It's semi-finals day in the women's singles at the US Open, and the main question today surely is whether Emma Raducanu can reach Saturday's final. Dan Weston discusses the day ahead...
"Sakkari has faced three top 11 players en route to this stage, so has had to do it the hard way, and has impressed to do so."
Raducanu's incredible story continues
We picked up a great winner on Wednesday with the British qualifier, Emma Raducanu, getting an underdog victory over Belinda Bencic, defeating the Olympic Champion in straight sets for yet another breakthrough victory. Raducanu's story is incredible - she's now won eight matches in a row here in straight sets, including her qualifiers - and she now has the opportunity to reach her first ever Grand Slam final. She faces Maria Sakkari, who got the better of Karolina Pliskova in the other Wednesday quarter-final, and both are back in action today with a quick turnaround.
The outright market is fascinating, with Aryna Sabalenka now backed into the 2.265/4 favourite with both of yesterday's pre-match favourites exiting the event, with Sakkari at 4.03/1, Raducanu at 5.04/1 and Leylah Fernandez the pre-round long-shot at 8.88/1. With that out of the way, let's move on to individually looking at today's two semi-finals.
Sabalenka a solid favourite over Fernandez
Leylah Fernandez 3.8514/5 v Aryna Sabalenka 1.341/3: Along with Raducanu, Fernandez has had an incredible journey to get to this stage, with both players having never broken into the top 50 in the rankings before the event. Four underdog wins later, including against two Slam champions, and she faces the tournament favourite, Sabalenka, for a place in Saturday's final.
Sabalenka has breezed through her opposition with minimal fuss so far, with impressive wins over Barbora Krejcikova and Elise Mertens in the last two rounds, and based on 2021 hard court numbers, the price looks about right. Sabalenka, against a higher quality of opposition, has higher service and return points won percentages, so it's pretty difficult to dispute where the market is at right now. However, Fernandez has shown her giant-killing ability to get to this stage, so definitely don't rule her out.
Raducanu and Sakkari compete for first Slam final spot
Emma Raducanu 2.3211/8 v Maria Sakkari 1.748/11: The two underdogs from last night meet in the second semi-final, which is one for the night owls with a 1:30am UK time scheduled start (Friday morning). In a way, it's a real shame that many British viewers will be unable to watch Raducanu compete for a place in her first Grand Slam final, which is something that 18th-ranked Sakkari has never achieved either - she was defeated 9-7 in a dramatic final-set tiebreak in the French Open semi-final this year by eventual winner Barbora Krejcikova.
That day against Krejcikova, Sakkari was around a 1.654/6 favourite, and she's a similar price here against Raducanu. Sakkari has faced three top 11 players en route to this stage, so has had to do it the hard way, and has impressed to do so.
Sakkari might have snuck under the media radar to some extent here in New York, but here is a player who has impressed over the last year or two and deserves plenty of credit.
Again, I view the market line as about right. Sakkari is running at over 105% combined service/return points won on hard court this year, which makes her a ballpark top 10-15 hard courter, and despite Raducanu's stunning tournament so far, that level is not going to be easy for the Brit to overcome. With a first-ever Slam final place at stage, nerves will potentially play a part, but I don't think there's much to disagree with the market pricing here.
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