New balls please - We've got an outsider who could upset the odds in the US Open
US Open 2016, Flushing Meadows
It’s fair to say that it’s been a pretty good year for
Scotland’s Britain’s Andy Murray. Wimbledon and Olympic Champion once more, a finalist in each of the year’s Grand Slams and of course the birth of his first child. What’s more, he’s now 1/33 to receive a knighthood and the 11/10 favourite to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2016 – the lad’s certainly been having a decent time of it.
However, only in regaining the Arthur Ashe Trophy at Flushing Meadows in two weeks time, the scene of his first Grand Slam triumph in back 2012, will Murray be able to truly call this season his greatest yet.
The form certainly suggests that Murray is the one to beat in the US Open at odds of . He comes into the tournament on the back of a twenty two game unbeaten run that was only brought to an end recently by former US Open Champion Marin Cilic, in the Cincinnati Masters Final. However, the defeat against Cilic gives reason to doubt Murray’s chances of triumph at this year’s event.
Other than his gold medal at the Rio Olympics and his Australian Open Final defeat to Novak Djokovic, Murray’s hard court form this season has been somewhat indifferent. Defeats at the last 32 stage of the Miami Open to Grigor Dimitrov and at the same stage to Federico Delbonis at Indian Wells are certainly cause for concern for Murray backers. In particular, the losses to Cilic and Dimitrov are significant in that they were both against players with particularly big serves on US hard courts.
Flushing Meadows has been rather kind to big hitters in the past, producing winners in recent years such as the aforementioned Marin Cilic and the currently rejuvenated Juan Martin Del Porto who gave Murray a run for his money in the Olympics Final.
Andy Murray also hasn’t appeared in a US Open Final since his 2012 triumph, and his hard court struggles coupled with the success of the big hitters on the tour at Flushing Meadows suggest another monster server could be about to seize their opportunity.
Cue Milos Raonic. A player who in many ways has been Murray’s biggest adversary this season – fifth seed Milos Raonic could be the one to spoil Murray’s party.
Now it may seem strange to suggest that Raonic, who has faced Murray five times this year and lost on each occasion, could be the Scot’s biggest danger, however as mentioned, the notoriously quick courts at Flushing Meadows should suit the Canadian’s game down to the ground.
Raonic is one of the biggest servers on the tour and boasts the fifth fastest serve of all time at 155.3 mph. He has come on rapidly over the last couple of years, and has really forced himself amongst the tennis elite this season, performing consistently throughout – particularly on hard courts. The fact he’s faced Murray so often this season, albeit beaten each time, shows just how much of an impact he is making within the ATP circuit. He lost to Murray in the Australian Open Semi Final, both the Queens and Wimbledon finals and the Semi Final of the Cincinnati Masters, all of which were tight affairs.
Elsewhere, Raonic won the Brisbane International at the start of the year, lost to Djokovic in the Final at Indian Wells and made the Quarter Finals of the Miami Open and Rogers Cup, all on outdoor hard courts. The Canadian is clearly developing in to a major tennis player.
It feels odd not to have referenced the 12-time Grand Slam Champion Novak Djokovic as a potential US Open winner up to this point, but the defending champion seems really out of sorts.
Since completing the ‘Career Grand Slam’ at the French Open this year, the Serbian’s form has completely nose-dived. A third round exit at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey and defeat at the Rio Olympics in the opening round to Juan Martin Del Potro represent particular low points in a stellar career.
Troubled by a wrist injury and looking tired, the efforts put into winning his first French Open title appear to have taken their toll. A possible rest rather than a Grand Slam defence is maybe more what Djokovic needs. He chose to skip the Cincinnati Masters after his early exit from the Olympics and despite the fact he’ll certainly give it his all at Flushing Meadows like a true champion, he represents little value as favourite.
Another legend of the game, Rafael Nadal (), appears to be no longer a major threat at Grand Slam events. Despite his fourth place finish at the Olympics, a first round exit at the Australian Open and withdrawal before the third round of the French Open certainly don’t boost the form books and he’s best left alone this time round.
Instead, stick with the progressive, hard-hitting Canadian Milos Raonic to reach his second Grand Slam final of the season, and it feels like a Grand Slam win may be just on the horizon. He may have to reverse the form against Murray in order to do so, but the US Open represents the perfect opportunity to do just this and at he represents the best each way value in the outright winner market.