The US Open may still be a month away, but already those interested can place a bet on who will win and those who will go far in the tournament.
Given that bookmakers are seldom far wrong, and make much more money than they lose, a look at the latest odds may give some pointers as to who will be lifting the trophies at Flushing Meadows in September.
The men’s betting is dominated by the three usual suspects, with newly crowned Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic leading the field, ahead of Roger Federer, followed by Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic is rightly the favourite, given his return to form and the confidence that being a Grand Slam winner again has given him. That Federer is favoured above Nadal is a slight surprise – the Spaniard is the defending champion, whilst the last of his five victories for the Swiss in the event came ten years ago.
And now Federer has elected to miss the prestigious Rogers Cup in Canada in order to “manage” his workload, there is a danger that he could arrive in New York under-cooked.
Where there is a surprise in the men’s odds comes with the fourth favourites, which sees the name of Andy Murray bracketed with that of World Number 3, Alexander Zverev.
Whilst Zverev’s name is no surprise – despite a poor Grand Slam record, particularly at Flushing Meadow, he is widely regarded as the most likely of the new generation of men’s players to force his way into the “Grand Slam Club” – Murray’s must be.
The former World Number One and 2012 winner is ranked 839 in the world and only 23rd in his own country, after hip surgery and missing Wimbledon. He has only played three competitive matches all year and only won the once.
To expect him to be at a level where he can compete with the world’s elite again so soon seems something only the most fanatical of his supporters – his mother! – or the most patriotic Scot, can expect.
Instead, if you want value for money outside the top three, Juan Martin del Potro may be a good bet. The 2009 winner is back to his best form after injury problems of his own, and took Nadal all the way before losing in an epic five-setter in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
In terms of the women’s draw, the overwhelming favourite is Serena Williams, who is tipped to win her seventh US Open crown and draw level with Margaret Court in terms of all-time Grand Slam titles.
Reaching the final at Wimbledon showed that she was on her way back after her maternity leave, and the bookmakers are predicting she will go one better on her favourite surface, and find herself in the winner’s circuit again.
The woman who beat her at Wimbledon, Angelique Kerber, should not be discounted, however. The second favourite and 2016 winner showed in South-West London that she was back to her best form and fully recovered from the slump that saw her tumble down the World rankings.
Surprisingly, current world number one and French Open champion Simona Halep is only the third favourite to win the trophy at Flushing Meadows, which, if you like a flutter, may be good value. Australian Open winner and world number two Caroline Wozniacki, is rated even lower, and her chances are on a par with Sloane Stephens to repeat her surprise win at last year’s event.
However, as both Wimbledon and the 2017 US Open showed, the women’s event can be very unpredictable, so do not rule out a surprise name coming through the field or even winning it.
Of course, sport is unpredictable, and just because bookmakers make certain players favourite does not guarantee an outcome. Still it is worth remembering that, if you do want to make a small bet on the US Open, the “house” normally wins, so back an outsider at your peril.