US Open Men's Final Tips: Zverev the side market value

Dominic Thiem at US Open Tennis
Dominic Thiem is the rightful favourite in US Open Final, but only marginally
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There is reason to think this match will be closer than the market suggests, writes Jack Houghton, who expects Zverev to take it to four sets...

"Zverev took the opening set in Melbourne earlier in the year, and if he can get off to a similarly positive start here, there will be opportunities to trade out of those odds of [11.5]."

The demise of Djokovic

Prior to this US Open, I wrote about a dual-headed cognitive bias that many tennis fans possess. First, a belief that an up-and-coming generation must contain greatness. And second, a conviction about the inevitability of this emerging greatness supplanting whoever the already-established greats are.

It's why we've read about the imminent decline of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic for over a decade, whilst also simultaneously watching them win almost every Grand Slam between them, defeating wannabee after wannabee along the way.

Accepting that the US Open field was weakened by the absence of Federer and Nadal, then, I also argued that this weakening was to the advantage of Djokovic more than it was to up-and-comers like Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev.

Unfortunately, those arguments quickly dissolved when Djokovic hit a ball at a line judge and was ejected from the tournament.

A new Grand Slam winner

So, for the first time since Marin Cilic won the US Open in 2014, we are guaranteed a new Grand Slam winner in either Alexander Zverev ([4.40]) or Dominic Thiem ([1.28]).

Given the bare head-to-head, which Thiem leads 7-2, those odds might look fair; however, according to my Elo ratings, the prices are skewed. Thiem is the rightful favourite, but should be around [1.55] to Zverev's [2.80].

And more value can be found in the side markets.

Total Games

Odds of around [1.90] that the pair will play more than +36.5 games look value. Using a percentage-of-available-games measure, Zverev and Thiem use an average of 61% of the games that they could. That suggests an over/under midpoint of +39.5 games. It's also worth noting that, playing on hard courts, that figure rises. As an example, they played 45 games in their Australian Open meeting in January.

Number of sets

To date, head-to-head, Thiem and Zverev have used around 82% of the sets available to them, suggesting that four sets is most likely here. Again, though, on hard courts, their matches have been more tightly contested, with that figure rising to 85%. It is likely this match will go longer then three sets, so laying that outcome at around [2.36] is the value call.

Set Betting

Given how skewed the outright betting is, it's no surprise that value can be found in the set betting market. There are two approaches here. One is to back Thiem to win 3-1, recognising him as the most likely winner, but also recognising that it is doubtful it will be a walkover. However, backing Zverev to win 3-1 is where the big value lies. Zverev took the opening set in Melbourne earlier in the year, and if he can get off to a similarly positive start here, there will be opportunities to trade out of those odds of [11.5].

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