US Open Men's Day Seven Tips: Thiem value as underdog against Anderson
Men's singles action at the US Open gets underway at 16:00 UK time this afternoon, and here to discuss the four matches, is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...
"Yes, Anderson has improved, and this is evidenced by him running at a 105.4% combined serve/return points won percentage this season on hard court, but Thiem’s data is also strong, at 106.6% himself. "
Millman bags us a Saturday winner
It was business as usual for the two biggest names in action last night, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, with Djokovic extending Richard Gasquet's misery against elite-level opposition, and Federer overcoming the threat of Nick Kyrgios rather easier than perhaps many anticipated, in straight sets.
Marin Cilic, however, struggled past Alex De Minaur, with the Australian two sets up, as well as a break up in the fifth set, before Cilic eventually triumphed in just over four hours, while Alex Zverev's Grand Slam horrors continued with a meek capitulation at the hands of Philipp Kohlschreiber.
In addition, we picked up a win on what has been a rather up and down week with John Millman closing out Mikhail Kukushkin in four sets - the Australian's reward is Federer tomorrow in the last 16.
Thiem value as underdog against Anderson
Last 16 ties begin today, with the four matches in the top half of the draw on the card, and getting proceedings underway is the match I want to focus on for our recommendation, Dominic Thiem versus Kevin Anderson.
For this, the South African, Anderson is the [1.64] favourite and I make matters likely to be much closer than the prices suggest. While I'm no particular fan of Thiem away from clay, and especially post-Wimbledon - a stage of the season where he tends to decline due to over-playing earlier in the year - I can't have Anderson this strong a favourite.
Little evidence to suggest Anderson is the better hard courter
Yes, Anderson has improved, and this is evidenced by him running at a 105.4% combined serve/return points won percentage this season on hard court, but Thiem's data is also strong, at 106.6% himself. Thiem has underperformed when facing break points on serve, and is 3-5 in tiebreaks in these matches, perhaps indicating why his actual win percentage is lower than Anderson's in these matches, but most of the time such issues are simply variance-driven - there is little evidence to suggest Anderson is the better hard courter.
Historical head to head lacking relevance
But what of the 6-1 head to head lead that Anderson boasts, I hear you ask? Well, Thiem won their last meeting easily enough, on the quick clay of Madrid, and four of the wins were when Thiem was ranked outside the top 15 (and two were when he was ranked 40 and 136). The difference in data from these matches also isn't that dramatic - Anderson has held 90.1% to Thiem's 85.1% in their previous main tour meetings, and won six of the eight tiebreaks. For me, there's nothing to see here, in these historical head to head matches, so it's Thiem, at [2.54] for today.
Outright pick Coric not without a chance
The other player I quite like as an underdog is Borna Coric, at [4.00], against Juan Martin Del Potro. Coric has improved rapidly this year and now looks to be justifying the potential that I identified when he was a Challenger player three or four years ago - if he carries on this progress he can be a real threat in major tournaments consistently in the future.
However, we already have that pre-tournament position on Coric, and Del Potro does have that stunning recent record against lower-ranked players, so I'm happy to stick with Thiem for today's recommendation.
Isner and Raonic in battle of the big-servers
The two remaining matches on today's men's schedule feature rather contrasting styles. John Isner faces Milos Raonic in the battle of the big-servers, and Raonic's status as the marginal [1.74] favourite looks reasonable.
Both players have made improvements on return in recent times, and this has slightly reduced the likelihood of tiebreaks on what is medium-ish paced hard court conditions. I make the first set tiebreak around a 50% chance here - still considerably bigger than all of today's other clashes, but perhaps not as high as many may think.
Nadal unlikely to be troubled by Basilashvili
FInally, our other outright choice, Rafa Nadal, continues his status as tournament favourite, and is just [1.05] to see the back of Nikoloz Basilashvili. In truth, he shouldn't have many issues, as it is incredibly rare to see a player with a surface combined hold/break percentage of sub 95%, as Basilashvili 'boasts', make the fourth round of a Grand Slam - this is about as the easiest fourth-round match Nadal could ask for.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
Back Dominic Thiem at [2.56]