The US Open inches closer to crowning a champion as the men’s semifinals take place Friday (Nadal/del Potro & Anderson/Carreno Busta, starting 4.05pm ET).
The year’s final major is down to its final four competitors: Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, Kevin Anderson and Pablo Carreno Busta. And if you put money on any of the latter three reaching this stage of the tournament, then congratulations, you’re a much smarter person than any of the US sportsbooks.
Aside from Nadal, the world number one and second favorite to win in the pre-tournament odds (+260 to Roger Federer’s high of +125), none of the other competitors ranked even in the top seven. Del Potro had the highest of the three, as the eighth favored player (+2500), with Anderson sitting with the 12th best odds (+8000) and Carreno Busta not even listed, despite ironically enough, being the highest seeded player (12) of the three. Anderson was 28th and del Potro, 24th. Quite low seeds for a grand slam which saw the second, fourth, fifth, 10th and 11th ranked players in the world, all pull out prior to the start of the tournament.
For the men, this really was the most open draw it’s been in a long time and judging by the final four, these sub-top-10 players really did take advantage of it. Combining the seeding of all four, the average standing of the semifinalists would round down to 16. By contrast, two years ago, the seeds of the final four totaled 17. Last year the total was just 20. You’d have to go back to the 2006 US Open to find the last time this tournament had a player seeded outside of the top 20 make the semifinals and you’d have to go back even further than that to find the last time it had two. Not to mention, the last time three of the final four weren’t seeded or ranked in the top-10 in the world. For that, you’d have to go back to before the Open Era began in 1968.
This US Open has likely been a nightmare for tennis bettors who have spent the last decade accustomed to seeing this and all three of the other grand slams, hold much more to chalk. That being said, the world number one is still in the field and highly considered the favorite to win it all (-165; del Potro is second highest at +300). And if the past decade has been any indication, when it comes to the champion, betting the favorite tends to work out 99 percent of the time. Before we get to the championship however, here is a preview of the two semifinals and our picks on who you should bet on to win them.
Semifinal #1 – (28) Kevin Anderson vs (12) Pablo Carreno Busta
If you are like most casual tennis fans, the US Open was probably the first time you ever heard of the 26-year-old who is Spain’s third highest ranked ATP player (19). Carreno Busta turned pro in 2011 but didn’t really have his breakthrough until 2016, where he won his first ATP tour title at the Winston-Salem Open and finished as runner-up in the doubles competition at the US Open. Carreno Busta then had his best year in 2017, reaching the French Open quarterfinals and the US Open semifinals, without dropping a set along the way.
His opponent, the hard serving righty from South Africa, is another player who many may not be familiar with. That’s because the 31-year-old had never gotten out of the fourth round previously in any major. Now however, with the way he’s playing, Anderson has as good a shot as any to make it to the US Open finals.
This semi-final isn’t really attracting much attention and it’s hard to blame people for treating it as an afterthought. That being said, this is a match that could surprise. Carreno Busta has looked sharp, easily making his way through qualifier after qualifier before playing the talented Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals. Anderson too has looked the part of a semifinalist. Just like Carreno Busta, Anderson faced mainly unseeded qualifiers in the first four rounds, before gutting out his best performance of the tournament by taking down 17th seeded Sam Querrey in four sets in the quarterfinals.
Don’t sleep on this one as even though these are two guys whose games you’ve maybe never seen and two names you’ve probably only barely heard, this B semifinal is going to feature two guys who know the opportunity ahead of them. Getting to a major final in the decade of dominance that has been Federer-Nadal- Murray- Djokovic has been nearly an impossible task and it’s likely Carreno Busta and Anderson will have no better chance to do just that, than this year.
- Turning to our predictions and betting picks, Anderson is 1.5 sets favored and this seems to be smart money given his serve has been crisp and will give Carreno Busta’s game a challenge. Take Anderson and the margin while picking the set total to go above 3.5. These are -150 and -175 odds respectively with Bovada.
Semifinal #2 – (1) Rafael Nadal vs (24) Juan Martin del Potro
Some people in the world of tennis have taken to calling this the defacto final of the US Open, given that of the four remaining players in the field, these are the two most likely to put on a show. Nadal is by far the most talented of the remaining four and del Potro, the first man to break through the Big 4 major run by winning the US Open in 2009, is playing some of his best tennis. Both men have played well to get to this point but no one has looked fresher than Nadal.
In a major where many of the top seeds were absent and others were knocked out early, Nadal probably had his easiest draw and road to the finals in recent memory. Dropping a few sets along the way, Nadal didn’t have to face a top-ranked opponent once. In fact, the highest seed he’ll face all tournament would be 12, if Carreno Busta wins his semifinal. For a top-ranked player in the world, that’s a dream come true and Nadal has certainly taken advantage of it. He hasn’t had to play too physically or expend too much energy which has been key at this point in the season.
Del Potro’s road to the semifinals has been much more difficult but to his credit, the 28-year-old has looked good and played strong along the way. Del Potro’s biggest challenge came against sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem in the round of 16. Del Potro battled the flu and looked like he was going to lose in straight sets after dropping the first two, 6-1 and 6-2. But somehow, the Argentine who is a crowd favorite, fought his way to a five set victory. Del Potro followed this up with another stellar performance against Federer, seeded third, and favored to win the tournament, in the quarterfinals.
The biggest thing for del Potro, surprisingly against Federer, has been that he’s had the support of the crowd. Fans knew that a del Potro win was the only thing standing in the way of the dream semi between Federer and Nadal, who have never met at the US Open, but they cheered him anyway. Against Nadal, del Potro is likely to be greeted with another split crowd and this should help him. What hurts him however is that he has put in much more court time at a much more labored level than Nadal. A fresh Nadal is just about the toughest guy to beat on the tour and unfortunately for del Potro he’s about to run into that and he’s doing so pretty spent.
- Back to chalk, it seems fairly certain Nadal will advance to the finals. He’s favored by 2.5 sets which means a straight set victory is the betting firms’ pick. However, my pick is a little different. Del Potro is a fighter and the fans will pull him through to winning at least one set. Take del Potro to top the spread and the other prediction is for the set total to go over 3.5 as well. Those betting options are -230 and -190 odds with Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.