The men's singles final draws the 2018 US Open to a close, and back to give his thoughts on the match in prospect is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...
"Without doubt, on the whole, Djokovic has been able to convert his superior return ability into head to head victories, and this goes a long way to justifying his price this evening."
Magnificent Osaka display wins first Slam title
There was drama aplenty in last night's women's final, where Naomi Osaka continued her elite-level tournament and lifted the trophy at the expense of Serena Williams. The fallout from Williams' penalties for arguing with umpire Carlos Ramos continues on social media - I'll refrain from giving my thoughts, solely because this is a situation which has polarised the tennis world, and every single person who has expressed an opinion on it so far has been vehemently criticised by supporters of the other side's point of view. I don't wish to put myself in that position.
What I am in a position to do, however, is to praise Osaka. I mentioned yesterday in my preview of the final that her stats from this year's US Open were stratospheric - even better than Williams', which also were - and it will be interesting to see how she can build on this success. Certainly, she looks better equipped than a lot of slightly lower-profile winners of big tournaments - Monica Puig post-Olympics is a good example.
Djokovic with success in recent head-to-head meetings
Moving on to today's final, however, Novak Djokovic is a [1.48] favourite to celebrate glory tonight, with Juan Martin Del Potro the underdog, at [3.05], and my numbers make this about right, for several reasons.
Firstly, Djokovic has got better hard court data, with a huge edge on return, and in addition, he's won 14 of their 18 previous meetings, and three in their last four in the last two years - Del Potro's solitary triumph in this time period was at the 2016 Olympics, in two tiebreaks. They haven't met since May 2017, with Djokovic schooling Del Potro in Rome, constantly exposing the Argentine's weak backhand, which is less of a liability now.
In those four more recent head to head matches, Del Potro's issues have largely come on serve, holding just 71.4%, but it's also worth noting that he's hugely underperformed on break points based on his service won percentage, which is just 2.1% below Djokovic's figure. Djokovic has taken his chances in these matches, that's for certain.
Djokovic has been able to convert superior return
There's more of an ability differential when looking at their all-time numbers against each other. Djokovic has won 67.8% of service points in the head to head matches, while Del Potro is considerably lower than this, at 60.4%.
Without doubt, on the whole, Djokovic has been able to convert his superior return ability into head-to-head victories, and this goes a long way to justifying his price this evening. He's also held 2.5% more this fortnight in New York, and broken 3.0% more, despite Del Potro winning more service and return points.
If Del Potro is going to win his second US Open title, almost a decade after his first, he's going to need to do two things - serve the lights out, and take his chances. However, against a quality returner, this is far from a given, and at current market prices, I have no preference towards either player.
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