Novak Djokovic takes on Gael Monfils in the first of two US Open semifinals today (3pm ET Friday).
If this is not your first time reading one of our tennis previews, you’ll know by now that I like to use the term, “it’s Djokovic vs the field.” Well, this year the field seems to be parting for the champion as if he were Moses and they were the Red Sea. He is the only one of the Big Four to have reached the semifinals, a shocking development given it has been years since that has happened. On top of that he has only had to play a total of 10 sets across five matches to get there.
No player in the history of the tournament has had what amounts to be an easier draw. Considering Djokovic (pictured), after falling short at both Wimbledon and the 2016 Summer Olympics, entered with what looked to be one of the tougher roads to this point, the man has certainly benefited from the end of season injuries. For not looking so sharp at times himself, Djokovic has the advantage of being the freshest player with the least amount of court time remaining.
No stranger to the semifinals, this being his 10th consecutive year of reaching them at the US Open, Djokovic faces an opponent in Monfils, who is in his first grand slam semifinal in eight years and first at the US Open ever.
For a guy who has an up and down career, Monfils is enjoying a great year which includes winning the Citi Open and reaching the finals at the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 event in April. Most impressively, he has yet to drop a set at Flushing Meadows, taking down Gilles Muller, Jan Satral, Nicolas Almagro, Marcos Baghdatis and finally fellow Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals.
Now, that is not exactly a ‘who’s who’ of the best players on the tour as ranked 24th Pouille is the highest seeded opponent he faced, but Monfils has stepped up his game and hasn’t looked vulnerable against any of them. This is in large part because he is winning just under 79 percent of points on his first serve, not to mention the whopping 25 service breaks he has managed.
The 2016 US Open has certainly been a breakthrough for Monfils but he has yet to be tested with an opponent like Djokovic, who owns their head-to-head record by a completely lopsided 12-1. Monfils’ only win came the first time the two met back in 2004 in a juniors tournament.
There are some factors to consider here such as Djokovic’s arm, which has been the cause for some concern ever since he brought a lingering soreness to the media’s attention prior to the start of the Olympics. He has had the trainer come out to check on him twice and given he has barely been on the court relative to his competitors, that should give some people pause regarding his ability to work a long five-setter.
Will it even go that far? Between these two history suggests that it won’t. Djokovic is one of the best at returning serve and racking up break points in the game, hence why he has been so good for so long now. Only once in Djokovic’s 12 victories over Monfils have more than the minimum two or three sets been required. To be fair, this is a stronger looking Monfils and a slightly injured Djokovic, but still, there is something in the Frenchman’s game which his opponent has been able to feast on.
Our Preview’s Novak Djokovic vs Gael Monfils Betting Pick
So despite the two recent stumbles, despite the injury, there was a reason why Djokovic still entered the season’s final major as the odds-on favorite. He is a two-time major winner this year and it’s still Djokovic vs the field.
Don’t regret taking the world number one to win in four sets and return to the finals to play for his third major for what would be third time since 2011. However, since Djokovic is favored on the spread by 2.5 sets, take Monfils to best that. Here are our preview’s betting picks: