The first quarter finals of the men’s singles at the 2021 US Open are set and things are going pretty much to plan for the majority of the pre-tournament favourites as we reach the business end in New York.
Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev are already safely into the last eight, but we’ve seen a fair few upsets elsewhere in the tournament and the quarter finals has a history of providing plenty of underdog winners.
Between 2012 and 2020 an average of 36% of them have won, making the quarter finals the best round of the tournament in that regard and the last time that all four betting favourites won in this round was back in 2011.
If you’d backed all of the underdogs in the quarter finals in the last five years you’d be in profit by £96.90 for a stake of just £10, so it’s been an uncomfortable round for the favourites in recent times.
It’s also been an uncomfortable (to say the least) year for my outright bets and again we saw some weak performances and some more losers from sub-1.10 in-play on the outright front this tournament.
Brandon Nakashima, having played very well against John Isner, struggled with energy and a troublesome match-up with lefty Alex Molcan and lost from 1.07 in-play, but I was right about the top part of Q4 being wide-open, as qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp was the one to make it through.
Hubert Hurkacz lost from 1.04 in-play to an Andreas Seppi, who’d played an absolute marathon the previous round and Denis Shapovalov was really disappointing against Lloyd Harris, with the Canadian admitting: “I was my own opponent today, I was struggling a lot with the serve, really, I beat myself, the match obviously shows that.”
The daily bets at majors have gone really well, though, with three more nice winners here in New York and in the four majors (so far) we’re in profit to the equivalent of £122.50 to just a £10 stake on those bets.
Tuesday’s two quarter finals don’t appear to be the most appealing in terms of fancying the underdogs, with Botic van de Zandschulp surely on the very edge of what’s possible physically at the moment.
Qualifiers rarely go well in New York, with Botic Van Der Zandschlup becoming the first man to make the last eight from the qualie draw since Gilles Muller in 2008 and only the third ever to do so.
The big Dutchman must be running short on energy by now though, having played 24 sets of tennis in the last two weeks and that doesn’t bode well against someone like Daniil Medvedev.
What’s striking when you look at the stats of Van de Zandschlup is that he’s only won 42.5% of his second serve points in his four main draw matches so far and that’s as much of a concern as his physical condition.
He’s done well on first serve, winning 79% of those points, but you feel that if he doesn’t make a lot of first serves against Medvedev he could be in for a very tough day indeed against the in-form Russian.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Van de Zandschlup dropped sets three and four to Diego Schwartzman on Sunday given that those were the only two sets where his first serve deserted him a bit.
In set one against Schwartzman he made 66%, while in set two he got 75% of them in play and in set five he was astonishing, making 87% on his first ball, while in sets three and four he only made 58% in each set.
Medvedev will be all over that second serve of Van de Zandschlup you’d have thought and combined with likely nerves in a maiden major quarter final and likely fatigue after a ton of tennis it spells danger for the Dutchman here.
Medvedev’s numbers – although it must be said he’s had a pretty kind draw so far – are fabulous, with 94% holds of serve and 46% breaks making for an off the charts combined service hold/break total of 140 (obviously from a very small sample size).
He’s won a healthy 58% of his second serve points (82% on his first ball) and you’d think that his strong defence and athleticism would be much too much for a fatigued Van de Zandschlup to handle.
I’m not wildly happy about the price, but 6-1 or 6-2 to Medvedev in the opening set looks quite possible, with Van de Zandschlup’s slow starts lately (he’s lost the opener in five of his six matches this US Open).
Interestingly, neither of these two have played a tie break in 30 sets so far this US Open (main draw) and you can get 10.0 on the opening set going to a breaker or 3.90 (both Unibet) on there being a tie break at any time in the match.
It doesn’t seem that likely though and with value thin on the ground on Tuesday, I’ll take 6-2 in set one to Medvedev at 4.60 (William Hill).
Carlos Alcaraz also made a bit of US Open history by becoming the youngest man ever to make the quarter finals in New York and his reward is a winnable-looking match against Felix Auger-Aliassime.
I say ‘winnable,’ but the worry here for Alcaraz is his physical condition, with the young Spaniard now having had draining back-to-back five setters, and what he had to say after his win over Peter Gojowczyk could prove telling:
“In the first sets, I thought that I reach my limit physically and mentally. The crowd was really, really important for me in this situation, I felt the energy of the crowd pushing me up. Without the crowd, I couldn’t possibly be here.”
It was certainly the case against Gojowczyk that the flat hitting on a pacy surface cause Alcaraz problems and it was to some extent thanks to the physical condition of qualifier Gojowczyk that allowed Alacaraz to get on top of that match.
It could also be argued that the pace of the ball coming at Alcaraz from Arthur Rinderknech in round two was rushing Alcaraz, but again the Spaniard was a little fortunate that Rinderknech, too, faded after the first couple of sets.
The Frenchman had played a 4h 20m match where he’d had to come from two sets down in tough conditions and he, like Gojowczyk, wasn’t able to sustain his level, but there’s enough evidence in matches like these to see a frailty in Alcaraz at the moment on this surface against flatter hitters.
Assuming that Auger-Aliassime has enough in the tank he should be able to come out on top, but I’m harbouring pretty big doubts about FAA when it comes to nerve on the big occasions.
He’s frozen many times in big matches – most recently he was overawed playing at home in Canada and was poor against Dusan Lajovic – and until he gets past that I couldn’t back him at this price in a major quarter final.
0.5 points win Medvedev to win set one 6-2 at 4.60 (William Hill)