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Sunday, 28 August 2011

US Open Tennis Outright Picks (Men's Tournament)

The final Grand Slam of the 2011 tennis season is due to start on Monday 29th August, but firstly I would I hope all those readers who live on the East Coast are safe from Hurricane Irene that has hit the coast over the last 24 hours.

Keep yourselves and your families safe.

With all the bad weather in the area, it is still not clear whether the tournament will open at the correct time, or whether Monday will be called off short, but there is much clearer skies forecast for Tuesday onwards, including far less windy conditions as we saw for much of the first 10 days of the tournament last season.

I was going to put both the Men's and Women's outright picks in the same post but realised how long it would be so have split them into two posts.

Men's Tournament
There isn't a much better place to start than in saying I will be very surprised if one of the top 4 players in the World do not win this tournament, even though there are some issues to address.

Novak Djokovic is the Number 1 seed and understandably the favourite to win the event considering he has lost 2 matches all year and holds 2 of the last Grand Slams in his locker. There was some concerns about his fitness following his retirement in Cincinnati, but he has said he needed a couple of days of rest and feels fine, and that is understandable considering the amount of tennis he had played in Montreal and Cinci in the 2 weeks before the injury.

Even if there are a few concerns, he has been handed a very comfortable opening couple of rounds, meaning he will not have to expend too much energy, in my opinion, moving through the early stages. The first 3 rounds pose him few problems, and I would expect him to get the better of Richard Gasquet in a potential 4th round match up.

The Quarter Final could see Djokovic meet Gael Monfils for the 3rd time in the last 3 tournaments, and the ease in which he dispatched him in Montreal following his mental ability to get through a tough match with him at Cincinnati means I would be more than surprised if Djokovic is not one of the Semi Finalists.

The bottom half of his section is headed by Roger Federer, playing his first Grand Slam in his 30's. The Swiss former World Number 1 is not the same player of yesteryear, but he still has the ability to go deep in tournaments regardless of his early exits in Montreal and Cincinnati. He has a very strong record at Flushing Meadows, having won 5 titles here in a row between 2004-2008, and it took a super effort from Djokovic to beat him last year in the Semi Finals.

Defeats to Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are troubling, especially considering the latter beat Federer from 2 sets down at Wimbledon. Tsonga is in the same quarter as Federer, but it is no guarantee that the enigmatic Frenchman reaches the Quarter Final to oppose Federer considering he too had been suffering slightly with an injury in the last 2 tournaments.

Tsonga will have to beat Fernando Verdasco in the 3rd round, a player that saves his best tennis for Grand Slams these days, and then faces a tough encounter with Mardy Fish in the 4th round.

That could all pave the way for Federer to reach the Semi Final as I think his path through to the Quarter Final seems straightforward and he could have plenty more in his tank than his opponent at that stage.

Fish remains the dark horse in this section as the top ranked American is not a household name and so can be overlooked by people studying the outright markets. However, the layers have cottoned on to the fact that Fish has performed exceptionally during this Summer swing and he looks a little short.

The bottom half of the draw is headed by defending Champion Rafael Nadal- the Spaniard has looked more than rusty in the last couple of tournaments, losing early in Montreal and looking a shadow of himself when struggling through to the Quarter Final in Cincinnati before being beaten by Fish.

He looked like a player to take on in the tournament, but the draw has given him so few problems that it is hard to see who will be the player to beat him in the early rounds. Ivan Ljubicic could cause a few problems in the 3rd round if his serve is on top form, but his lack of tennis over the Summer is a concern and so Nadal will be the big favourite.

Nadal is seeded to meet Mikhail Youzhny in the 4th round, but the Russian is not the same player that lost 1 game in 2 sets to Nadal in Chennai in 2008 and was comfortably beaten in the Semi Final last year by Nadal.

Andy Roddick and David Ferrer are potential Quarter Final opponents, and I believe it is the latter that may cause the most problems for his compatriot Nadal. Ferrer beat him in Australia at this stage in the first Grand Slam of the season and can also point at a 2007 4th Round win over Nadal as indications to his capability of producing a shock, especially if Nadal is still struggling as he was in Cincinnati.

Ferrer has a tough looking match with James Blake in the 2nd round, but I would fancy him to get through that as well as a likely 4th round meeting with Roddick or Nicolas Almagro.

Looking at this section, Ferrer looks the most likely player that can take advantage of any Nadal fitness/mental concerns and perhaps shock a few people by reaching his 2nd Grand Slam Semi Final of the year.

The final section of the draw looks one for Andy Murray to make a real impact and he has shown he is form by coming through the draw to win Cincinnati.

There are a couple of tricky early matches against the likes of Robin Haase and Feliciano Lopez in rounds 2 and 3 respectively, but I think both lack the balance of power and consistency required to beat the British Number 1 over 5 sets and his biggest threat to reaching the Quarter Final could come in the 4th round where he is seeded to meet Stanislas Wawrinka.

Murray fans will remember the name of the Swiss Number 2 as he was the man to end Murray's interest here in Flushing Meadows in 2010. However, Wawrinka has been in some really poor form over the last few months and he is ripe to be surprised by someone like Donald Young who he can meet in round 2.

IF Wawrinka does get through his early rounds, he has shown he can cause problems for Murray, their last 2 matches being at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, with both winning 1 match apiece and Wawrinka pushing Murray to 5 sets at Wimbledon.

The top half of the Quarter could be interesting with the likes of Robin Soderling, John Isner, Gilles Simon and another defending Champion Juan Martin Del Potro all involved. Del Potro is a very short price considering his early losses in Montreal and Cincinnati and I don't see how he can be backed as short as he is.

Soderling has had a couple of niggles meaning he has not played since winning on the clay at Bastad and that could cost him in his 3rd round match with, most likely, John Isner. The big serving American won at Winston Salem in the final tournament before this, and I think he may be ready to make a real impact in the tournament, although his fitness is always something that causes concern.

Del Potro may come through the Quarter Final as he has been handed a very straightforward start to the tournament and I expect him to be too strong for Simon as he was at Wimbledon.

Overall though, the Quarter looks like one that will belong to Andy Murray.

With the analysis of the draw completed above, I think there are a couple of plays worth making in the outright market. I am going to go against Novak Djokovic here as I think his price is far too short considering the issues he had with his shoulder and I think the person that will benefit the most is Roger Federer, a player who has shown how much he enjoys playing on the American hard courts at Flushing Meadows.

With the lack of truly big hitters in his section, Federer will feel confident about his ability to reach a Semi Final with Djokovic, and he is mentally in a strong place when he faces the Serb. It could be a Semi Final classic to rival the one they played in 2010 at the same stage.

Other picks that look worth chancing are Andy Murray and I don't think he could have too many complaints about his potential path to a Semi Final with my other pick, a surprising David Ferrer.

I think Ferrer could really make his mark in this tournament considering the draw and I think he has been underrated by the layers considering his efforts in beating Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick while playing for Spain in the Davis Cup in the week after Wimbledon.

Ferrer has shown he has the ability to beat the best, as shown when beating Nadal in Australia (Nadal had a few physical problems then too) and he looks grossly overpriced.

I will also back Ferrer to win his Quarter, and he does look vastly underrated at the prices there too.

MEN'S OUTRIGHT PICKS: Roger Federer @ 7.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Andy Murray @ 6.00 BetFred (2 Units)
David Ferrer to win Quarter 4 @ 13.00 Stan James (1 Unit)
David Ferrer @ 176.00 Paddy Power (0.5 Units E/W) Pays at 0.5 odds if David Ferrer reaches the Final

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