Men's US Open betting preview: Novak Djokovic hard to beat in New York

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is expected to justify favouritism in the men's US Open draw, where Kei Nishikori can reach the semi-finals at the expense of Roger Federer.

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4pts Novak Djokovic to win the US Open at 5/4

1pt Kei Nishikori to win the second quarter at 12/1

0.5pt Denis Shapovalov to win the third quarter at 20/1

The men's championship at the US Open centres around one player - NOVAK DJOKOVIC - and he can live up to his status as a short-priced jolly.

The three-time and reigning champion has reached the final eight times and has not departed earlier than the semi-finals since 2007 (missed 2017 due to injury), generating an incredible 70-10 record in the process. It's not quite the level of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, but it's as dominant as you can get on the 'middle' surface of the professional circuit, hardcourt.

Since winning Wimbledon after the longest final of all time, Djokovic has only appeared at the Cincinnati Masters, reaching the last four before falling to Daniil Medvedev - who has been in scintillating form in the lead-up events.

The pair are likely to meet again with a quarter-final clash on the cards. No doubt the Russian has improved significantly, rising from a rank of 11 at Wimbledon to being the fifth seed here, but in a run of three consecutive finals, he only faced four top-10 players and all over the shorter format. In the cauldron of Flushing Meadows' stadium courts in late New York summer heat and humidity, it's a much bigger test.

The only other dangerman in Djokovic's quarter is veteran Stan Wawrinka. A three-time grand slam champion, he is always capable of a big showing but since reaching the quarter-finals in Paris, he is yet to advance beyond the second round from four tournaments.

Roger Federer used to own this event, winning five straight titles from 2004 to 2008, but has only reached one final since 2010. Last year he bombed out in the fourth round to Australia's John Millman in one of the shocks of the season. His quarter isn't the strongest but he could face any of several players who are capable of beating him if he isn't at the top of his game - Lucas Pouille, David Goffin, Borna Coric, Milos Raonic or Kei Nishikori, and it's the Japanese player who piques my interest despite early losses in Montreal and Cincinnati.

A finalist in 2014, and semi-finalist in 2016 and 2018, he obviously performs well here and has a history of mediocre lead-in form. He's also a big-event player, making at least the quarter-finals of the last six grand slam tournaments. The one concern we need to watch for is the breathing problem he reported in those recent matches. He's had time to recover and hasn't reported any issue in practice since, so he's worth a bet to win the quarter, albeit to modest stakes given that slight concern.

The non-GOAT-contender quarter three is where Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas top the bill. It's not as simple as that though, and while I'm not sure any of these guys are ready to slay the dragon in Djokovic, there's a case to be made for surviving the half and entering that daunting final.

Tsitsipas departed Wimbledon on the first day but started his hardcourt campaign well, reaching the semis at Washington before losing in a final set breaker to the wild child of tennis, Nick Kyrgios, the eventual tournament winner. Since then, the Greek youngster hasn't won a match, losing his openers in Montreal and Cincinnati - but both went the distance.

In only his second main draw here, he lost to Medvedev in round two last year, and 12 months on that form's quite solid. He reached the semi-finals in Melbourne in January, so you'd expect he is capable of similar if bouncing back from a couple of disappointing results.

First up however, he'll have to overcome Andrey Rublev, who qualified at Cincinnati before taking the scalps of both Wawrinka and Federer. Put this match on upset alert - they've met twice before in senior ranks, with results split and both going to deciding sets.

If Tsitsipas does come through, the highlight of the first week could be a third-round clash with Kyrgios. That's a genuine flip-a-coin matchup which obviously has a big bearing on this quarter. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at the discrepancies between firms when it comes to Kyrgios and this quarter. It's all between the ears for a player with the talent to do damage.

Further down, Roberto Bautista-Agut could easily sneak through without any fanfare as he's done in the past. He reached the quarters at Montreal and Cincinnati, and has made the second week here previously, so with a strong Wimbledon behind him the Spaniard has to be considered.

In the lower part of this quarter, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Kyle Edmund and Thiem look to be the leading chances.

Thiem reached the quarters here last year, his best result yet, losing in a final-set tie-break to Rafa Nadal. His lead-up was unusual, heading back to Austria to play (and win) on clay in Kitzbuhel, followed by a quarter-final appearance in Montreal, losing to the rampaging Medvedev. Clay might be his best surface but he is more than capable here.

The Canadian pair of Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime face off in the opening round, and one of them will go deep in a major tournament soon. The gap between them in odds to win the quarter is overstated and the leftie is worth a few pennies. If he does reach the quarter-final, it's worth noting he has positive records against both Kyrgios and Tsitsipas, and at 20/1 he's the bet.

In the last quarter, second seed Nadal of course stands out.

A three-time winner here, he triumphed in his only event since Wimbledon, defeating the red-hot Medvedev in Montreal. The worry with Rafa has always been his knees on hardcourt but he claims to be in better shape than last year when he retired in the semis, and since then made the semis in Melbourne.

The main dangers in the lower section come in week two, as he will likely the victor of Alexander Zverev and Karen Khachanov. Nadal is odds-on and shouldn't have much trouble justifying that status, but whether he can stop Djokovic is another matter.

At 5/4, the favourite here looks a bet. He'll take the world of stopping and it could well be that his only serious test comes in the final, before which the hope is Nishikori, rather than Federer, stands in his way.

Posted at 1920 BST on 24/08/19.

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