Novak Djokovic's continued overperformance in grand slams makes it hard to keep faith in the numbers, writes Jack Houghton, but the Serb remains vulnerable in his book...
"It's hard for any analyst to refute the silverware Djokovic continues to collect. As I wrote in previewing this tournament, this supposed contraction in form hasn't stopped Djokovic winning all the grand slams this season, and eight of the last 12..."
Djokovic price too short
If performance ratings are to be believed, then Novak Djokovic's odds to win Sunday's US Open final against Daniil Medvedev are ridiculously short.
By my reckoning, there is little between the players, and Djokovic should be no stronger than a 1.9010/11 favourite, with Medvedev around 2.1011/10. This should be a coin toss.
The market, however, is skewed: Djokovic is the strong 1.402/5 favourite.
It's worth noting that when the duo met in the final of this year's Australian Open, their odds (1.9420/21 to 2.0421/20) were in line with what the ratings suggest should be the case now. That was in February, though and, at the time, Medvedev was coming into that final on the back of a 20-match winning streak.
Seven months and three grand slam titles later, Djokovic is back to starting as a prohibitive favourite in major finals.
The Djokovic paradox
What must be clear to any analyst is that Djokovic's overall form doesn't warrant such favouritism: his star is waning, and a growing pack of up-and-coming players look increasingly able to challenge him head-to-head.
A look at Djokovic's progress through this tournament demonstrates his wobbliness. He has lost six sets on route, compared to just one for Medvedev. As a comparison, during Djokovic's best season - 2015 - he only lost three sets when winning the US Open, and one of those was to Roger Federer in the final.
And yet it's hard for any analyst to refute the silverware Djokovic continues to collect. As I wrote in previewing this tournament, this supposed contraction in form hasn't stopped Djokovic winning all the grand slams this season, and eight of the last 12.
It's difficult to stand by your numbers when events rebut them. But the advantage of a data-led approach to punting is that it enables a punter to take a long-term perspective, recognising that, over time, providing the data is sound, profitability should result.
Djokovic's experience and temperament, it seems, is allowing him to outperform his younger rivals on the biggest stages, but as their experience grows, this advantage will diminish for Djokovic.
When looking to bet in the side markets, then, the value lies in supporting Medvedev.
To date, head-to-head, the pair have used 77% of the sets available to them, suggesting that four sets is most likely here.
That figure is skewed, however, by the pair's first encounter, when Medvedev retired injured, and last November's Tour Finals, where Medvedev drubbed a Djokovic who grossly underperformed in a round-robin match where he'd already qualified for the knock-out stage.
This has every chance, then of going long. Backing Five Sets at 4.003/1 is the value call.
With this in mind, supporting Medvedev to win 3-2 at around 9.008/1 makes sense. He took Nadal to five sets in the final here in 2019, and whilst he may have wilted in this year's Australian Open final - with Djokovic drubbing him in three quick sets - Medvedev will have worked on his psychological weaknesses and be better prepared to do himself justice now. His freshness will help: he has been on court for just 12 hours in this US Open, five fewer than Djokovic.
Odds of around 2.001/1 that the pair will play more than +38.5 games look value. Using a percentage-of-available-games measure, the pair use an average of 55% of the available games. That suggests an over/under midpoint of around 36 games. However, again, that figure is skewed: with the pair only having played eight times, the artificially short-lived matches in the Tour Finals and in their first match-up are having a disproportionate effect on those numbers.
This one should be keenly contested, and should go long.
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