After Thursday evening's US Open draw, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns to discuss the route to the trophy for the main contenders, and finalise his men's outright selections...
"The Spaniard is in reasonable shape, reaching the quarter-finals in both of the recent North American Masters 1000 tournaments, and has done himself a favour by skipping Winston Salem - he often plays the week before a Slam, which doesn't necessarily help his physical condition for the much bigger tournaments."
Nadal backed following draw
Prior the draw, we discussed the chances of the 'elite three', and ascertained that Rafa Nadal was the value pick of the trio, at a pre-draw price of [5.4]. The medium-slow conditions are likely to suit him - he has a much better record here in the last 10 years compared to the other hard court Grand Slam, the Australian Open - and statistically, he's performed around as well as top seed Novak Djokovic on hard court this year.
Following this, and the draw, Rafa has now been backed in on the Exchange to [4.0], with the King of Clay getting the preferred Dominic Thiem as opposed to Roger Federer, with him having to have one of the third or fourth seeds in his bottom half of the draw.
Federer and Medvedev friendless in the market
This means that Federer is in Djokovic's top half of the draw, which dictates that if the tournament goes according to seedings, Federer will need to beat Djokovic in the semi-finals and Nadal in the final. However, Federer did manage to get his rather customary gift early round draw - qualifier Sumit Nagal in the opening round before either another qualifier, in Elliot Benchetrit, or the inconsistent Damir Dzumhur in his next match.
With conditions likely to be slow and not particularly to his liking, Federer has drifted to [10.5], while also friendless in the market is Daniil Medvedev.
The Russian has also drifted to [18.5] from [14.5] which still looks rather short - if the tournament goes to seedings he has a brutal Djokovic/Federer/Nadal route from the quarter-finals onwards. It's incredibly difficult to make a case for Medvedev at these prices.
Nadal still better value than Djokovic
Even with the rather large cut in his price, I still think Nadal offers better value than Djokovic at prices, with Djokovic available at [2.16] at the time of writing. It's usually pretty difficult to anticipate a price for a potential final in advance of the draw, given numerous intangibles which take place throughout the tournament, but around [1.6] Djokovic against Nadal looks about right.
If so, this would make Djokovic around [1.35] to make the final and Nadal [1.67], and while Djokovic has an easier run earlier in the tournament, I'm not convinced that Djokovic should be so short given he is seeded to face Medvedev and Federer in the quarter-finals and semi-finals prior to meeting Nadal in the final, and at prices, laying him in the tournament winner market looks a better prospect than the [1.72] back and [1.92] lay prices in the 'to reach the final' market.
Bautista-Agut with best numbers in quarter three
With Djokovic, Nadal and Federer covered, it's Thiem's quarter three which looks worth giving a little more attention to, with numerous players capable of a decent run. While the Austrian is likely to enjoy a fairly slow hard court, his overall hard court data this year (barely covering 100% combined hold/break percentage) doesn't give any confidence whatsoever that he will be there at the business end of the tournament.
The player with the best data on the surface in the bracket is Roberto Bautista-Agut (112% combined this year). The Spaniard is in reasonable shape, reaching the quarter-finals in both of the recent North American Masters 1000 tournaments, and has done himself a favour by skipping Winston Salem - he often plays the week before a Slam, which doesn't necessarily help his physical condition for the much bigger tournaments.
In what is a wide open quarter, anyone keen to back Bautista-Agut to win the quarter should be able to get matched at around [7.0] which is general market pricing. He's got much better hard court numbers than Thiem, and also slightly better than Stefanos Tsitsipas this year also. While Bautista-Agut doesn't have the peak ceiling of Nick Kyrgios - also in this bracket - he is much more consistent against lower level opposition and there is no guarantee the Australian won't implode prior to having to play a big name, in any case.
Monfils, if fit, also a threat
Gael Monfils, who has excellent hard court numbers, is probably the main worry and those minded to place a saver should be able to get around 20/1 on the enigmatic Frenchman to win the quarter, but the ankle injury that saw him withdraw from his semi-final against Nadal in Montreal is an obvious concern for him in a tournament which is an arduous examination of fitness.
So, our faith is in Bautista-Agut to win quarter three, and an opening couple of matches against Mikhail Kukushkin and probably Alexei Popyrin should enable him to ease himself into the tournament prior to some slightly tougher tests to make the latter stages.
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Back Roberto Bautista-Agut at around [7.0] to win quarter three