OUR tennis expert Mark Stinchcombe (@markstinchcombe) casts his eye over the Men's draw at the US Open.
US Open | Men's Outright Winner | 31st August – 13th September 2015
The fourth and final slam of the year begins on Monday with the US Open. After a gruelling eight months on the tour, depending on how deep in tournaments players have gone and any injuries they may have had to contend with, some may come in fresher than others which may go some way to explain six different winners in the last seven years, including last year's maiden slam winner Marin Cilic.
After winning Wimbledon, 6/5 favourite Novak Djokovic has made the final of both Cincinnati and Montreal but has come away without victory in either citing a chronic arm injury as the problem.
4/1 second favourite Roger Federer skipped Montreal but played Cincinnati as usual wrapping up his seventh title including five of the last seven years.
Before anyone gets carried away though, the conditions there perfectly suit Federer's game with the quick courts taking time away from his opponents. At Flushing Meadows the courts are a lot slower and there's also the wind to deal with, which combined with his record at slams the last few years, explains why he hasn't made the final here for six years.
9/2 Andy Murray arrives having won in Montreal and losing in the semi's of Cincinnati against the familiar names of Djokovic and Federer respectively. However, there was a shock loss in the opening round of Washington to Teymuraz Gabashvili. He also probably should have been beaten by Grigor Dimitrov in the 3rd round of Cincy with the Bulgarian squandering numerous match winning situations. Murray is a player who copes well with the wind here but hasn't made it past the quarters in either of the last two years.
French Open winner Stan Wawrinka has spent the summer in the headlines but not for sporting reasons. He retired in the final set with a back injury v Kyrgios at the Rogers Cup then tamely went down to Djokovic 6-4 6-1 10 days ago.
Last year's runner up Kei Nishikori again enters the tournament here under an injury cloud, however I wouldn't read too much into it with him citing the same last year. Kei won Washington at the start of the month beating Cilic along the way (although never being any bigger than 4/9) but was easily dismissed by Murray in Montreal picking up just three games. I often feel he's overrated in the markets losing at odds on no fewer than nine times year and he's not a player to be trusted both on and off the court.
Rafael Nadal's disappointing year has continued on the hard courts taking just six games in the defeat to the aforementioned Nishikori and a third round exit to Feliciano Lopez in Cincinnati, both players he's enjoyed a dominant head-to-head record over. His once trusted forehand is still dropping short and he isn't playing the big points with the confidence he once was.
Reigning champion Marin Cilic arrives in no form at all, having not registered a top 10 victory yet in 2015. However, it's similar to last year before surprisingly going on to clinch the title dropping just three sets. It seems the shoulder injury he suffered at the beginning of the year has affected his ability in the big matches but he'll no doubt still have his supporters at 66/1.
So with the main contenders not providing an obvious value selection it makes sense to see how the draw has panned out. Djokovic's quarter is isn't too tough with David Goffin, Milos Raonic, Feliciano Lopez and Rafael Nadal the main threats.
Novak took care of Goffin last week, even coming back from a double break down in the final set to win six straight games. Raonic has lost both of his hard court matches since Wimbledon without winning a set and Lopez is a negative 23-24 for the year.
Last year's finalists have both landed in the second section and look set for a quarter final showdown. Wawrinka and Murray are in section three and Andy will have to take out the enigmatic Nick Kyrgios to progress past round one (4-0 H2H). The Swiss number two and the Scot have actually met here three times before with Stan winning the last two dropping just one set on a tie-break.
Along with Federer in the fourth section others that could threaten him are Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet. I'm happy to oppose Berdych after his disappointing exits to Alexandr Dolgopolov and Donald Young this summer at prices of 1/4 and 1/7 respectively.
Wimbledon semi-finalist Gasquet had a good run in Cincy beating Cilic, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Kyrgios without dropping a set before succumbing to Murray 6-4 in the final set. Semi-finalist here two years ago, it would take a big ask to overturn a 2-14 head-to-head record v Federer (both wins on clay).
Value is fairly scarce in my opinion, so I'm going to look at a couple of big prices in the name the finalists market. Last year's finalist Nishikori paired with Murray/Wawrinka is 25/1 and 50/1 respectively. From the 1st half Djokovic has injury concerns and Cilic hasn't beaten a top 10 player all year, and from the 2nd half Federer can be taken on with his performances here recently.