open, the conditions suit his game and he will be very hard to beat. His strengths are his ability to return serve, his agility and speed around the court coupled with unerring consistency in power hitting rallies.

His first serve isn’t so powerful but it’s consistent and accurate, but his second serve is very good – opponents are unable to attack it and allowing him to get into rallies which he excels in. He comes into this tournament on the back of two losing finals in Masters tournaments, in Montreal to Murray and in Cincinnati he was well beaten by Federer. He struggled in several matches during those tournaments and certainly wasn’t at his best. We know he’d had a few weeks rest and I suspect he will be sharper over the next fortnight.

I think Djokovic has quite a good draw, meeting the Brazilian Souza in the first round, likely to be followed by Pospisil, Seppi, Goffin before a likely quarter final against Nadal or Raonic. I expect Novak to win through and most likely face Nishikori in the semi-final.

Before Wimbledon I thought Novak was value at 2.5 and he duly delivered, albeit it wasn’t as comfortable as I’d expected. At 2.32 I feel the price is about right and he is the most likely winner but the odds are quite short.

I do think Federer, Murray and Nishikori have reasonable chances against him. Roger Federer is the second seed and second favourite in the betting at around 4/1. He is trading at 5/5.1 on Betfair as this article is written.

I have to admit I had written Federer off. In my opinion he was short of power against the current top players and I couldn’t see him adding to his record tally of 17 majors but he has proven me wrong. His new racquet, being half an inch longer and with a larger sweet spot has given him the increased power he needed. The difficulty is these racquets often lead to more errors, a general reduction in control but somehow – I suspect through hard practice coupled with his talent and touch – Federer has maintained his consistency. In Cincinnati he looked sensational, dominating Murray in the semi-final and comfortably beating Djokovic in the final. My eyes tell me he’s playing the best tennis of his career, and although 4/1 is quite short for a player who hasn’t won a major since Wimbledon in 2012, I do think he is a back at the current odds.

Federer has a reasonable draw, Mayer in the first round, followed by Bagdatis, Kohlscreiber, Isner before a likely quarter final against Berdych or Gasquet. I expect Federer to win through and face Murray or Wawrinka in the semi-final, where I think he has a favourite’s chance in what will be a tough match.

Murray loves New York, the courts suit his game and he comes into this tournament in good form. I still worry about his second serve, and sometimes, in my view, he doesn’t use his forehand enough to dominate rallies. His backhand is devastating, the power and disguise giving him the strongest in the game. He faces the current bad boy of tennis, the talented young Australian, Nick Kyrgios, in the first round. Kyrgios is dangerous but I expect Murray to come through. He definitely has a chance to win the tournament, but at 6.0/6.2, or 5/1 I think he is slightly too short.

Stanislav Wawrinka is probably the most powerful player on the circuit off both wings.

He has won two Grand Slams and he could be dangerous, but I feel he is not at his best at this time. His recent results have been disappointing and I think it will be hard for him to recover his absolute top form. He trades at 19.5/20 on Betfair which I think is about right based on current form.

Kei Nishikori trades at the same price and I much prefer him. Nishikori has been improving every year and he’s making steady progress towards the very top. He has no obvious weakness and he has shown good form on these courts. There is a slight concern over his fitness as he has suffered some injuries to his calf but I think he has recovered and he has a chance. He has a tough first round against Benoit Paire but overall I think his draw is quite good. Potential opponents could be Tsonga or Monfils, with Cilic, Dimitrov or Ferrer as likely quarter final opponents. Kei has a good chance to get through to the semi-final.

There will be no easy matches in the later stages but I sense Nishikori has the game and the mental strength to become a Grand Slam champion. At 19.5 on Betfair, I think he represents good value.

I think the winner will come from the five favourites. Possibly Dimitrov could come into form and challenge but I remain to be convinced he has the mental strength or maturity to win at this stage in his career. The new young players, Sock, Goffin, Thiem, Tomic and Kyrgios are good but, as yet, they haven’t shown they are realistic contenders.

Maybe Nadal could recover his best form, Tsonga or Berdych could play above themselves, and Gasquet may improve further but frankly I can’t see any of them winning this tournament.

To conclude, I think Federer at 5 (4/1) and Nishikori at 19.5 (18.5/1) on Betfair represent reasonable value for backing.