US Open 2011 Preview

The last Grand Slam of the year is just a couple of days away and things are shaping up for a very an interesting tournament.

Men’s Draw

Despite losing in Cincinnati, Djokovic is still the man of the moment and the odds for him winning the tournament, clearly suggest just that. He’s odds are around 2.72-2.82 ( 2.58-2.64 before the draw came out). If you ask me, I consider him to be over-valued at those odds. Despite him saying his shoulder was fine, the fact is that he did have to withdraw in the Cincinnati final and that is a question mark concerning his performance at Flushing Meadows.

And speaking of withdrawals, the Cincinnati and Montreal Masters had a few of them, which makes things a bit unclear in regards to some players that could have been an interesting option for us traders. First, Tsonga withdrew in Montreal in the match against Djokovic with an arm injury; then Berdych withdrew against the same player in Cincinnati with a shoulder injury, and finally Djokovic withdrew in the Cincy final.

Now while I don’t see Berdych winning a Grand Slam  –  although with a few improvements he could become a serious contender in 2-3 years time – I do think Tsonga has a Slam in him, provided that he can stay injury-free for a long enough period of time in which he can gather enough momentum and belief and also separate him-self from that “showman” type of attitude that most french tennis players have. Tsonga’s odds are in the 36-42 range, but given the fact that his injury is a question mark, it’s hard to make a correct assessment on those odds. Another quick note I’d like to make about Tsonga –  not necessarily for this tournament but more for the future – is that he played without a coach which I see as a huge benefit for him as he will learn to think for himself out there on the court during the big matches and also discover his natural game. The way I see it, a coach should only be there to nudge a player in the right direction, rather then totally decide the direction of a player.

After Djokovic the next favorites to win the US Open are Nadal, Murray and Federer.

Nadal’s odds are around 6.00 which is about right but keep in mind that he’s form isn’t good at all, and he is the type of player that very much thrives on good form and winning a lot of matches to build up his confidence. He is also last year’s winner. It’s going to be tough for him to defend his title as a player like Djokovic can come up with the goods in every encounter they have. In the past, Djokovic has always had the upper hand tactically over Nadal, but the win always came down to execution of that tactic during a longer time span, and that doesn’t seem to be the problem any more.

My rating would suggest that Federer should be before Murray as favorite, but Murray’s win in Cincy does look better than it really is, and that’s the main reason why Murray is in front of Federer. The draw also in somewhat favorable to Murray.

With Murray things stand very much like this. He has to spend as little time as possible in the early rounds, and hopefully win them in a convincing, straight sets manner which send a message in the locker room that his in it to win it. His attitude also hasn’t been the best when hitting a bit of adversity during the first matches in the first week of the majors. The only time his attitude was right, was during the 2009 Australian Open, when he was very much the talk of the town and was looking like a veritable contender, but unfortunately for him, he had to face a Verdasco in a fantastic form that was painting the lines with his serve and also serving close to 90 %, which is unheard-of. By now, Murray thinks that he should have already won a Grand Slam title with the 3 finals he has played, and the fact that other players from his generation like Djokovic and Del Potro having already won a major, doesn’t help Murray at all. But the good side is that he is only 24 and I believe that sooner or later he will win one or two majors – three majors is a bit of a stretch since he is a counter puncher – but for that to happen he needs the right attitude and show the rest of the top guys that he is there to capitalize on any slip they might have.

Federer on the other side has quite a few majors in his record. And as I said it before, at this stage of his carreer it’s all about getting a few more majors, but that seems increasingly difficult as the new guys are simply getting better and better. Also, it’s important to notice that Federer’s legendary aura in the locker room has almost vanished, as just a few years ago, a win against Federer would have been the highlight of most players career, now all the top players are expecting a win against Federer. He is slowly, but surely stepping into the last part of his career were he will be playing smaller tournaments, that in other seasons he wouldn’t have considered playing, and also his body is getting older, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few injuries do kick in. It’s also important to take a slight look into his personal life were he is a father, and being a father – whether noticing it or not – does change your perception on life as being a father is more important than winning another slam. If we were to have a more analytical approach in looking at his game, it is all in the serve and forehand. In the past he used to be very dominant on his service games, having service games that would take less than a couple of minutes. This is turn would create pressure on his opponents as they were feeling that they were constantly struggling to hold serve which in turn would lead to some errors that would cost them the break. Also, since he was able to have those “FedEx” type service games, on the return games he would just be content to, first and foremost, chip the ball back in play and make sure he made his opponent play as many points as possible and after the ball was in play, he would back himself against anybody for winning the point by dominating with his forehand.Today, that just isn’t the case anymore, since his serve isn’t that helpful any more which also leads to his forehand breaking down during different patches of a match. To sum it up, I do see Federer winning another Slam either at Wimbledon or here in NY, but time is running out as his got a limited time frame of 2-3 season.

Other things I’d pay attention to during the tournament is at some over-valued players.Not necessarily in the winner’s market but during the tournament matches.

One would be Ferrer. He is world #5. He has made SF here, back in 2007 but the way I see it, this year’s Australian Open SF is the last top performance he will have and things can only go down from here. He is a consistent player, but as last year’s ATP World Tour Finals showed, a top 8 position is maybe a little to much for Ferrer. He’s also 29 years old which means that we will see more fluctuations in his game during matches which ultimately will have an impact on his rankings.

Another over-valued Spaniard is Almagro. His in the top 10 now. He certainly is a top 10 clay courter but unfortunately for him, tennis is played on other surfaces as well. On clay he muscles the ball and the timing is perfect, but on north american hard-courts that type of play will only lead to unforced errors.

Other overvalued players would be the US players like Isner, Roddick, Blake; although Roddick had a good run in Winston-Salem and can build on that for a decent performance at this edition of the US Open where the draw is also in his favor. But it is good to point out that his overall long term game is on a downward trend. Isner has decided to play the Wiston-Salem open and managed to make the Final, but this could have an impact on his US Open run. I’ve also included Blake on this list, mainly because he has been over-valued during the pre-US Open tournaments.

So, on the men’s side it’s very much an open tournament with Djokovic as the top man but not by the margin that the odds would suggest. The first week matches, should tell us more about the true form of the players.

Women’s Draw

On the women’s side it looks as if it’s all about Serena Williams. Her odds are around the 2.70 mark which look to be too short for my book. She has ticked all the important boxes for being the #1 contender and for taking the title but for me the price is too short to take any kind of action. A few of her matches should be very profitable for trading, so I would watch out for that.

From all the players, Lisicki looks to be the most promising with odds of over 30.She looks like a solid player, with a very good serve, but I think she lacks experience for bringing home a Slam. She also decided to play in the week before the Slam which is a decision I can’t agree with.

Wozniacki’s odds for winning the tournament are around 18.5 -21 mark which look good. Although I don’t see her winning the tournament she could go deep in the tournament. The only downside is that she lacks a solid recent form and also decided to play in the week before the Slam. Playing in the week before the Slam is a decision I can’t agree with, especially at the top players.It makes very little to no sense.

Kvitova’s won her first Slam at Wimbledon this year, and the way I see it, if she stays fit, there are plenty more to come, but for her winning back to back majors would be a bit too soon.

Sharapova is the second favorite to win the title, and after Lisicki she is the only one with odds decent enough to look at. Her odds are around 6.4 -7.00 which is worth backing with the perspective of selling as she progresses.Personally I went with Sharapova before the draw when the odds were over 7.40.

Vera Zvonareva’s odds are in the 20’s which look a bit low but not nearly low enough to an kind of action. Just wanted to point out that she is a former Grand Slam finalist which could lead to a over evaluation of the abilities. I don’t see her ever winning a Slam.

As you probably already know, tennis is very much a mental game. It’s something along the lines of 30% skill and ability and 70% mental. For women tennis I’d adjust that percentage to a 10-90 ratio.That why it’s only on rare occasions that there is huge value in the outright winner’s market, since most of the important moments are during crucial pressure points in individual matches.


If time permits, I hope to write another follow-up before the start of the second week. In the meantime if there is anything I have missed or if you have anything else to add, you can leave a comment.

Image Credit: Arthur Ashe Stadium

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