Take Djokovic to defend

  • By: Andy Schooler (Twitter: @NetTalkTennis)
  • Last Updated: August 26 2012, 20:03 BST

Djokovic: Defending champion in New York


5pts Novak Djokovic to win the title at 8/5 (bodog).

1pt Tommy Haas to reach the semi-finals at 18/1 (BetVictor).

Take recent Grand Slam history into account and this year's US Open is a two-horse race.

Between them, the world's top three - Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal - have captured 29 of the last 30 Grand Slam singles titles and Nadal is not here due to a knee injury.

Only Juan Martin Del Potro - here in 2009 - has muscled in on the party since January 2005. It is remarkable dominance.

Having captured the Olympic title recently, during which he beat both Djokovic and Federer in convincing fashion, Andy Murray will have plenty of backers at 7/2 to end his drought at this level.

But it is Djokovic, and not Murray, who gets my vote to emerge victorious in New York over the next fortnight.

The draw and the tournament format are two important factors in making this decision.

First of all, the draw. Djokovic got a major result at Thursday's ceremony when he avoided Murray - a potential semi-final opponent when the names went into the hat - and instead landed on the same side of the draw as fourth seed David Ferrer, a player he has consistently beaten in the past.

Ferrer has enjoyed a fine season but frankly he is not a player Djokovic will worry too much about. Murray - or the absent Nadal - would have been a different kettle of fish entirely.

Djokovic looks to have a relatively stress-free path to the final in the bottom half. Del Potro is his scheduled quarter-final foe but a wrist injury and a real lack of results against the game's biggest names means the Argentine, who also has a tricky opener against compatriot David Nalbandian, is not feared like he was when he won here three years ago.

As for the format, Djokovic will be more than happy if he manages to breeze through to the last four and then see Federer and Murray ready to duke it out on the other side of the draw.

US Open organsiers are still sticking with their policy of playing the semis and final on back-to-back days on the last weekend.

Were Murray and Federer to go the distance on 'Super Saturday', Djokovic would likely have an advantage the following day.

It's certainly signficant for Murray, who appears to feel the aches and pains more than his rivals, while Federer, at 31, is also bound to find the powers of recovery are not what they once were.

Critics of me backing Djokovic at 8/5 will point out he has actually lost his last four matches against fellow members of the tennis' 'Big Four'.

However, my reply to that is all four matches took place on surfaces other than a hardcourt.

Back on a fast-paced DecoTurf surface which provides reliable bounce, Djokovic will be in his element.

It's worth remembering he's won the last three hardcourt Grand Slams, including this one last year, and finished runner-up in the one before that.

His hardcourt record this year is an impressive 29-3 with the results as follows:

W Australian Open (beat Murray & Nadal)
SF Dubai (lost to Murray)
SF Indian Wells (lost to John Isner from match point up)
W Miami (beat Murray)
W Toronto
RU Cincinnati (lost to Federer)

Essentially, course form is impressive, recent form good and the draw has been kind.

Conclusion: back the Serb.

I know some of you will be looking for a longer price so here's one for you - Tommy Haas to win the third quarter at 18/1.

The German is enjoying a real Indian summer if ever there were one.

The former world number two was ranked outside the top 100 prior to the French Open but a remarkable run since has seen him move to the brink of a retrun to the top 20.

He qualified for Roland Garros and reached the third round of the main draw before defeating Federer en route to the title in Halle.

Haas returned to his native Germany and reached the Hamburg final and since arriving in the US has made the last eight in Toronto where he took a set off eventual champion Djokovic, while it took Del Potro to beat him in Cincinnati (no disgrace there).

The hardcourts were always his domain in his heyday - Haas made the semi-finals in Australia three times and has been to the last eight in New York also on three occasions - so given his form another decent run could well be on the cards.

Crucially he's landed in that wide-open third quarter, the one from which Ferrer is seeded to emerge. However, having failed to bring his earlier form onto the hardcourts - he was hammered by Stanislas Wawrinka in Cincinnati - the Spaniard is only a warm favourite to win the section at 5/2.

Isner and Janko Tipsarevic are certainly capable of reaching their first Grand Slam semi-final from this part of the draw but Haas' price is just too tempting, particularly at a tournament that has history for throwing up superb runs for those nearing the end of their career.

Think Jimmy Connors in 1991, Pete Sampras in 2002, Tim Henman in 2004 and Andre Agassi in 2005.

Betfred go just 8/1 about Haas' chances which looks more like it.

It's a long shot, but a slice of the 18/1 may just look very big after the opening week.

  • The action gets under way in New York at 1600 BST on Monday and will be televised live in the UK on Sky Sports and British Eurosport.

  • Preview posted at 1410 BST on 24/08/2012.