World number one, Rafael Nadal, has looked in ominous form in New York, as he bids for a third US Open and sixteenth Grand Slam singles title.
After a sluggish start last week, the Majorcan has grown into this year’s event with some trademark baseline hitting, and a forehand that appears to be firing on all cylinders. His demolition of Andrey Rublev was most impressive, even if, his opponent looked somewhat overwhelmed by the occasion.
Up next, is the 2009 champion, Juan Martin Del Potro, and not the much-anticipated clash with Roger Federer. I am expecting a much tougher test for Nadal.
Inolvidable. 🙌☺️ pic.twitter.com/OPYCJ0deMu
— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) September 5, 2017
The six foot six Argentine has found it hard to compete, following a lengthy absence with a string wrist injuries, but playing at Flushing Meadows seems to bring out the very best in him.
The win over sixth seed Dominic Thiem was something else, as he was two sets down, having won just three games, and was on the verge of quitting due to illness. Somehow, roared on by a partisan crowd, Del Potro turned the match around and won in five sets. In the fourth set, he even saved two match-points.
The Argentine took this momentum into the Federer match, and crucially, played the bigger points the better. His backhand flourished when normally it’s his serve and forehand that take centre-stage.
Nadal and Del Potro have met thirteen times, and Rafa leads the head-to-head 8-5.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) September 7, 2017
The Argentine has won the last two though, and confidence has rocketed following a truly inspiring run here. The story could easily continue, but I like the bet of over 37.5 games in the match at Grosvenor odds of 17/20.
I cannot see anything but an extremely close match, with the possibility of tie-breaks.
I may even chance over 44.5 games in the match too, at an attractive price of 47/20.
I’d love to see Del Potro win, and he has the weapons to do so, but I’ll concentrate on the match going deep, and playing on the total games markets. Enjoy another late-night classic.
The bottom half looked wide open before a ball had even been served, and both, Pablo Carreno Busta and Kevin Anderson, are playing in their first Grand Slam singles semi-final, so nerves could easily play a part.
Carreno Busta has yet to drop a set and comfortably disposed of Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-final. His opponent appeared to be troubled with a groin problem, but the twenty-six-year-old from Barcelona played solidly throughout.
What has been remarkable, is that his first four matches were all played against qualifiers, but the win over teenager Denis Shapovalov, was by far the toughest test to date, as each set went to a tie-break.
Pablo Carreno Busta looks fresh and well, having missed the grass court season with an abdominal injury, will be hopeful that his lighter campaign in 2017 could make the difference against opponent Kevin Anderson.
The South African is now thirty-one but has played well at times this season, having recovered from his own health concerns. Anderson has always possessed a big serve, and he’s now fired in a total of ninety-two aces at Flushing Meadows, and even went through the first three matches without dropping his serve.
He leads the head to head against Carreno Busta, 2-0.
And last month they played on the hard courts of Montreal, which Anderson won.
It was his serve made the difference, and that looks the key component in this match too.
Yes, Kevin Anderson has had a tougher schedule, with two hard fought four set wins over Paolo Lorenzi and Sam Querrey. The win over the latter did take nearly three-and-a-half hours (finished at 1:52 AM local time), and three of the four sets did go to tie-breaks, so fatigue is a slight concern.
Despite that worry, I’ll take Anderson to come through in four sets, at a price of 3/1.
The last time four Americans reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam was way back in 1981.
Venus Williams, who was a one-year-old then, first played in the US Open some twenty years ago and is having a season to remember.
The thirty-seven-year-old can boast two Grand Slam singles finals in 2017, at Melbourne and Wimbledon, but had to dig very deep in seeing off another rejuvenated player, Petra Kvitova, in a pulsating quarter-final. These two big-hitters went toe to toe, and it took a final set tie-break to separate them, as Williams eventually prevailed.
I was a bit concerned that Venus’s level could drop in New York, but she continues to play with real gusto and determination. Given her health problems over the last few years, this has been a remarkable journey, and it would be quite something if she could see off the younger American generation, and land her first Grand Slam singles title since 2008.
Her next opponent – Sloane Stephens – is back and in good form.
Stephens missed eleven months with a foot injury, and only returned in June. Her results then picked up markedly during the US hard court season, and she now finds herself propelling up the world rankings, and into a second Grand Slam semi-final. (Australian Open 2013 – being the first).
The twenty-four-year-old has seen off three seeded players in Cibulkova, Goerges and Sevastova, and confidence is growing all the time.
The one previous meeting was in the 2015 French Open and Stephens won. She can take confidence from that, but I just wonder if it might be one step too far this time around.
Stephens was one of three selections I gave on the outright preview, but I’ll take Venus’s experience to be the telling factor.
Venus Williams to win in straight sets – 31/20 with Grosvenor Sport.
Coco Vandeweghe booked her semi-final place with a straight sets success over top seed Karolina Pliskova. It was an impressive showing from the twenty-five-year-old, who had never previously gone beyond the second round of her home slam.
Born in New York, Vandeweghe has huge support, and in Pat Cash, has a coach that could just make the difference. Coco has always had a big serve, and a big forehand too, but now she is adding a nice mix her to play, with an increased presence at the net. If the game-plan needs adjusting, then Cash can help with such strategies.
Her third round win over Radwanska could be career defining. It was a gruelling three-hour marathon, but Vandeweghe found a way to win (not sure this would have happened previously), and against an opponent who is notoriously tricky to beat.
Completing this remarkable clean sweep of American players is Madison Keys. The twenty-two-year-old is another to have returned from injury this year (wrist), and a tournament win in Stanford (beat Vandeweghe), looks to have restored her confidence.
I think having Lindsay Davenport back in her corner is a big help too.
Keys needs that voice in her ear, to sharpen her focus, her hunger, her motivation, and undeniable talent.
Despite suffering from a few pre-match nerves in her quarterfinal, Keys was too strong for qualifier, Kaia Kanepi, and dominated the match through her serve, and power.
Like Coco Vandeweghe, she can be inconsistent but did beat her rival in a hard fought hard final in Stanford recently.
Having selected Keys in the preview for this event, I should be siding with her, but I have a feeling that Vandeweghe could inflict her revenge, but I’m expecting this match to provide us with plenty of nerves, unforced errors, but also some huge serving and clean winners.
Both players will never have a better chance of reaching a final, and I cannot see anything, but a tense, and tight match, between the two close friends.
Vandeweghe to win the match at 23/20.
Over 2.5 sets at 5/4.