US Open – Thiem to give Rafa a stern quarter-final examination

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TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) has enjoyed a great US Open. Here's his take on Tuesday night's action from Day 9 at Flushing Meadows.

I don’t like to blame losing bets on how unlucky I was to lose it but on Monday I certainly think it is fair to say we were unlucky.

The men’s selection – David Goffin to beat Marin Cilic – was good in theory. Goffin outplayed Cilic for the first set but he clearly wasn’t fit as his serves were powderpuff and lacked over 10km in pace on average from his previous rounds.

This allowed Cilic to dominate the Goffin serve, and without playing a blinder, Cilic was a comfortable winner. Goffin would later say that he is suffering pain in his shoulder.

The match on the women’s side of the draw was very frustrating. Our pick Marketa Vondrousova was a set and break up and was priced at 1/333 in-play to defeat Lesia Tsurenko. It had appeared that the Ukrainian was set to retire early in the second set following some persistent amateur dramatics.

In reality there was little wrong with Tsurenko, who was evidently the player in better physical condition. Her dramatics unsettled Vondrousova and it was Tsurenko who fought back to reach the quarter-final.

The good news however, about Tsurenko’s victory is that it gives a favourable draw to 33/1 outright pick Naomi Osaka to make the semi-final. Osaka was victorious against the in-form Aryna Sabalenka in what was a contender for match of the tournament so far.

Tuesday is the quarter-final day in the top half of the men’s and women’s draw. All four matches feature favourites at less than 2/5 to win and it would be a surprise to see any of them lose although there is reason to suggest it won’t be plain sailing for any of the favourites.

There may be some decent betting opportunities in-play, but there is only one pick from the off that I see value in.

Rafa Nadal v Dominic Thiem | Wednesday 5th September 2018, 01:30 | Amazon Prime

After watching Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem come through their matches two days ago, I rushed to the Betfair Exchange to place a dollop of cash on Thiem to win at some high opening lines.

However, I have since decided that Thiem may not get the job done so I have traded out of my Thiem bet for a decent bit of profit as the lines have shortened slightly on the Austrian.

I am very unconvinced by what I have seen from Nadal so far in this tournament. The Spaniard has been second best for large spells of his last two matches against Karen Khachanov and Nikoloz Basilashvili. For Rafa to drop a set to Basilashvili – a player he famously dropped only one game to over the course of three sets the last time they played – is one of several indicators that Rafa is not at his level best.

The most obvious reason for Nadal’s struggles appears to be the reappearance of knee pain that has hampered him for much of his career. However, it must also be observed that both Basilashvili and Khachanov are players that have only one mode of playing and that is to hit every ball harder than the one they hit the previous shot.

It is therefore not unreasonable that they can carry that explosive form for long enough to win one set against Nadal. It is much harder though to sustain that for three sets against the best defender in the sport.

Thiem looked in sparkling form as he thundered past 2017 finalist Kevin Anderson without conceding a break point. The Austrian looks in great shape and has made a career best run at this tournament even before he takes to the court against Rafa.

The pair have met on 10 occasions – all on clay – and Thiem has won three of them. He is an attacking player and he has proven that he can hang with Nadal for long spells even if his efforts end in defeat more often than not.

Ultimately on clay Rafa holds a significant advantage. He is physically so dominant on the surface and has the ability to absorb power hitters such as Thiem. This match however, takes place on a hard court and there are different factors to consider.

I was very interested to hear the comments of Mats Wilander who analysed this match up on Eurosport. He said that unlike on a clay court the backhand slice of Thiem can become a factor and essentially an extra weapon for the Austrian. He did ultimately conclude though that Rafa is the world number one for a reason and should pull through.

Nadal has yet to taste defeat on hard courts this season – other than a loss via retirement to Marin Cilic in Australia. I have stepped back from my belief that Thiem wins this match, but I still believe Thiem will come mighty close to victory if not winning outright.

I therefore believe that there is value in Rafa Nadal to survive Dominic Thiem by winning in five sets. I am therefore backing Nadal to win 3-2 at a best price of 13/2 with Betfair.

Best Bets

Rafa Nadal v Dominic Thiem – Rafa Nadal to win 3-2 (13/2 Betfair)

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About Author

I first got into tennis betting when Andy Murray started to emerge as a top level player. Inspired by reading the likes of Moneyball and Soccernomics, I have improved my betting by using statistical analysis to help indicate where the value lies. Over the years I have written for tennis betting websites, and focus my writing on outright markets where I have had three successful seasons since I started betting these markets in 2016.

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