Monday, 26 August 2013

US Open 2013 Preview

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.

The final chance for Grand Slam glory takes the eyes of the tennis world to New York, New York. Flushing Meadows has always been a personal favourite of mine; a carnival atmosphere that acts as a perfect antidote to the pomp and regalia of Wimbledon. It’s been quite a strange year at the Slams, no multiple winners on either circuit despite the dominance that Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams have exerted. Rafa and Serena both have the opportunity to turn excellent years into spectacular ones with a title in Queens. Roger Federer has been seeded outside of the top four for the first time in a Grand Slam since 2003, a clear indication that even a more succinct schedule cannot prevent the steady onset of time. Victoria Azarenka bids to extend her form from Cincinnati while Maria Sharapova hopes that a bizarre name change will prove lucky as well as lucrative. Whatever happens, the typically boisterous New York crowds have quite a week to look forward to.


Men’s Singles

To Win Outright
Novak Djokovic 7/4
Rafael Nadal 11/4
Andy Murray 3/1
Juan Martin Del Potro 10/1
Roger Federer 14/1
Tomas Berdych 50/1

Rafael Nadal is the form man in men’s tennis at the moment, having already won nine titles this year. He is yet to lose a hard court match this season, demonstrating a similar unnerving dominance to his annual hegemony of the clay court season. He saw off the guile of Roger Federer in a thrilling quarter final in Cincinnati and showed equal acumen in neutralizing the more agricultural talents of John Isner in the final. With Flushing Meadows anticipated to play more akin to clay than grass this year, Rafael Nadal will be tough to beat in the Arthur Ashe Arena. However, few can forget Nadal’s humiliating exit in the first round at Wimbledon this year. The five set format certainly puts an entirely different strain on Nadal’s body, especially considering the problems he has continually experienced with his knees.

One man renowned for feats of endurance is top seed and former champion Novak Djokovic. He has remained consistent this year without ever really displaying the inspirational form he showed in 2011, but he will definitely be a huge force to contend with in this event. Andy Murray shook the Grand Slam monkey firmly from his back last year with his first Slam win in New York, and his victory at Wimbledon this year will have gone a long way to instilling a sense of confidence in the surly Scot. His form has been indifferent since Wimbledon but he is now firmly established among the male elite and will be tough to beat over five sets.

As a true Federer aficionado, it has been difficult to watch the final vestiges of invincibility being slowly peeled away from him this year. He will feel comfortable in New York, a court that seems to suit his diminishing capacities slightly better than even his hallowed Wimbledon. But the fact that he will be seeded seventh means that he will probably have to face either two or more of his bogey competitors, greatly reducing any chance of a record extending eighteenth Grand Slam title.

VALUE BETS: John Isner (80/1 a win, 20/1 a place)
The tall, big-serving American pushed Rafa all the way in two tight tiebreaks in Cincinnati and will be buoyed by huge local support. A likely quarterfinalist who could spring a surprise if his serve gains ascendance. A small bet each way seems the way to go.

Jerzy Janowicz (100/1 a win, 25/1 a place)
This polish talent has the potential to win numerous Grand Slams. His huge serve and forehand are sometimes offset by a suspect temperament. But if he can keep his emotions in check he could pull off another run like his inspired semi-final appearance at Wimbledon. Again, my advice is to go each-way.

Juan Martin Del Potro (10/1 a win, 5/2 a place)
The former champion has displayed excellent form at various junctures of this year’s calendar. The semi-final defeat he suffered at Wimbledon was perhaps one of the most glorious examples of how tennis can defy common notions of winning and losing. Djokovic’s defeat to Murray in the final was no doubt greatly influenced by the effects of the Del Potro match. Expect the Argentine to go as far as his body dictates; he can defeat any player on his day.

VERDICT: Novak Djokovic 7/4
My feeling is that the contemporary iron man of world tennis will come back with a huge performance that will justify his number one ranking in the world, especially considering the gruelling five set, seven match format. He’s the favourite for a reason. Back him.


Ladies Singles

To Win Outright
Serena Williams 8/10
Victoria Azarenka 4/1
Maria Sharapova 12/1
Li Na 25/1
Agnieszka Radwanska 25/1
Samantha Stosur 25/1

The shock retirement of Marion Bartoli has sent some shockwaves throughout the tennis world, highlighting the physical strain that these athletes handle on a weekly basis. The queen of women’s tennis, Serena Williams, can bear testament to that, entering the tournament on the back of an epic defeat at the hands of Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati. Questions about her fitness will no doubt have to be answered, but make no mistake, by the time Monday comes Ms Williams will remain the most feared player in the draw. Unlike her legendary male counterpart, Roger Federer, no one has really emerged in the wake of her domination and forged a definitive path towards tennis iconography. Serena is not only the defending champion, but former four-time champion, and if her metronomic serve arrives, the field better beware.

Victoria Azarenka has remained consistent this year despite some devastating defeats at the hands of Williams earlier in the season. She has been rewarded with the Australian Open title and victory against Williams last week, albeit with the American under some duress, has firmly established the playful Azarenka as the ostensible contender to Williams. She is cool under pressure, a trait both Sharapova and Radwanska seem to lack. Azarenka’s all round game has the potential to hurt Williams and her two Aussie titles are an indication of her hard court prowess.

Maria Sharapova has often been accused of putting brand Sharapova ahead of tennis Sharapova. But her most recent bout of self-publicity seems to be operating on the cusp of good taste, so to speak. She is appealing to the organisers of Flushing Meadows to allow for a temporary name change for the week in New York to promote her brand of sweets, Sugarpova. Maria Sugarpova.  I am not lying. Maybe I am being marginally cynical but surely a Grand Slam of tennis is not the place to conduct an experiment of this kind. In any event, her diabolical record against Williams coupled with off court distractions shouldn’t make the former champion much of a factor.

VALUE BETS:
Samantha Stosur (25/1 a win, 62/10 a place)
The surprise champion of 2011 has not really made too much of an impact on this year’s circuit.  But that’s exactly the kind of form she carried into the 2011 edition. She typifies the underdog Australian attitude in its best incarnation and I wouldn’t mind a wager on her having a deep run. Each way is the way to go.

Li Na (25/1 a win, 62/10 a place)
A strong competitor who has had some good moments this year, Na is a Grand Slam champion who understands what it takes to win. It’s kind of weird to think of her as an outsider, ranked number six in the world, but it works to her advantage and allows her to often exceed expectations. Another small each way bet here.

Sabine Lisicki (60/1 a win, 15/1 a place)
The giant killer from Wimbledon has yet to recapture any of her grass court form in the hard court season, but if that huge game can reappear, sans the obligatory melodrama, she could make a big impact in the tournament. In the women’s game, I feel that spotting a surprise hinges less on current form and rankings and more on the possession of a big game that can emerge at any moment. For that, Lisicki is your lady.

VERDICT: Victoria Azarenka 4/1
I don’t know why I’m operating out of all sense of common logic. I picked the Murray win at Wimbledon out of left field, and I just have another oompa-loompa vibe about this one. Maybe its Serena’s nagging injuries, maybe it’s Azarenka’s hard court prowess, but I just detect a possible power play by Azarenka. I feel the win in Cincinnati will give her a huge injection of confidence and she could take a big step here towards carving her own niche in tennis history.

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