The last Slam of the year has produced the drama and Andy Schooler shares his US Open final fours preview.
Women's US Open Draw
We start off by looking at the US Open women’s semi-finals, including British starlet Emma Raducanu’s showdown with Maria Sakkari.
Leylah Fernandez v Aryna Sabalenka
Fernandez to win 2-1
Fernandez has been in terrific form here, consistently providing her backers with big-priced winners, and she looks overpriced again to continue her roll.
The 19-year-old Canadian has taken down defending champ Naomi Osaka, the 2016 winner Angie Kerber and fifth seed Elina Svitolina in her last three matches, so why can’t she defeat a player who is yet to win a Grand Slam final?
Had you told Sabalenka she’d be playing the world number 73 in the last four she’d likely have bitten your hand off but the negative side is there’s now big expectation on her to win – and that brings pressure.
Will that result in the famous unforced errors returning to the Belarusian’s game? Her go-for-broke style of tennis has always been prone to produce those.
Fernandez, picked out as one to watch in 2021 on these pages in pre-season, certainly has the weapons to bring the errors out of the Sabalenka racquet. She’s found a great balance between attack and defence and has always responded when the going has got tough – she was a set and a break down to both Osaka and Kerber.
She also needed three sets to beat Svitolina and another 2-1 win here looks very tempting for those who like a chunky price – that’s 13/2.
For those wanting less risk, the simple upset at 13/5 also looks a good bet.
Emma Raducanu v Maria Sakkari
Sakkari to break serve first
The Emma Raducanu show in New York has been nothing short of sensational – every time you watch her play it’s hard to believe she was ranked outside the top 300 prior to Wimbledon.
Even if she loses this match, for which she is a slight underdog, she’ll be at 51 on Monday and the new British number one.
I’m far from convinced she’ll lose this but at the same time I’m not ready to back her at 5/4 against a player who served very well in her quarter-final win over Karolina Pliskova.
Sakkari did not face a break point as she lost only eight points behind her own delivery and that is a nod to where I believe the best bet lies.
The Greek has spoken about how well that shot is working and she is a player capable of hitting some of the biggest first serves on the women’s tour. That’s a new problem for Raducanu to deal with, as is the fierce Sakkari forehand which she will look to use to dictate behind the serve.
Raducanu has lost her serve in her opening service game in each of the last two rounds so the bet for me is for Sakkari to break first at 7/10
US Open Winner
Fernandez to win the title
The outright market has Sabalenka as its 6/5 favourite ahead of the semi-finals.
Should the semis play out as the layers expect, she’ll meet Sakkari on Saturday and it’s notable that the Belarusian leads that head-to-head 4-1.
However, as of now, Fernandez looks the best value at 7/1.
Her wins over Osaka, Kerber and Svitolina deserve more respect, in my opinion, and as I’ve written above, she’s far from without a chance against Sabalenka in their last-four clash.
Raducanu has obviously attracted more attention for her run but her price of 3/1 is, at least in part, due to the weight of money already taken on her.
Fernandez has beaten better opponents and is battle-hardened, She looks a decent price for those getting involved at this stage.
Men's US Open Draw
As Novak Djokovic chases history we’ve reached the closing stages of the US Open men’s singles with the semi-finals scheduled for Friday in New York.
Novak Djokovic v Alex Zverev
Zverev to win
This looks must-watch sport with potential for a classic high.
Djokovic is now just two wins from completing the Grand Slam, something last achieved in the men’s game in 1969.
But in the first of those he must face the player who stopped his bid for Olympic gold only last month. Zverev went on to claim the title in Tokyo and he’s now on a 16-match winning streak, playing arguably the best tennis of his career.
The German has power off both wings and that managed to break down the famous Djokovic defence in Tokyo, albeit only after the Serb had dominated the early stages – he lost from a set and a break up.
It should be an intriguing battle.
With Djokovic having failed to hit the heights of which he is capable so far in New York, there’s certainly more than a sniff of an upset in the air and I can certainly see a tight affair unfolding.
Djokovic has lost a set in four of his five rounds thus far, whereas Zverev has conceded only the one.
We all know opposing the world number one in a best-of-five-sets match is risky business but the usual consistency hasn’t been there from Djokovic (admittedly he’s also been excellent for periods in some matches).
With this in mind, I’m going to take a chance of a player at the peak of his powers right now, one long touted as a potential Grand Slam champion – he almost got there at this event in New York, losing the final having been two points from victory.
A small play on Zverev is 2/1 is the call with a four-set success at 6/1 tempting for those seeking a bigger price.
Felix Auger-Aliassime v Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev to win 3-0
Medvedev has been in sparkling form at the US Open and now finds himself in a third successive semi-final at Flushing Meadows.
He lost to Dominic Thiem 12 months ago but it’s hard to see him being beaten in this one.
His game is currently at level higher than Auger-Aliassime’s and I can see the Russian dominating this one.
I’m always a little reticent to get involved with a straight-sets bet on a heavy favourite, especially on a fairly fast court when it takes little to go wrong.
But I just don’t see Auger-Aliassime being able to trouble Medvedev too much.
Some will point to their only previous meeting, won by Medvedev 7-6 in the final set, but the key face is that it took place more than three years ago. Both men have improved significantly since with Medvedev now very much one of the world’s elite.
With Auger-Aliassime also having to deal with the new experience of playing a Grand Slam semi-final, a 3-0 win for Medvedev at around even money seems fair enough
US Open Outright
Medvedev to win the title
Medvedev looks the call in the outright market at this point.
As pointed out, he has the easier semi-final and could easily get a smooth win and see the others duke it out for four hours or more. That has the potential to be significant come Sunday.
The Russian will go into any final knowing he is more than capable of beating either man. He’s won three of the last five meetings with Djokovic and four of his last five v Zverev.
Zverev clearly has potential at 11/2 given what I’ve said about his chances against Djokovic, although if you backed him pre-tournament when he was mentioned in my ante-post preview, you’ve already got him at 6/1.
Auger-Aliassime is the rank outsider at 25s. For those tempted, it’s worth noting that even if he upsets Medvedev he’ll have to deal with the fact he’s 0-8 in tour-level finals.