THE championship match of the men’s singles at the US Open is set for today in New York, with Rafael Nadal taking on Kevin Anderson.
Madison Keys had a shocker in the women’s final on Saturday, although she wasn’t helped by a lack of mobility caused by the thigh injury she picked up in the semi finals and Sloane Stephens played very well to land her maiden major.
I’m certainly not going to moan about a 40-1 shot winning the women’s event, nor indeed a 150-1 chance making the men’s final after years of tedious domination by the elite and that big outsider takes his place in the final on Sunday.
The weather is set fair according to the forecast and there should be no interruptions when the match is scheduled to begin from 16:00 local time (21:00 UK).
Anderson is the lowest ranked man in the Open era to have made a US Open final, with the South African ranked at 32 coming into this tournament and he supersedes Mark Philippoussis, who made the 1998 final when ranked number 22.
Pete Sampras, seeded 17, is the lowest ranked man to have won the US Open (in 2002 )in the Open era, so an Anderson win will be a record breaker, while Nadal can move level with Ivan Lendl on three championships with a victory on Sunday.
The betting records I have go as far back as 2004 for this tournament and in the 13 years since only three underdogs have won in the final: Juan Martin Del Potro (2009), Andy Murray (2012) and Stan Wawrinka (2016). Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori were pretty much joint favourites in 2014.
This decade nine of the 17 finals have featured tie breaks and only two have gone to a fifth set.
Nadal v Anderson
So, Nadal is going for a 16th major title and a third US Open crown and it’s tough to see Anderson stopping the Spaniard in what will be the biggest match by far of the South African’s career.
He’s never been beyond the quarter finals of a Masters Series (0-8 in quarter finals) and his best showing at a major until this tournament was a quarter final defeat to Stan Wawrinka here in New York in 2015.
Anderson does have nine top-five wins to his name, but only one of those came at a Grand Slam, which again was here at the US Open when he took down Andy Murray on Armstrong in 2015 to set up that Wawrinka clash.
In total he’s 1-10 versus top-five opponents at majors and in all matches against Nadal it’s 4-0 to the Spaniard, but Anderson did have a match point in their meeting on indoor hard in Paris at the end of the 2015 season.
He played pretty well against Rafa in the first set of their 2015 Australian Open clash as well, but collapsed mentally after failing to take five break points at 5-5, broke himself and then lost seven games on the spin.
Anderson certainly doesn’t have the kind of self-belief that Nadal possesses and he began his semi final against Pablo Carreno Busta rather nervously, going behind early on by a set before getting into the match and coming through in four.
He’s found it incredibly difficult to break the Nadal serve in those four previous meetings too, with Nadal holding his won deal against the South African 96% of the time, while Anderson has only held his serve against Rafa 78% of the time.
Clearly, Anderson will be relying on tie breaks to win sets here, and if we look at all 11 of his career matches versus top-five ranked opponents at majors we find that all bar two of the sets he won came in tie breaks.
Only a 6-3 opening set win over grass-averse Nikolay Davydenko at Wimbledon in 2010 and a 6-3 second set against Murray in their 2015 US Open clash are the exceptions to that trend.
Rafa has certainly had his struggles against big servers with a big game on occasion in his career and he’s lost four of his seven matches in 2017 against the ones on my list, but rarely in majors.
Nadal has won 10 of his 12 against the big servers on my list at hard court majors, with his last defeat coming against Del Potro back in 2009 here in New York.
And he’s won six of the last seven of those in straight sets, so in a major final against this opposition it’s tough to make much of a case for Anderson, who needs to find the match of his life in the match of his life.
Seems unlikely and Nadal either in straight sets or -6.5 games look the wagers of interest here.
Sean's Best Bet
- Nadal -6.5 games to beat Anderson
- (1.86, Unibet)