Well, now it’s getting interesting.
Prior to the unprecedented scenes on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court on Sunday when odds-on favourite Novak Djokovic was sensationally defaulted for striking an official with the ball the men’s tournament was meandering towards a seemingly inevitable Djokovic win.
Not any more.
I haven’t seen anything like that in men’s tennis on this scale before, with previous similar incidents occurring at ‘lesser’ tournaments and never to a world number one at a Grand Slam.
Djokovic’s default blew the tournament wide open and it came just minutes after I was cursing some awful luck when our 10.50 shot of Djokovic winning set one against Pablo Carreno Busta by a score of 6-4 on Sunday was foiled from the brink of success.
At 0-40 on the PCB serve at 4-5, with Djokovic holding effectively triple match point for us, a ball was called long from the Carreno racquet and that was that, but it wasn’t, as a challenge revealed it had whiffed the line and PCB went on to hold.
That was actually the catalyst of Djokovic’s bad temper that culminated minutes later into his demise.
Sadly, David Goffin couldn’t take advantage of the situation, having been in a good position against Denis Shapovalov by winning set one of their clash 7-6 (0), but the Belgian he didn’t have a good day (again at the latter stages of a major). All credit to Shapovalov, though, who played one of the best matches of his career to win in four.
Moving on to Monday’s play now and we’re set for another sunny day in Flushing, with highs of 26C in the shade, and not much wind around, so perfect conditions for the players.
Matteo Berrettini vs Andrey Rublev
One match that’s bound to provoke lively debate amongst punters is Berrettini versus Rublev, which is a repeat of last year’s US Open fourth round match that Berrettini won as a 2.58 underdog.
Now the tables are turned a little, with Berrettini the favourite at around 1.80 and I couldn’t back him at that price in a match-up that will be decided by who’s going to get the first strike in more often.
Last year Berrettini’s bigger serve allowed him to do that (interestingly, Rublev hit more aces than Berrettini in that match) and get the win over the Russian, but Rublev has improved since then and he’s been serving very well so far this fortnight.
Is it enough to turn around last year’s result? Well, Rublev did beat Berrettini in July at exhibition level, but my worry about him is that second serve, which is still attackable.
Rublev only won 40% on his second ball in an utterly dominant win over Salvatore Caruso in the last round and Rublev has failed to win a single set in his last five hard court main level matches against the group of Berrettini (twice), Alexander Zverev (twice) and Daniil Medvedev (twice).
In his last 10 matches on outdoor hard versus the players I have in my list as ‘top-10 quality’ Rublev is 2-8 win/loss and with only 43.9% of second serve points won, so I’m not keen a price of 2.05 about Rublev here.
I think it’s a better choice to chance the 3.25 about there being more than one tie break in this match, with both guys not up to much on return: Berrettini has broken just 11.9% of the time (0.31 breakers per set) in his last 10 matches against the current top 25 on outdoor hard and the pair have played at least one breaker in their four hard court meetings at all levels.
Rublev has broken Berrettini only 7.8% of the time in their last three main level matches and with the Russian banging down his first serve right now and on a warm day, breakers seem quite likely.
Perhaps the most interesting match of the day on Monday will be the first career clash between Dominic Thiem and Felix Auger-Aliassime and this should be a decent test for the Austrian.
FAA has played some very nice stuff this tournament so far and he has the game to cause problems for Thiem on a pacy hard court, as Marin Cilic did when the Croat eventually found his form in sets three and four of that match.
Thiem did well in the end and got a little lucky at times on break points to avoid having to go five there and a peak form FAA has the weapons to potentially cause an upset here, but has he got the nerve yet?
He’s spoken several times about nerves affecting him at majors and I just feel I’d want a bigger price than this about FAA in such a big match at only 20 years old and lacking in experience.
I’m not seeing anything in FAA’s stats against the current top-25 that suggest he’s a likely winner here, but in an afternoon match on a hot day he could make it close, so I’m thinking Thiem 3-1 at 4.20 is a fair betting option here.
Fitness is the big question mark for me in the clash between Vasek Pospisil and Alex De Minaur, with the in-form Canadian a tempting underdog at around the 2.43 mark.
It’s a similar match-up for Pospisil as in the previous round against an opponent that makes a lot of balls, is happy to run all day, and De Minaur has a better record against big serving types than Roberto Bautista Agut does.
De Minaur is 2-0 in the career series against Pospisil and he’s won four of his last six against the big servers in my database (also beaten Opelka four times since the start of 2019), but this is a different Pospisil to the one that ADM defeated twice in the space of a few months in 2018.
The Canadian is finally playing pain-free after several nightmare seasons with injury and on the form he showed at times (particularly the last two sets) against RBA and also earlier in the season, before the hiatus, Pospisil has a definite chance here.
Despite having enjoyed recent success against big servers, De Minaur has had to do it the hard way, playing a whopping 0.53 tie breaks per set and only breaking serve 8.4% of the time in his seven matches against the ones in my database since the start of 2019 on all surfaces.
My worry for both of the se guys is that they’ve played a couple of rough matches back-to-back after not having had any real competitive, tough, long matches for a significant period and how will they shape up?
De Minaur looked to have checked out for some time against Karen Khachanov in the last round before dialling back in just in time, winning just two points more than Khachanov in total.
With his style of play, De Minaur needs to be fit and full of energy to compete and 1.57 looks short to me in these circumstances. I’m just not sure I trust Pospisil’s body, but otherwise he’s definitely one to consider at the prices.
Talking of fitness, I wonder what Frances Tiafoe has left in the tank after he was surprisingly (to me at least) able to recover brilliantly from a four-hour five setter against John Millman to take down Marton Fucsovics as underdog in round three.
Tiafoe has always had that question mark over his stamina for me and that was some effort against the incredibly frustrating Fucsovics, whose level is virtually impossible to predict always.
Now Tiafoe faces a far tougher match-up and opponent in Daniil Medvedev, whose kind draw has enabled him to ease through to round four without being extended past 10 games in any of the nine he’s played so far.
Given Tiafoe’s propensity to be wildly inconsistent on his forehand it’s tough to see him outlasting the brick wall that is Medvedev and more so when considering the stats of the pair’s two hard court career meetings thus far.
Medvedev has broken Tiafoe a whopping 45.6% of the time so far and the Russian served particularly poorly in his four set win over Tiafoe at the Australian Open in January (12 double faults and only 53% of first serves in play).
Given how well Medvedev defends and his ability to keep making ball after ball from even the toughest of defensive positions it’s difficult to see how Tiafoe can turn things around much in this match-up, so no bet for me here.
0.5 points win over 1.5 tie breaks in Berrettini/Rublev at 3.20