Four out of five US Open previews have made a profit (to level stakes) so far. Now it’s time for the semi-finals…

Women (from 2359 BST Thursday)

Serena Williams v Anastasija Sevastova

Sevastova has never been in a hardcourt final on the WTA tour, let alone at Grand Slam level, and I’m not tempted to side with her to make that breakthrough. Williams has been pretty ruthless so far in New York, losing just one set. Sevastova has had to battle at times, her level rising and falling too often for comfort. The Latvian hasn’t even had the experience of facing Williams in the past, never mind that of a Grand Slam semi-final. It could all be a bit overwhelming. Julia Goerges and Elena Vesnina found that when making their Slam semi debut against Williams in recent times. Neither covered a 4.5-game handicap and I’m tempted to follow that route here.


Williams (-4.5) to win game handicap at

Naomi Osaka v Madison Keys

What’s easy to predict is that the ball will be hit ferociously hard by both players. Each has made smooth progress through the draw so far, dismantling opponents with some one-sided scorelines. The player who is more consistent with their big-hitting will prevail but it’s hard to say who that will be. Whenever Keys steps onto Arthur Ashe Stadium she must have in the back of her mind her miserable display in last year’s final when her go-for-broke game fell apart. That could happen to Osaka too – she’ll remember choking against Keys in this tournament two years ago. If pushed, I’d side with the outsider, Osaka, but I’d prefer to look for better bets elsewhere.

Men (from 2100 BST Friday)

Kei Nishikori v Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after winning his men's singles quarter-final match against John Millman of Australia on Day Ten of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

The good news for Kei Nishikori here is that the stifling conditions are forecast to have been replaced by cooler ones come Friday’s ‘twilight’ session – storms could even mean the roof has to be closed. That would surely favour Djokovic, not that he needs favours. He leads the head-to-head 14-2 and has won the last 13. However, Nishikori’s two wins have come on a hardcourt, including one here in the 2014 semis. For all Djokovic’s dominance on the H2H, matches have often been competitive. In five of those 13, Nishikori has won a set, including in the last two. Nishikori needed five sets to get past Marin Cilic on Wednesday but looked fresh enough and I think he’s capable of pushing this past the 35.5-game mark. His return game is strong enough to break Djokovic – he’s secured three and four breaks in their last two matches and also broke him in their three most recent hardcourt encounters. Over 35.5 is the tentative play.


Over 35.5 games in the match at

Rafael Nadal v Juan Martin Del Potro

The match of the round also looks the most competitive, with the odds making Nadal only a slight favourite. Both were made to work hard in the last round. Nadal needed almost five hours to beat Dominic Thiem but arguably looked fresher at the end than Del Potro did after beating John Isner considerably faster – that may well have taken more out of the heavier Argentine than the bookies anticipate. Del Potro will need to use his massive groundstrokes to full effect here but on that front the slowed-down court won’t help. I’d favour the warrior-like Nadal but the best bet comes in the sub-markets with no tie-break at 11/4 looking big. There have been just seven tie-breaks in their previous 47 sets (16 matches). Since Delpo’s return with a revamped backhand, it’s two in 15 sets (one in seven on outdoor hard). With both men strong on return – and showing it here so far – I see no reason for that to change significantly and the price should be taken.


No tie-break in the match at

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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