The 2017 US Open is underway as 128 men and women look to claim the title at tennis’ final major. Entering the tournament, Roger Federer is the favorite for the men (+175) and Garbine Muguruza (+600) is on top for the women.
When the tennis season began, if someone had told you that Roger Federer would win two majors and go two-for-two entering the US Open (he skipped the French), most people probably wouldn’t have believed it. That’s because at 35 years old and recovering from an injury last year, expectations weren’t all that high for the then 17-time major winner. Prior to this year, Federer hadn’t won a major since 2012 and had only reached three finals in that five-year span as well. He seemed to be falling victim to tennis’ well-documented curse of turning 30.
But resurgence has been the story for Federer in 2017 as he won his 18th title, somewhat improbably, against long-time rival Rafael Nadal, at the Australian Open. Skipping the French to focus on his grass court season and preparation for Wimbledon, Federer came into the year’s third major incredibly fresh and well-prepared. This led to a great performance in which reaching the finals was never really in doubt. Federer met Marin Cilic there and won his eighth Wimbledon title in straight sets.
It has been as a result of this season’s renaissance and wonderful success that Federer has risen to being ranked in the top-three in the world.
On the women’s side, this season has been the exact opposite of chalk save for the Australian, which saw world #1 and the top female tennis player perhaps ever, Serena Williams, win her 23rd major. That is the most of any player, male or female in the Open era and one behind Margaret Court for the most all-time. Williams seemed like she would be the favorite for the rest of the season but in mid-April announced her pregnancy and that she would be taking the rest of the year off. This busted the doors wide open in the women’s field and opened the way for young and up-and-coming players like Jelena Ostapenko, winner of the French Open, and Garbine Muguruza, winner of Wimbledon, to step up and elevate the next generation in the process.
Muguruza, 23, who reached her first finals in the 2015 Wimbledon tournament in a losing effort to Williams, actually won her first title at last year’s French Open in a rematch of that match. She has been rising the ranks slowly and is coming off a decent hard court tune-up as part of the US Open Series. Muguruza played in three tournaments, winning her most recent one, the ATP & WTA Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. This win has her knocking on the door of the world #1 ranking, currently held by Karolina Pliskova.
Unlike Federer however, her standing as favorite to win the US Open is more tentative and less a sure thing. Muguruza is followed closely behind by Pliskova (+700), Johanna Konta (+800) and the returning Maria Sharapova (+900), who despite not playing in a grand slam in over a year, is fourth favorite with the USA online sports betting websites.
Players to Watch and Bet On
When it comes to tennis of the mid to late 2000s and all of the 2010s, there are really only four guys to bet on in the men’s field and two in the women’s field. For the men, two of those guys, Novak Djokovic, who really hasn’t been right all season, and Andy Murray, who is recovering from an injury, won’t be contending for the title at Flushing as both have pulled out of the tournament. For the women, Victoria Azarenka and Williams, two former world #1s have also pulled out.
For the women, this means a relatively open field, which could see a new champion emerge from a field of talented challengers. This seems to have been the theme for women’s tennis as of late and with 10 players separated on the odds by just 1000 (the favorite is +600, the 10th most-fancied player is +1600), it wouldn’t be that surprising to see a relative unknown win or at least be competitive. That being said, with how Muguruza has looked, she is a solid pick.
For the men, simply put, the field is fighting Federer and Nadal, while Federer and Nadal are fighting age and their bodies.
Without Djokovic and Murray, despite the various struggles of both this year, the draw becomes exponentially easier for Federer and Nadal, who both may not be operating at 100 percent heading into this US Open. The two have only failed to reach the semifinals of a major a handful of times over the last 10 years and even with a bit of fatigue and lingering soreness, it would be surprising if both got knocked out before that round.
However, if that does happen, and the US Open men’s draw does open up, one of the top value bets to follow throughout the tournament would be 20-year-old Alexander Zverev, who following Murray’s withdrawal just a few days ago, became third favorite in the betting (+450). Zverev has been on the precipice of greatness for some time now, winning two Masters 1000 titles this year and defeating Djokovic and Federer in the process. The sixth ranked player in the world, Zverev is coming off his best major result as well, reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on as many experts are predicting this is the major where Zverev really breaks out, reaching the quarterfinals or better.
Some other names to watch include 26-year-old Grigor Dimitrov, 22-year-old Nick Kyrgios, and 23-year-old Dominic Thiem, all of whom feature in the bookies’ top seven. This is the next generation of men’s tennis and if the old guard continue to fall, as has been a minor theme this season, this might be the major where that generation finally breaks through. Especially given Federer will have to face Thiem and Nadal will have to face Dimitrov in order to reach the semis.