Our Andy Schooler has backed Dominic Thiem since the start of the US Open – and he’s expecting him to see off Alex Zverev in Sunday’s final.
Alexander Zverev v Dominic Thiem (2100 BST)
If you followed my ante-post advice and backed Thiem at 11/1 for the title, you are now sitting pretty.
He’s a 1/4 favourite to win the US Open and a profit can be locked in easily by backing Zverev at 7/2, especially as we've a guaranteed return from the each-way part of the bet.
Of course, that doesn’t take in everyone reading this preview, one I must write dispassionately.
By doing this, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Thiem will win this match and claim his first Grand Slam title.
He leads the pair’s head-to-head record 7-2. It’s 3-1 on hardcourts and 3-0 in the Grand Slam tournaments. He’s won the last three, winning eight of nine sets in that run. The one he conceded came during a four-set victory in their last meeting in this year’s Australian Open semi-finals.
The Austrian also holds the advantage in experience terms and that could be big.
He’s been to this stage of a Slam before, admittedly losing on all three occasions. But there is no disgrace in losing to Rafael Nadal on the clay of Roland Garros (twice) or Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park – Thiem put up huge resistance in that contest earlier this year only to lose in five sets. Lack of nerve was not a reason for defeat.
Of course, you can say there’s now added pressure – this is his best chance yet to claim that elusive major – but that also applies to Zverev, who has to deal with the fact that he’s never played in a final like this before.
The German certainly didn’t look comfortable in his semi-final against Pablo Carreno Busta when he frankly played dreadfully for the first two sets only to rediscover his serve and pull through in five.
Zverev, who was also all over the place in the early stages against Borna Coric in the quarter-finals, used his big first serve to turn that match around and that weapon will have to fire if he’s win this contest.
It is some weapon when on song. It’s “one of the best – if not the best – out there. It’s so fast, so precise,” according to Thiem, although that H2H record shows how well he has dealt with it in the past.
A look at Zverev’s second serve stats will cause most concern to his fans. He’s won just 43% of points behind it at this tournament (Thiem’s figure is 54%) and it was down at 37% in his semi-final. And that’s before I mention the double faults which have again plagued him over the past fortnight.
Thiem will surely target that second serve and so keeping his first-serve percentage high will be massive for Zverev. He’s among the best on that stat on the ATP Tour but again it was down against Carreno Busta.
Another worry for Zverev is his 0-7 record against top-10 players in the Slams and that leads to perhaps the most important factor of all – that Thiem is clearly playing the better tennis right now.
He’s dropped just one set (to Marin Cilic) so far in New York and has also been winning convincingly against arguably better players than Zverev has faced.
He destroyed the in-form Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last 16 before easing past Alex de Minaur. Then, when priced up as the underdog against Daniil Medvedev in the semis, he came through in straight sets.
In contrast, Zverev has struggled through, losing a set in all bar one round so far, and I feel this is a big step up in level for him. The highest-ranked player he’s faced so far is number 27, Carreno Busta, who frankly let him off the hook.
The two worries I do have about Thiem concern fitness and that Zverev serve.
He was bothered by a foot problem in his semi-final and it’s impossible to know how, if at all, that will affect him in this match, but it’s certainly not ideal.
And secondly, Zverev showed that when he manages to control his serve – as he did for the last three sets against Carreno Busta – he’s hard to break.
Still, that serve simply hasn’t been very reliable – it’s an issue that’s rumbled on much longer than just this tournament – and I feel there’s every chance the presence of Thiem down the other end of the court will simply add to Zverev’s troubles with his opening shot.
If Zverev starts as badly as he’s done in the last two rounds then it seems unlikely Thiem will be as obliging as Coric and Carreno Busta.
His thumping groundstrokes off both wings will give Zverev no peace in the rallies and that contrast in form points me towards a straight-sets win for the favourite.
That’s a best price of 7/5 and gets my selection even if it’s slightly tentative given Zverev’s clear ability to turn it on for at least part of a match.
Posted at 2135 BST on 12/09/20
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