After an 11/8 winner in the Serena Williams semi, Andy Schooler is back to preview the US Open men's semi-finals including Pablo Carreno Busta v Alex Zverev.
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Pablo Carreno Busta v Alex Zverev (2100 BST)
When the ATP created their ‘Next Gen’ brand a few years ago, Alex Zverev was at its forefront. Much has been expected of him for some time.
He’s delivered, to an extent. Becoming world number three and winning the season-ending ATP Finals are not achievements to be sniffed at.
Yet the sport’s best players have always been judged on Grand Slam success and Zverev has not yet tasted it. He’s not even been to a final.
So, Alex, here’s your chance.
Novak Djokovic hit the self-destruct button in New York; Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal never even made it on the plane; Andy Murray’s body is ailing – this is the first Grand Slam since the 2004 French Open not to feature one of the Big Four.
The problem is, Zverev hasn’t been the best at dealing with that weight of expectation and starting this match as a firm favourite probably isn’t the best scenario for him.
Opponent Pablo Carreno Busta comes in with little to lose – and that’s not the only factor in his favour.
He’s been to a US Open semi-final before (Zverev has not) and while he was well beaten by Kevin Anderson in 2017 it is experience in the bank.
The Spaniard, a regular in the top 20 for several years now but a player with just four tour titles to his name, was the name to take most advantage of Djokovic’s default (at least so far) but he’s been playing some excellent tennis and triumphed as an underdog in the last round when beating Denis Shapovalov in five sets.
Can he repeat the trick here? I’m certainly tempted by the 9/4.
The problem is if Zverev brings his A-game, he will likely win. It’s just better than PCB’s best level, especially on these fairly fast courts.
His serve caused Carreno Busta plenty of problems when they last met – in Miami in 2018. On that occasion, Zverev didn’t face a break point and won 7-6 6-2.
But his serve is not as reliable as it once was.
While he still gets on average 70% of his first serves in, double faults are now commonplace – he leads the tournament with 41 heading into this match.
And when he does miss with the big first delivery, the second is eminently attackable – he’s won just 44% of points on it this season on the ATP Tour, putting him down at 46th in that list. Remember this is a man sitting seventh in the world rankings.
Carreno Busta’s equivalent figure is much more respectable 51%.
His route to victory would appear to be to make the points long and drag Zverev into the trenches.
If he manages that, expect the errors to come from the German’s racquet.
He certainly threw up a few early on against Borna Coric in the last round when he really should have been two sets down only to end up winning in four.
That was his fourth four-set win of the tournament which in itself shows his game is not firing on all cylinders.
Yes, I’m concerned about Zverev having a good serving day but with those not a regular occurrence these days, I’m take a small slice of the 9/4 on offer about the outsider.
Daniil Medvedev v Dominic Thiem (not before 2230 BST)
Those prepared to stay up until the early hours should be in for a real treat.
These two have been the best players at this year’s US Open so far and the match really has the feel of a final about it.
However, calling its outcome looks as tough as the odds suggest – Medvedev is at a best price of 4/5, Thiem 11/10.
A big factor in that pricing is arguably last season’s meeting between the pair in Montreal, one won 6-3 6-1 by Medvedev who was on a real hot streak at the time.
He lost just seven points on serve that day and didn’t face a break point, while Thiem’s second serve was torn into – the Austrian won just 36% of points behind it.
Thiem has won the two other matches they’ve played but the one in Montreal remains their only one on an outdoor hardcourt.
In short, Thiem will need to deal with the Medvedev serve better but the Russian has only lost his delivery three times in five matches so far and didn’t offer up a break point in Wednesday’s win over Andrey Rublev.
The main worry for those happy to get with Medvedev would appear to be a physical one.
He required treatment on his shoulder during his win over Rublev, a match which featured just a single break of serve, and was also cramping during it at times, despite the contest being decided in straight sets.
He admitted afterwards it would have been “really tough to win the match” had he lost the third-set tie-break, adding he felt “drained” at the end.
Maybe the psychological aspect of being the title favourite was at play – it’s impossible to know – and that’s a problem for punters looking at this match.
What they do know is that Thiem is a physical specimen and seems highly unlikely to lose this match on fitness terms. Indeed, if he manages to take it the distance, you’d expect Thiem to win – Medvedev as never won a five-set match.
Followers of my outright preview will already have Thiem as their 11/1 outright pick which is another factor which puts me off the main markets here.
Those on Thiem could easily opt to cover with a bet on Medvedev and if pushed I’d probably side with him to win this one. However, backing players with fitness question marks hanging over them can be the road to the poorhouse.
Instead I like the look of a bet in the sub-markets which seems overpriced, namely the first set to go to a tie-break.
I’ve already mentioned how strong the Medvedev serve has been at this tournament and given his dominance of Thiem last time out, he looks to have a good chance of holding in the early stages.
Thiem has also been far from shabby on his own deal – he’s been broken only four times in his last three matches.
His first set against Felix Auger-Aliassime, another player with a booming serve, went to a tie-break, as did his first-round clash with Jaume Munar.
It can take Thiem a while to get his eye in on return but if he can serve well in the opening games, then the 11/4 on offer here will look big.
Preview posted 0725 BST on 11/09/2020