US Open 2015 Preview

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.

The American hardcourts provide a fittingly dramatic locale for the year’s final Grand Slam.  The almost pathological civility of Wimbledon is forgotten in the media-saturated haze that is New York City, Flushing Meadows brimming with an almost incandescent fervour that is oh so American. Nick Kyrgios will no doubt thrive on the more carnival-like atmosphere that accompanies this event, with everyone secretly hoping that he meets Stan Wawrinka at some point in the tournament to discuss, ahem...politics. The men’s draw has become an area of relative unpredictability in this game, with six different players winning the last seven instalments of this competition, including Juan Martin Del Potro’s only Grand Slam victory. The ladies draw is a far less complicated affair, with Serena Williams’ quest to win all four major championships in a single calendar year providing a far more streamlined area of journalistic inquiry.

The Men

To Win Outright:
Novak Djokovic  11/10
Andy Murray  7/2
Roger Federer  6/1
Stan Wawrinka 15/1
Rafael Nadal 20/1

Novak Djokovic has reached twenty of the last 21 Grand Slam semi-finals, with his victory over Roger Federer at Wimbledon confirming his place as the leading player in world tennis.  His hardcourt season has not been ideal, with a side strain compounding concerns amidst a slightly worrying downturn in form. He lost to Andy Murray and Roger Federer in Montreal and Cincinnati respectively, losing to the Swiss technician in fairly innocuous fashion. This is however a Grand Slam, with matches stretched over a gruelling five-set format that suits the indefatigable Serb. Roger Federer has crucially regained the number two spot in the world, meaning that he will avoid the crème de le crème until the semi-finals. Despite having not won at Flushing Meadows since 2008, the Swiss master has looked serene in recent weeks, aided no doubt by a greatly truncated schedule that has set him up perfectly for the physical demands of a Grand Slam campaign. Andy Murray, rejuvenated under the tutelage of Amelie Mauresmo, will also be a factor as he aims to reclaim the former glory of his first Grand Slam triumph.

Rafael Nadal’s season has been terribly erratic, with the Spaniard failing to qualify for the quarters in any of the Grand Slams thus far, including only his second defeat at Roland Garros. I don’t expect Rafa to make too big an impression here with so many players capable of winning this tournament. Defending champion Marin Cilic has had a turbulent season but will feel confident returning to the scene of last year’s hugely surprising victory. I expect last year’s finalist Kei Nishikori to thrive on the physically demanding hardcourts, while big serving Tomas Berdych and Kevin Anderson could provide shocks at various stages in the draw. Richard Gasquet is my surprise pick for this one. A winner again on tour this year, the mercurial Frenchman has enjoyed a new lease on life, reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon. He could prove dangerous on courts that make his single-handed backhand an even more potent weapon than usual.

VERDICT: Novak Djokovic (11/10)
The iron man of world tennis should underline his status as a true great of the game with a victory over Roger Federer in the final.

AVOID: Rafael Nadal (20/1) and Stan Wawrinka (15/1)
Rafa’s season has just failed to get off the ground while Stan has been in decline since his triumph at Roland Garros.

OUTSIDE BET: Richard Gasquet (330/1)
Knowing that this is the most democratic of recent Grand Slams, surprises are oft in the making. Richard Gasquet should do well while Lleyton Hewitt may surprise one or two as a wildcard entry in what will be his final US Open.


The Ladies

To Win Outright
Serena Williams  19/20
Victoria Azarenka  7/1
Simona Halep  12/1
Maria Sharapova  12/1
Belinda Bencic  20/1

Serena Williams is going to win the Grand Slam this year. Injury aside, the American’s dominance at this year’s Slams has been nothing short of staggering. Lucie Safarova and Garbine Muguruza both enjoyed fairy-tale runs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon respectively, before being extinguished with disdain by the evergreen American. These Eastern-European ingénues generally don’t have the gas to reenergize and have another go at the all-conquering Williams. Simona Halep pushed the American quite hard in Cincinnati, but I can’t see the Romanian having the longevity to win any Grand Slam, let alone this one. I feel that Serena’s main competition will come from the past generation of talent, more attuned to the demands of taking on the effervescent American giant.

Ana Ivanovic briefly had Serena in trouble at the Western and Southern Open, with her powerful ground strokes able to nullify the American’s monstrous baseline game. Sometimes you don’t know with Serena, it almost seems that she toys with her opponents, inviting them to believe they have a chance, only to sadistically vanquish their hopes of a major upset with a bullish return of serve or a dismissive love service game. Victoria Azarenka is still the bookies’ second favourite, an indication that despite her poor form the Belarusian is likely the most well equipped player to actually go toe-to-toe with Williams. Maria Sharapova basks in the New York spotlight like a moth to a flame and she could pose a threat to Williams should she avoid the distractions of the Big Apple. One gets the impression that lavish galas are as important to the statuesque Sharapova as Grand Slam glory. Last year’s beaten finalist, Caroline Wozniacki, could also be a surprise factor in the tournament, with an ardent following in New York that seems to bring the best out of her.  

VERDICT: Serena Williams (19/20)
There is no stopping the American. Full stop.

AVOID: Simona Halep (12/1), Garbine Muguruza (25/1), Lucie Safarova (70/1)

OUTSIDE BET: Sloane Stephens (45/1)
The American should be emboldened by playing in front of her home crowd and could provide decent value in early competitive head-to-heads.

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