Featured post

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Sunday, 30 August 2015

US Open Outright Picks 2015 (August 31-September 13)

The final Grand Slam of the season begins on Monday and it has been a who's who of the tennis world that has claimed the title in recent years.

That isn't to say that there hasn't been any surprises- Marin Cilic came out of left field to win the title last season, while I don't think too many would have picked Juan Martin Del Potro to win the men's title in 2009 and Sam Stosur taking the title in the women's event in 2011.

However, those have been rare events with Rafael Nadal winning twice and Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray winning one each between the Del Potro and Cilic title wins. Before Del Potro it was Roger Federer's domain as he had won five in a row here in New York and he comes in for the next two weeks as big threat to win Number 18 in terms of career Grand Slams.

Since Stosur won the women's event, Serena Williams has won three in a row in New York as she goes for a fourth in a row and a season sweep of the Grand Slam titles. Before Stosur, six titles were shared by Kim Clijsters, Serena, Maria Sharapova and Justin Henin.

It does look difficult to look beyond the favourites with the way the draws have panned out this week, but this is the time to look through and see what are the best outright picks from the week.

Men's Event
He might have been the best player on the ATP Tour over the last three/four years, but Novak Djokovic's record in collecting Grand Slam titles might be considered a slight disappointment. Eight Grand Slam career titles is remarkable and I am not taking that away from Djokovic at all, but it is hard to escape his 'finishing' ability over the last three seasons.

Since the beginning of the 2012 season, Djokovic has reached a tremendous 11 Grand Slam Finals, but he has actually won less than half of those. However, there might be a change in that trend with 3 Grand Slam Final wins from his last 4 Grand Slam Finals and Djokovic rightly comes into the week as the favourite to win the title.

There are a couple of concerns for me- the elbow issue Djokovic has been dealing with has left him vulnerable, while Masters Final defeats to Andy Murray and Roger Federer in Montreal and Cincinnati respectively might have given his two main rivals the confidence boost to win the title over the next two weeks.

Only 1 of Novak Djokovic's 8 Grand Slams have come at the US Open which is another factor that is hard to ignore, and he has lost 4 of the 5 Finals he has competed in Flushing Meadows.

Even with that in mind, Novak Djokovic has to be happy in being in the other half of the draw to the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Grand Slam nemesis Stan Wawrinka.

Looking at his Quarter of the draw, the likes of Rafael Nadal, Milos Raonic and David Goffin are the Seeds you would think are most likely to give Djokovic to think about. However, none of those scream out as a player you would back to beat Novak Djokovic before the Semi Final and his run of eight consecutive Semi Finals at the US Open is likely to be extended.

Maybe someone like Vasek Pospisil can spring a surprise in a potential Second Round match against Djokovic, but he will be a big underdog to do that and the World Number 1 looks to have the kind of run he would like to begin with as he looks to build momentum into the second week of the tournament.

It is hard to just simply draw a line through Nadal considering his career success, but he is not in the form to really expect a challenge in Flushing Meadows and begins with an intriguing match against what many expect will be part of the future of the ATP in Borna Coric. Losses to Kei Nishikori and Feliciano Lopez in the two Masters hard court events this summer just hasn't inspired confidence in Nadal and the best he can hope for is a Quarter Final berth in my opinion and potentially another one-sided defeat to Novak Djokovic.

The Second Quarter of the draw looks much more open though as there are some injury doubts surrounding Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer, while Marin Cilic will be looking to catch lightning in a bottle twice in a row. Nishikori was the other Finalist last season, but it is a big ask for either one to return this time around as the World Number 4 missed Cincinnati with an injury concern.

However it is hard to find viable alternatives to the top Seeds in the section as there are too many doubts surrounding their ability to win five matches to get into the Semi Final.

Grigor Dimitrov would have made hay last year when in much better form, but he has looked like a player out of confidence which has resulted in some disappointing losses over the 2015 season. That confidence might be restored if he beats Cilic in the Third Round, but the Bulgarian doesn't look very trustworthy on his current form.

The two French representatives, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils, have also been having a hard time putting a string of wins together, although the latter did come close to beating Roger Federer here last year.

This might be a chance for a real outsider to come through the draw to reach a Grand Slam Semi Final, but I wouldn't feel confident picking someone outside of these six players to do that. In saying that, I wouldn't feel great about picking any of these players to win six in a row with the factors that are creating doubts in my mind about them.

The first think that jumps out of the Third Quarter is clearly the potential Quarter Final match up between Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray- two players that have two career Grand Slams in a very difficult era and both who will have the belief they can go all the way.

Someone like Kevin Anderson will be looking for his week in Winston Salem to propel him into a surprise win to move through at the expense of Andy Murray, but his game is all about the big serve which the latter should be able to nullify. There are little other real obstacles to prevent the big Quarter Final that we all would like to see, although conditions at the US Open have seen plenty of surprises in the past, especially when the wind picks up.

Some will point out Nick Kyrgios and Gilles Simon as one awkward opponent that Murray and Wawrinka will have to play respectively, but Murray has a strong record against the young Australian, and Simon's form this summer hasn't matched what took him to the Wimbledon Quarter Final.

While Andy Murray will likely go into the Quarter Final as the favourite, it has to be noted that Stan Wawrinka has won their last two matches at the US Open in 2010 and 2013 and the latter has arguably improved since then having won his two Grand Slam titles in the last two seasons. Stan Wawrinka can get on a roll once he reaches the latter stages of a Grand Slam, but it also has to be remembered that he has been beaten in the Quarter Final in three of his last five Slams, reaching the Semi Final of one and winning the other since Wimbledon 2014 and it does seem like Wawrinka has found some consistency in the Majors.

It is tough to oppose Andy Murray, but I think Wawrinka has every chance of seeing him off if they meet in the Quarter Final with his record against Murray in Flushing Meadows.

I've already pointed out that I think Novak Djokovic is going to be very happy with the way the draw has panned out for him, but arguably Roger Federer is going to be feeling even better as he looks for his first title in New York since 2008.

Winning in Cincinnati has become the norm for Federer in the build up to the US Open and that also importantly gave him the Number 2 Seed, which has looked even more key when looking at the Quarter that Andy Murray got as the Number 3 Seed.

Roger Federer should be able to ease his way through the draw with the most difficult test not coming until a possible meeting with home hope John Isner in the Fourth Round. However, Isner is someone who could be dragged into long matches earlier in the draw which saps some energy and has also had some leg issues to deal with over the last month. Add in Federer's experience of playing big servers in the past and I think the Number 2 Seed manages to get through to another Quarter Final here, what would be the eleventh in the last twelve years since first winning the title here in 2004.

In fact, Federer has reached the Semi Final or better in nine of the last eleven years, but one exception was a Quarter Final defeat in 2012 when he was beaten by Tomas Berdych, a potential Quarter Final opponent again. You can't be anything but impressed by the consistency that Berdych has shown for much of 2015, but he did look out of sorts in Cincinnati and I do wonder if he is fully healthy as we head into the final Grand Slam of the season.

That might give Richard Gasquet a chance to reach another Quarter Final in a Grand Slam this season to follow his success at Wimbledon, but Roger Federer has to fancy his chances of seeing off either of those opponents.

That to me is a kind draw for Roger Federer and I do wonder if he is going to have too many better opportunities to win another title at the US Open. I have always though the only two events where Federer could add to his 17 Grand Slam titles are Wimbledon and the US Open and he was close in SW19 before running into Novak Djokovic.

The World Number 1 doesn't have a great record in Flushing Meadows, relatively speaking of course, but you also have to be wary of it being six years since Roger Federer reached the Final here.

However, he looks the player most in form and in the best draw out of the top three players that are favourites to win the title including Andy Murray and Djokovic. I think Roger Federer looks a good each-way pick to at least reach the Final and perhaps go on and win his first Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2012.

I have wanted to oppose Djokovic because he has looked like an elbow issue is troubling him more than previously thought and losing to both Murray and Federer in the Masters events could have knocked confidence. However, Djokovic couldn't have hand-picked a draw much better than what he has and it might be an upset that needs to happen to prevent him reaching the Final here.

Over five sets you'd think he is ready by that point to beat Federer, but I still want the latter on my side instead.

Why not Andy Murray? My reason is simply the Third Quarter of the draw looks a toss up between him and Stan Wawrinka and that might be the kind of match that drains the winner and allows Federer to pick them off in the Semi Final.

Instead I think there might be something in having an interest in Stan Wawrinka to win the Third Quarter in what looks like a straight toss up between himself and Andy Murray. With two previous wins over Murray at the US Open, I wouldn't be surprised if Wawrinka muscles his way past him here and a small interest is warranted.

Women's Event
Any event that Serena Williams enters is one that she will be expected to win and going into the final Grand Slam of the season with the chance for a sweep of the Slams in 2015 is a huge opportunity for her to underline her name in tennis history.

Serena has won the last three US Open tournaments and would have had four in a row if not stunned by Sam Stosur in 2011. The only doubt is about an injury that has been limiting her serve from the usual huge weapon it is, yet Serena Williams reached the Semi Final in Toronto and won the title in Cincinnati so it will take something special to beat her.

If she gets to the Quarter Final, you'd have to think Serena Williams goes on and wins the tournament as she has the last six times she has got that far in a Grand Slam. In fact eight of the last nine times Serena Williams has reached the Quarter Final in a Grand Slam has seen her go and win the event so she does look her most vulnerable early in the tournament.

Belinda Bencic was the player that beat Serena Williams in Toronto, but she can't play her again until that crucial Quarter Final stage so maybe it is up to two young American players to announce themselves in the grandest way.

Sloane Stephens has beaten Serena Williams before at a Grand Slam and won the first set when they met at the French Open earlier this season before dropping the second set in a tight 75 scoreline. She won her first title on the WTA Tour this past month in Washington and Stephens has the kind of game that might punish Williams if the latter is not at the top of her own performances.

The other is Madison Keys who had a great run at the Australian Open to open 2015, but perhaps hasn't maintained that level for much of the season. She has the big shots that can also knock Serena Williams off her stride and these two players are potentially Third and Fourth Round opponents for the Number 1 Seed and arguably the best prospects to knock her off over the next two weeks.

There was no doubt in my mind that Maria Sharapova had to be opposed in whatever section that she landed in the draw having missed any competitive tennis since Wimbledon. Rumours about some sort of injury as well as a personal break up with Grigor Dimitrov will have affected her chances at the US Open and instead it could be down to someone like Ana Ivanovic to take advantage by reaching the Semi Final here.

Ivanovic might have reached the Quarter Final in Toronto and Cincinnati, but both those losses have been franked by the form of Belinda Bencic and Serena Williams. Her record at the US Open is not really one that inspires as the Serb has NEVER been beyond the Quarter Final, but Ivanovic can put together a real run if she can beat Dominika Cibulkova in the First Round.

That is a tough draw to open, but the likes of Eugenie Bouchard, Carla Suarez Navarro and Jelena Jankovic shouldn't worry Ivanovic with her having an edge over all of them for various reasons (out of form, out of form and better on slower surfaces, Ivanovic strong head to head).

Even a match up with Sharapova wouldn't be a particular worry for Ivanovic who has beaten her on the North American hard courts in Cincinnati in 2014, but I am also not convinced Sharapova reaches a Quarter Final here this year.

Elina Svitolina and Ekaterina Makarova may both believe they can get into the Quarter Final at the expense of the Number 3 Seed in the tournament, but I would fancy Ivanovic to be too strong for either.

Prior to the run in New Haven which took her to the title for the third time in four years, I would have been ready to draw a line through Petra Kvitova who has been struggling for form through her mono illness. However, I do wonder how much has been taken out of Kvitova this week in terms of physical energy and she has never reached the Quarter Final at the US Open before.

Kvitova reached the Fourth Round in 2012 after winning in New Haven and then reached the Third Round last year having won that same title so history looks against her from breaking through this year.

The draw does favour her chances to surpass her previous best here, but Kvitova's illness and long week in New Haven may play against her in Flushing Meadows. That might mean that last year's Finalist, Caroline Wozniacki, might have a chance to get to another Semi Final.

In four of the last six years Wozniacki has reached the Semi Final at the US Open which has easily been her most successful Slam and Wozniacki can make use of a very kind draw. The Dane would be favoured to win her first four matches and she made a return to form with a run to the Semi Final in New Haven before finding Kvitova too strong.

However, Wozniacki might not have to worry about Kvitova in this section if the latter continues to fail to fire in New York City, while Garbine Muguruza looks too out of form to back up her success at Wimbledon. The layers are right in assuming Caroline Wozniacki is the second favourite to get out of the Third Quarter, but I think she can go one step further than expected by taking advantage of perhaps another early exit for Petra Kvitova.

The layers believe the two players most likely to oppose Serena Williams and win the title at the US Open are Victoria Azarenka and Simona Halep and I can't argue with that. However, both players have been placed in the Fourth Quarter of the draw and are potentially going to meet one another in the Quarter Final to decide who moves on.

Out of the two players, I think the faith has to be put in Simona Halep who reached the Final in both Toronto and Cincinnati in the build up to the US Open. She has been suffering with an injury that has cramped up in brutal heat, but Halep has the kind of draw that can see her work her way into the tournament and clearly has the form on the hard courts to go all the way.

Her biggest threat may come in the form of the conditions and Timea Bacsinszky but I think Halep can beat both this week and she certainly looks like she has the 'easier' draw than Victoria Azarenka.

Halep at least can work her way into the tournament, but Azarenka is the Number 20 Seed and has struggled for consistency in her results throughout 2015. Both Lucie Safarova and Angelique Kerber have shown some solid form on the North American hard courts over the last six weeks and Azarenka may have to beat both before potentially facing Halep and that is a tough road to work through.

Both Safarova and Kerber may feel they can go deep in the tournament too, but I think Halep will have the edge on both and the Number 2 Seed can have her best result at the US Open by surpassing the Fourth Round. It has been a disappointing season for Halep in terms of Grand Slam results, but I do think she can have her best result in the final Slam of 2015.

As I said to open this breakdown, Serena Williams is the favourite to win every tournament she enters and holding her nerve is arguably her biggest opponent over the next two weeks. There have always been nervy moments on her way to winning Grand Slam events in recent years, but once she reaches the Quarter Final she has been close to unstoppable.

The potential Third Round match against Sloane Stephens could be the biggest test for Williams over the next two weeks, but if she can battle through that one, I think she will be difficult to stop.

If there is someone capable of beating Serena Williams in the early stages when she looks the most vulnerable, someone like Simona Halep may be the player to come through and win her maiden Grand Slam. Halep has a difficult Quarter to negotiate, but back to back Final appearances in Toronto and Cincinnati should give her confidence to produce her best result in the Grand Slams in 2015.

A small interest on Simona Halep to find a way out of a section that includes the second favourite Victoria Azarenka and get to the Final is merited.

I also think a small interest on both Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki beat out two higher Ranked opponents in their individual Quarters has to be worth taking.

The former is in the open Second Quarter that includes Maria Sharapova who hasn't played since Wimbledon, while Wozniacki might be able to take advantage of Petra Kvitova's struggles at the US Open. While Kvitova hasn't reached the Quarter Final, Wozniacki has four Semi Finals in the last six years at the US Open and the Dane played well in New Haven last week while also has a draw she should be negotiating to the Quarter Final at the least.

If Kvitova has fallen by then, Wozniacki should be favoured to reach another Semi Final here.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Roger Federer @ 5.00 Paddy Power (2 Units E/W)
Stan Wawrinka to Win Third Quarter @ 3.75 William Hill (1 Unit)

Serena Williams @ 1.91 Bet Victor (6 Units)
Simona Halep @ 13.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit E/W)
Ana Ivanovic to Win Second Quarter @ 6.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Caroline Wozniacki to Win Third Quarter @ 4.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

Weekly Final8-5, + 4.60 Units (26 Units Staked, + 17.69% Yield)

Season 2015+ 1.93 Units (1378 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)

Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)

No comments:

Post a comment