THE US Open gets under way in New York today with 30 matches from the men’s singles draw to get our teeth into on day one.
I talked about the conditions in my outright preview and specifically on day one on Monday it looks like it’ll be the start of some very warm and humid weather, which will make things tough for the players.
Humidity of between 50 and 60%, combined with 32C in the shade heat and poor air quality will make day one a real test, assuming the forecast is correct.
The US Open is the major that has provided the highest number of betting underdog winners in recent years, with an average of 26% in the years between 2012 and 2017.
Wimbledon is next best on 23%, with the Australian Open on 21% and the French Open on 19%, all based on matches played between 2013 and 2017.
Breaking the US Open numbers down, we find that the quarter finals and the final are the best places to look for underdog winners, while round two is the worst. The full details are as follows:
Round one = 28% underdog winners
Round 2 = 21%
Round 3 = 25%
Round 4 = 26%
Quarter finals = 38%
Semi finals = 25%
Final = 50%
As far as tie breaks are concerned, an average of 45% of the matches in the years between 2012 and 2017 have featured tie breaks, with the highest frequency being in round four (59% of the matches) and the quarter finals (52%).
With 30 matches from the top half of the draw on the card for Monday there’s a lot to choose from, but I’d give the following players fair chances at the prices:
Evgeny Donskoy, Denis Istomin, Gilles Simon, Paolo Lorenzi, Guido Andreozzi, Peter Gojowczyk, Feli Lopez, Damir Dzumhur, Roberto Carballes Baena, Ryan Harrison, Andreas Seppi, and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Daniil Medvedev vs Evgeny Donskoy
This is a very quick turnaround for Medvedev after winning Winston-Salem and given that it’s meant to be very hot and humid on Monday as well I’m happy to side with Donskoy to at least come close to the upset here.
Back in 2016 Donskoy managed to conjure up one of the worst ever Grand Slam defeats from a winning position when he lost in five sets to Stevie Johnson, having led by two sets and 5-2 in the third, blowing seven match points along the way.
So, he’s hardly one to trust to get the job done, but the handicap option of +4.5 games on Donskoy looks decent, with Medvedev certainly a candidate to let the odd set go if he gets behind in these circumstances.
Donskoy on a good day can be a match for pretty much anyone on a pacy outdoor hard court and he’s been playing well lately, beating Andrey Rublev and only losing in a final set tie break to Kevin Anderson in Toronto.
Having beaten Medvedev in their only career meeting (not hugely relevant for me, as it was in 2016) and knowing that Medvedev will be tired should give the underdog confidence here and there’s only 5.9% between the pair on their 12-month hold/break totals on outdoor hard.
This could well be a tough day for the Winston-Salem champ if Donskoy finds somewhere near his best level.
Roberto Carballes Baena vs Mitchell Krueger
The layers have written RCB off as a clay courter with little chance of being effective on outdoor hard by the look of these prices, but this last few matches on this surface have shown that he can play on hard courts.
Wins over Guido Pella and Albert Ramos and only a 5-7, 5-7 loss to Kyle Edmund indicate some improvement on this surface and today’s opponent Krueger hardly has an impressive record himself at main level on hard courts.
Indeed, Krueger is 2-4 all-time on outdoor hard at main level (2-6 on all surfaces), with both wins coming against a lacklustre Benoit Paire (one in Cincy and the other at Indian Wells).
It’s pretty fair to assume that RCB will be putting in more of an effort on Monday than Paire did in those two encounters with Krueger and the American is a little fortunate to have made it this far in New York.
He came from three match points down to get past Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and from a set and 4-2 down against Calvin Hemery in qualies, so he didn’t exactly impress in the lead-up to this clash either.
In his six main level matches on outdoor hard, Krueger has only held serve 71.2% of the time and broken 19.7% of the time, and he hasn’t had many tough draws in those six matches either.
Dmitry Tursunov was ranked 820 and hadn’t won a main level match for 18 months (and didn’t win another before retiring) when he beat Krueger last season, while Filip Krajinovic and Pierre-Hugues Herbert both despatched him in straight sets, as did Dusan Lajovic in Cincy qualies.
Even at Challenger level, Krueger has made two finals in his career and lost both heavily, so all told I’m happy to take a chance in opposing him as a 1.63 favourite.
I had it in mind to take Steve Johnson on with Denis Istomin regardless of how far the latter went in Winston Salem, but coming off a run to the final there and with little turnaround time the American is short enough at 1.28.
Johnson has a poor record at the US Open, with a 4-7 win/loss mark, and one of those wins was that the one I mentioned earlier against Donskoy when he came back from the dead to win it.
Tobias Kamke, Fabio Fognini and Tatsuma Ito have all beaten Johnson as underdogs at this tournament and Johnson’s lost six of his last eight matches at Flushing Meadows.
He also lost his only career clash with Istomin, which was on slow clay (as opposed to the clay at altitude where Istomin did so well in Kitzbuhel recently), so with Istomin in confident mood that 1.28 looks short.
The clear problem with backing Istomin is that he too will have had barely any time to prepare on top of a long journey from the Asian Games, where he won gold for his country.
Paulo Lorenzi vs Kyle Edmund
Given how appallingly bad Edmund was last week against Johnson in Winston-Salem and also Lorenzi’s record at hard court majors lately the Brit’s price of 1.08 looks far too short here.
Edmund has had a really disappointing North American hard court swing this year, with not a single part of his game working as it should in that defeat to Johnson, which came after poor performances in Toronto and Cincy.
I’m not sure if there’s something going on with Edmund either physically or perhaps an off-court issue, but he seems really out of sorts and Lorenzi isn’t going to roll over and give him this one.
The Italian has come back to form nicely on the clay at Challenger level, winning two of his last three tournaments and his record at hard court majors shows a player that shouldn’t be underestimated.
In Lorenzi’s last 10 such matches he hasn’t been beaten in any fewer than 42 total games and that includes taking sets off Andy Murray and Kevin Anderson, while in the last two years in New York he’s taken down Gilles Simon and Gilles Muller as heavy underdog.
With Edmund in this form I couldn’t rule out a huge upset here, but the sensible bets are either the over 31.5 games or Lorenzi +2.5 sets.
I mentioned in my outright preview that it would be a good price if we could get 33-1 about Diego Schwartzman winning quarter three, so now that the prices have arrived and he is that price I’m happy to have a point on that to add to the Nadal outright wager.
The other one I was trying to find a bet for, but couldn’t find anything suitable, was to side with Ryan Harrison in some way against Kevin Anderson.
Harrison has performed well lately against big servers, beating Milos Raonic here as a huge underdog and also defeating Anderson on a quick outdoor hard court in Tokyo last season, while he’s also beaten John Isner twice in the last two years.
It’s a tough-looking round one for Anderson, who looked as if he perhaps needed a break in a poor display in defeat to David Goffin last time out in Cincy and he may well be nervous given the points he has to defend here this year.
I’m not sure I trust Harrison enough at these prices though, with the American a shorter price now at 3.70 than he was when he beat the then 16th ranked Anderson in Tokyo and I’m not seeing any real value in it.
Anderson to win it 3-1 is perhaps the best option for value seekers in this one, with the American easily capable of taking one set.
The one ‘no tie break’s bet I like is in the match between Aljaz Bedene and Nikoloz Basilashvili if you can get the price I’ve seen of around 2.25 in this one.
Bedene says he has “not been in good physical condition for a long time,” and added that he “will not have special expectations in New York, but I will try to defeat every competitor,”
The Slovenian played Winston-Salem before New York in each of the last three year, which suggests he wasn’t going to risk injury before the large payday at the Open, but Basilashvili’s record on outdoor hard courts is pretty poor.
The Georgian has only held serve 67.2% of the time in his 15 matches (4-11 win/loss) on outdoor hard at main level in the last 12 months and broken 20.9% of the time for a weak hold/break total of 88.1 (Bedene 90.8).
It’s the lack of breakers that this weak-serving pair (Bedene only holds 74.5% of the time) play that make that no breakers price some value, with both men on 0.05 tie breaks per set in the last year on this surface.
Given that the average price on no tie breaks being played at the US Open in the last six years (both in the tournament as a whole and just in round one) should be 1.80 we’ve got a hint of value here.
Elsewhere, Gilles Simon withdrew from Winston-Salem with a back injury, but he’s still a tempting price as underdog against Lloyd Harris, whose recent Challenger form has made him favourite for this one.
Harris has only played two matches at ATP World Tour level in his career (lost both in straight sets) and zero in the main draw of a major though, so against someone has experienced as Simon the South African looks short to me.