The fourth and final Grand Slam event of a paced tennis season is underway at Flushing Meadows, and with an arm injury dogging Novak Djokovic the US Open has been rocked to its foundations. Andy Murray will be watching developments with interest.
Djokovic got through his first-round match against Jerzy Janowicz but dropped a set and was clearly in some discomfort throughout. He called for a medical timeout in the first set and required all of his trademark composure to ensure a disaster was averted.
But a two-week major is not an ideal place to be carrying an injury – particularly with booming serves picking up pace off the court here, and so the world number one’s outstanding service return game could be hampered. That is good news for all in Team Murray.
Murray’s Magic Moment
It is a tournament that has been reasonably kind to the Scot over the years, although a relative barren spell in recent years – and while he hasn’t gone past the quarters since 2012 that is an eyebrow-raiser, rather than an alarm bell ringer. Injury worries in 2014, and an exhausting Davis Cup campaign in 2015, were rather counter-productive to his chances in the fourth Grand Slam of the calendar year.
You might assume that the emotion and exertion of the Olympic Games, where Murray won a gold, might be a factor too, but it appears not: he took the gold medal at the London Games of 2012 remember, and followed that up with his win in the US Open a matter of weeks later. He will be hoping that lightning can strike twice here.
The draw has been rather kind to Murray, and first up on Wednesday will be Lukas Rosol, a talented player but one who, ranked 81 in the world, has arguably failed to live up to his potential. A 2-0 head-to-head lead in Murray’s favour is indicative in the gulf of talent between the two.
In the second round the winner of the Marcel Granollers-Pujol and Juan Monaco encounter is unlikely to offer much of a test, and neither will the world number 30 Gilles Simon, who is Murray’s likely third round opponent. The Frenchman flatters to deceive on the big stage, and having lost seven of his last ten outings he has to be vulnerable against his first round opponent Radek Stepanek.
Potential opponents next up include Feliciano Lopez, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric – that is the dream last 16 scenario for Murray, and he should be able to conserve plenty of energy in a comfortable victory there. In the quarters, well, things become a little trickier, but Murray boasts an impressive head-to-head record over Kei Nishikori, and David Goffin’s record against the elite players in the game is woeful, despite his own unquestionable talent.
In the semi-finals it could be any one of Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic or Steve Johnson, and if the Scot was being perfectly honest he would fancy his chances of defeating any one of those.
Hence why his price has tumbled to 9/4 then – and clearly Djokovic’s injury concerns are a factor too, but that’s not to suggest Murray isn’t value at the price: far from it. He looks an outstanding bet in a tournament draw that has been rather kind to him.
US Open Each Way Betting Tips
Ordinarily when discussing outright tips at the majors we look to the opposite half of the draw to Djokovic, but given his obvious doubts – and it is very rare for the Serb to downplay his chances – we can be more circumspect. Indeed, the likes of John Isner, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Marin Cilic could all push him really hard in the early rounds.
Then it could be left to Milos Raonic, his potential semi-final combatant, to finish him off. The Canadian reached the final of Wimbledon this year and his huge serve means that he wins so many easy points. How Djokovic’s wrist bears up returning these 140mph bullets is anybody’s guess, and if they do meet there is no reason why Raonic can’t get the job done.
His probable route to the final of Ryan Harrison-Benoit Paire-Gael Monfils-Rafa Nadal and then Djokovic appears surmountable, so an each way punt at 18/1 is well worthy of consideration.