It’ll be a very different atmosphere at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre that the players will encounter on Monday when round one of the 2020 US Open starts and I wonder how that will affect them?
Some will undoubtedly be delighted that they can play their matches in virtual silence (or as silent as it ever gets in Flushing) while others will surely struggle without the encouragement of a noisy crowd late in a fifth set.
For the record the opening round of the men’s singles at the US Open has produced an average of 27% underdog winners over the last eight years, but that falls to 22% in the last three years.
Indeed, the US Open is rather unusual in the sense that a higher frequency of underdog winners happen later in the tournament rather than earlier, with 38% of the betting underdogs winning in the quarter finals and the final and 30% in round four (again, over the last eight years).
In the last four years there have been either 13, 14, 15 or 16 underdog winners in round one and here are some that may feature in this year’s list of odds-against successes:
Jeremy Chardy 6.0 vs Andrey Rublev 1.18
This is a repeat of the 2018 clash here that Chardy won in four sets as a 2.36 underdog and while much has changed since then this still could be a tricky day for Rublev given both players’ lack of competitive action. Conditions here may well be too quick for Rublev and while they’re probably not ideal for Chardy either, he has the weapons to make this a real test for Rublev. Chardy +1.5 sets at 3.60 is a tempting proposition here.
Peter Gojowczyk 4.30 vs Hubert Hurkacz 1.23
Gojowczyk has a tremendous record against big serving types, with a stellar 19-5 win/loss record (14-2 on all hard courts) versus the ones in my database, including wins over Ivo Karlovic (four times), Milos Raonic (twice), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (twice), John Isner, Reilly Opelka (three times) and Sam Querrey. He likes to take the ball early and hit very flat and on these quick courts that may well expose the movement of the big Pole Hurkacz, who had the trainer out for finger blisters in a loss to Isner last week. The worry here is the fitness of Gojowczyk, who pulled out of the German Pro Series and then the Prague Challenger.
Kevin Anderson 3.30 vs Alexander Zverev 1.34
Taking on Zverev at majors has been almost a must-do for a long time now and this looks a tough round one match for the struggling German, who’s now working with David Ferrer, but the Spaniard is not with him at the moment. Zverev showed many of his recent frailties in a loss to Andy Murray last week and his record in majors against top-20 opposition (which Anderson surely is when he’s fit) reads 3-9 win/loss and his career record against the big servers in my database on outdoor hard is 11-12 (9-1 on clay, interestingly). Zverev’s not usually a fan of fast courts, but again the worry about the underdog is fitness, with Anderson seriously lacking matches, and the 5-0 career series lead that Zverev has over the South African.
Jannik Sinner 2.80 vs Karen Khachanov 1.43
Sinner has already beaten Khachanov once this summer, at exhibition level (in Berlin in July when he also defeated Roberto Bautista Agut), so he won’t be fazed by taking the big-hitting Russian on here. Sinner hits a pretty flat ball and he showed on indoor hard at the back end of last year that he’s more than capable of competing with the best in pacy conditions. The surface in New York now looks like it bounces too low for Khachanov, who likes to whack it from a comfortable height and on his best form Sinner is well in this one.
Egor Gerasimov 2.20 vs Dusan Lajovic 1.67
One would think that these fast courts would favour Gerasimov’s big game much more than Lajovic, who tends to prefer clay or much higher-bouncing and slower hard courts than these new Laykold ones in New York. Gerasimov showed in Pune (and indoors in Marseille) at the start of the year that quick, hot conditions suit him and his combined service hold/break total of 102 (89% holds) on outdoor hard at main level trumps the 97 of Lajovic, too. Lajovic also has a very weak record against big servers (3-19 win/loss on hard courts against the ones in my database) so the odds-against about Gerasimov is worth risking.
Denis Kudla made Marin Cilic work hard for his four-set win at Wimbledon 2015 and while I’ve chanced Cilic this week outright at a big price it also wouldn’t be a huge shock if this match was a really good test for him. Kudla has his moments in big matches on quick courts and I’m hoping this won’t be one of his better days.
Diego Schwartzman looks a tad short (no pun intended) against Cam Norrie at 1.34 given that their two career clashes were both very close and neither player will really appreciate the fast conditions in New York. Schwartzman was a 1.75 chance when he lost to Norrie in Antwerp 18 months ago and I wouldn’t be as confident as the layers seemingly are that he’ll win this time.
Nikoloz Basilashvili cost me a nice winner last week when he failed at big odds to win set one against Felix Auger-Aliassime from *4-3, 40-30 up and again he looks a big price here at 3.50 against John Millman. I talked about Basil’s off-court issues in that Cincy preview and that puts me off backing him to win, but 15 of his last 18 main draw matches at majors have gone to at least four sets and the over 3.5 sets at 1.73 looks pretty likely here.
Taro Daniel has some good wins on his CV on hard courts, with the likes of Novak Djokovic beaten by Daniel (Indian Wells 2018) as well as Borna Coric (on a pacy indoor court in Tokyo last year) and Sam Querrey, too, so Gregoire Barrere will need to play well to justify 1.44 here. Daniel’s more of a clay man, but his game can be effective on hard if he’s in the mood and Barrere had a real struggle to beat Mohamed Safwat as a 1.37 chance in Melbourne in January, so he’s not for me at this price.
The speed of these courts gives Mackenzie McDonald every chance against out and out clay courter Casper Ruud, who loves nothing more than time on the ball to unleash his big forehand. McDonald has played well on grass on numerous occasions and so a fast low-bouncing surface should suit him well, but as with plenty of these dogs it’s fitness that’s the concern. McDonald struggled with a hip problem last week and I’m not convinced that he’s up to a long match here.
Others that I’d be thinking about that fall into the ‘are they fit?’ category include Benoit Paire, who’s a 2.43 shot against Kamil Majchrzak after another tame showing last week at the W&S Open. Paire didn’t fancy it due to some sort of heat-related issue, but he’s a tempting price for this one.
Andreas Seppi is another one, with the Italian likely to be suited by these quicker New York conditions, but how much tennis has Seppi had lately after withdrawing from the Todi Challenger a couple of weeks ago and then losing in qualies first up at the W&S Open? He had a great battle with Frances Tiafoe in Melbourne in 2019 and Tiafoe didn’t look in the best shape last week either, fading badly against Andy Murray in a decider.
Paolo Lorenzi has served us well here over the years, with his never say die attitude and against last summer he won as a big underdog, beating Miomir Kecmanovic as a 6-1 chance. He also beat Kyle Edmund here in 2018 as a 9.5-1 shot and Gilles Muller as a 4-1 chance in 2017 and Gilles Simon in 2016 at 11-4, so he loves a New York upset. Brandon Nakashima is a talent, but this is his Grand Slam debut and make no mistake the veteran Italian will be well up for the fight here.
Jiri Vesely showed his effectiveness in quick conditions with his heavy serve when winning Pune and he’s another possibility against Corentin Moutet, while Tommy Paul might prove fitter than Grigor Dimitrov if that one goes long, given Dimitrov’s struggles with coronavirus.
Finally, Radu Albot has been forgotten about lately after a struggle with injury, but if he’s fit again he could prove very tough indeed for Norbert Gombos.
In these unique circumstances we’re guessing a bit as to the fitness of many of these players, so for that reason trying to pick the best ones from this list is tough, but plenty of these will hopefully give a good run for your money.
Another factor to bear in mind is that the much cooler weather will likely make the courts a fair bit slower and the CPI reading of just 33 on Armstrong Court on Sunday on a cloudy, drizzly day compared with 43 days earlier tells a tale.
So, plenty to chose from – too many, in fact – but I like the prices on Gojowczyk and Chardy, so +1.5 sets bets on those two make sense and I’ll take Gerasimov as well, plus Sinner.
0.5 points win Chardy +1.5 sets to beat Rublev at 3.60
0.5 points win Gojowczyk +1.5 sets to beat Hurkacz at 2.90
1 point win Gerasimov to beat Lajovic at 2.20
0.5 points win Sinner to beat Khachanov at 2.80 https://www.unibet.co.uk/betting/sports/event/1006749560