Sean Calvert’s ATP US Open Day 1 Preview

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The final major of the year gets underway on Monday in New York when the bottom half of the draw will play their round one matches of the 2021 US Open.

That means that it’s Daniil Medvedev’s half of the draw that will be in action first, with all 32 matches from the bottom half scheduled to be played on day one when the weather is expected to be hot and humid.

Thunderstorms are forecast in the afternoon, but the day will be a steamy one at 29C in the shade and humidity of between 60 and 70% will make it feel a few degrees warmer than that, so it’ll be a test of stamina over five sets.

With so many matches being played in one day, I’ve narrowed it down to some where the underdogs may have a chance of causing problems for the favourites, or where there’s potentially value of one kind or another.

US Open men’s singles history tells us that in the last nine years, an average of 26% of the betting underdogs have won (25% in the last three years) and last year there were only 21% underdog winners.

The round with the highest ratio of underdog winners in those last nine years has been the quarter finals, where 36% of them on average have won, but the rest of the rounds are all roughly around the 23-28% mark.

Round one averages 26% underdog winners in the last nine years and in the last five years you’d have made a big loss of £563 if you’d backed all of the underdogs to just a £10 stake.

Had you backed every underdog in every match in every round of the men’s singles at the US Open in the last five years you’d be down by £689 (£10 stake).

As far as tie breaks are concerned, the average number of tie break matches at the US Open in the last nine years is 46% and that number is pretty much the same in rounds one to three, but it’s higher in round four (53%), the quarter finals (57%) and the final (56%).

On the subject of tie breaks, Ivo Karlovic says he’s probably going to retire after this US Open (Paulo Lorenzi has already retired after losing out in qualies) and I just wonder if he has enough left in his legs to worry Andrey Rublev for a while?

At 42 he’s nowhere near the force of old, but he looks like he’s giving it his all in New York, qualifying handily and winning 89% of his first serve points in his three qualie matches.

Rublev has had his problems against big servers and he is one player that gets frustrated when clearly the better player off the ground but unable to get a racquet on the bombs that the likes of Karlovic and John Isner can deliver.

In Toronto (and Madrid) this year Isner took him out, winning three tie break sets against Rublev in those matches and the Russian was not a happy man either time.

He’s never faced Karlovic, but he clearly doesn’t enjoy this sort of challenge and if Karlovic serves well a tie break in set one is very possible here at 4.0 (Bet 365).

Talking of big servers and players that don’t seem to enjoy facing them, Frances Tiafoe has never won a completed main level match without dropping a set against any of the big servers in my database in a 3-9 win/loss record.

One of those three wins was against a sick Karlovic, who retired here in New York in 2019 and so he’s 2-9 in completed matches: one a four-set win over Kevin Anderson and another a final set victory over Milos Raonic.

In those 12 matches, he’s lost nine of the 10 tie breaks he’s played and broken serve only 12.8% of the time – and that figure is boosted by the stats from the aborted Karlovic match.

Now he faces qualifier Chris Eubanks, who walloped down 1.32 aces per game in qualifying, holding serve 88% of the time.

Over 1.5 tie breaks in this one is a 4.33 chance with Bet 365 and I don’t mind taking that bet.

Still on the theme of big servers, we come to Nick Kyrgios, and I can’t imagine for one moment that Roberto Bautista Agut enjoyed seeing his name paired with the Aussie in round one.

RBA has lost six of his last eight main level matches on all surfaces against the big servers in my database and nine of his last 12.

He’s only broken serve 10% of the time in his 28 main level career matches against my big servers (10-18 win/loss) and if I could trust the fitness of Kyrgios I might be tempted to back him, but not at this price with NK’s fitness little more than guesswork.

Filip Krajinovic also has questionable fitness, has retired here before, and I wouldn’t trust him to outlast Guido Pella if it’s going to be hot and with high humidity.

Krajinovic lost to lefty Cedrik Marcel Stebe here as a 1.26 chance in 2019 and to Matt Ebden by retirement the previous year and he was beaten by lefty Alex Bolt at Wimbledon as favourite a few months back.

He’s actually lost five of his last six matches against lefties: Bolt, Nishioka, Lopez, Verdasco and Shapovalov (one win was against Marterer as a 1.34 chance) so I wouldn’t be backing the Serb as a 1.33 favourite here.

Krajinovic has played one match (and lost that) on hard since March and Pella will drag him into plenty of long rallies here. Has he got the stamina for it in these conditions? I’m not convinced, but it’s been scheduled for the late afternoon, so that might help the Serb.

Purely on price I’m tempted to take Felix Auger-Aliassime on, given that the hit and miss Canadian youngster has lost four of his last eight main level matches when priced up shorter than 1.30 and in big tournaments, too.

Dusan Lajovic beat him as a 4.0 shot in Toronto, while Max Purcell as a 6.24 chance took him out of the Olympics and 9.28 shot Andreas Seppi defeated FAA at the French Open, plus Aslan Karatsev beat him at the Australian Open at a price of 4.45.

Going further back to 2020, Yoshihito Nishioka beat him as a 4.86 chance (in straight sets, too) at the French Open and Ernests Gulbis took him out of the Australian Open as a 4.91 pick (and Ugo Humbert beat him at Wimbledon 2019 at 4.44).

So, with that record it might be worth chancing your arm with Evgeny Donskoy, but it’s a real punt given that the Russian hasn’t won a completed match in the main draw of the US Open since 2015, losing six of his last seven.

Cristian Garin is another one that doesn’t inspire much confidence at short odds, with the Chilean having a very patchy record at the US Open so far, as well as having lost both of his hard court matches this summer.

Garin’s only wins in the main draw in New York were both five setters over the aforementioned Chris Eubanks and against another American, Ulises Blanch.

He lost to Mikhail Kukushkin (again in five sets) as favourite here last year and 12 of Garin’s last 14 matches at majors have gone to either four or five sets (the two that didn’t were 3-0 defeats by Djokovic and Medvedev).

Indeed, of Garin’s 23 main draw matches at majors he’s won only two in straight sets, so it could be another long one when he faces Norbert Gombos, who’s not in the best of form, losing his last five matches in a row.

He’s also just 3-9 win/loss at majors, but he did beat Borna Coric as a 5.83 chance at the French Open last year.

It’s probably a bit quick here for both of these players, but a lengthy battle seems quite likely and 3-1 to Garin at around 4.0 in set betting appeals.

I had hoped that John Millman’s foot injury that he picked up in Cincy was not too serious, but 10 days off apparently wasn’t long enough to recover, so the Aussie pulled out of Winston-Salem last week.

It might well just have been precautionary, but Millman’s opponent, Henri Laaksonen has won seven of his last eight matches and might well draw Millman into the sort of long battle that his injury may not be able to resist, but the price on Laaksonen doesn’t appeal.

Similarly, I’m not sure that Dan Evans is really close to his best form and fitness after testing positive for Covid just before the Olympics and he hasn’t had good results against left-handers, such as Thiago Monteiro in any case.

Evans has lost eight of his last 12 main level matches against lefties and he lost here at the US Open as a 1.31 chance to one of those lefties, Corentin Moutet, so Evans might find this tough against a player renowned for fighting hard.

I like backing Peter Gojowczyk against big servers, but his 4-12 win/loss record in completed main level matches against lefties such as Ugo Humbert puts me off him this time (and he’s only ever won two main draw matches at the US Open).

Andy Murray struggles to keep his best level up for very long these days, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he started well against Stefanos Tsitsipas, whose record so far at the US Open is not great.

The Greek is just 3-3 win/loss in the main draw of the US Open and while that seems bound to improve in the next few years, I’m tempted to chance Murray to win set one or for set one to go to a tie break.

Murray’s first serve has been firing lately and if he can get more of them in (47% against Tiafoe in Winston-Salem and 51% vs Hurkacz in Cincy) he can give Tsitsipas something to think about for a while at least.

He won 81% on that first ball against Hurkacz and 80% against Gasquet and 76% versus Tiafoe (1% more than Tiafoe managed) and he’s 1.1 aces per game in his last three matches, so I’m happy to take a shot at a big one here: 14-1 that Murray wins the opener 7-6 (Bet 365).

Brandon Nakashima is an underdog with real prospects against the ageing John Isner, for whom best-of-five sets tennis has rarely been kind to him and his serve-dominated game.

Isner’s much more effective over the best-of-three, where he can hit and run in two tie breaks if he serves well, but at the majors he’s not been to the last-16 since the 2018 US Open.

Only twice in 14 tries has Isner made the last eight in New York, with his prospects often hampered by the organisers giving him night matches in slower conditions, but that’s not the case this time against Nakashima.

They’ll play at around lunchtime on Armstrong and the stats of the two clashes that Isner and Nakashima have had so far show that Nakashima has won 62% of his second serve points (Isner just 48%) and more on his first serve as well (82% to 80%), so he’s winning more points on serve than Isner.

Nakashima has held 96% of the time against Isner so far (admittedly, it’s only two matches) and over this longer format I like the chances of Nakashima, who’s shown a good temperament lately in an impressive spell of form.

He won 10 of 12 matches in Los Cabos, Atlanta and Washington DC and was clearly tired in DC and while he lost to Isner in Atlanta (beat Isner in Los Cabos) the conditions there are perfect for Isner, who’s record there is superb (and it’s best-of-three).

Nakashima should be well-rested now and ready to potentially go well in Q4 (I managed to find 66-1 about him winning his quarter with Unibet and that’s worth an interest, too) so 2.40 (Bet Victor) is reasonable in this match.

Jiri Vesely would be (and still might be) of interest against Kevin Anderson in a match-up that’s proved tough for Anderson over the years.

It’s been an utterly serve-dominated series, as you’d probably expect, with both men holding serve 90-91% of the time and therefore breaking only 10% of the time and playing 0.35 tie breaks per set.

Vesely has won 60% of his second serve points in this match-up and would be of serious interest, but he hasn’t been seen since a car crash about a month ago and who knows how fit he is (he withdrew from Winston-Salem last week citing neck pain).

Pedro Martinez played well on hard courts at the Australian Open at the start of the season, beating Emil Ruusuvuori and Yoshihito Nishioka before getting injured in Miami and he took time to find his level again.

At his next major, Roland Garros, he beat Seb Korda in straight sets before losing to eventual finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, and then at Wimbledon he beat Gael Monfils and Stefano Travaglia.

Then he made the final at altitude in Kitzbuhel on the clay, so even without any hard court matches for months I’d fancy him to show up and possibly beat the limited James Duckworth, who looks short at 1.40.

Duckworth was beaten by Thiago Monteiro in Winston-Salem and Tennys Sandgren (who hasn’t won back-to-back matches since the 2020 Western & Southern Open) in Washington DC and then he got lucky in Toronto, playing a sick Taylor Fritz and an exhausted Jannik Sinner.

The Aussie has had a good season by his standards, but he’s 5-14 win/loss at hard court majors and he’s won one match at the US Open since 2014, so, with Martinez having shown his tendency to play well in majors lately (and having a much better record in them than Duckworth) I don’t mind him at 3.0 in this match.

The worry with this one is that Martinez had a left leg/groin problem in his last match and then withdrew from Winston-Salem, but it’ll be two weeks since that match, so I don’t mind a small risk at this price.

Plenty of options then on Monday and while I’ll probably choose the wrong ones, I’ll take these bets on day one:

Best Bets

1 point win Martinez to beat Duckworth at 3.0 (several layers, but Bet365 void on retirement, so I’ll use them)

1 point win Nakashima to beat Isner at 2.40 (Bet Victor)

1 point win over 12.5 games in set one of Rublev/Karlovic at 4.0 (Bet 365)

1 point win Garin to beat Gombos 3-1 at 4.0 (Sky Bet)

0.5 points win Nakashima to win Q4 at 67.0 (Unibet)

0.5 points win Murray to win set one 7-6 at 15.0 (Bet 365)