US Open Tennis: Will Djokovic Cruise in Men’s Draw, Serena Tie the Women’s Grand Slam Record?

Posted on: August 30, 2020, 06:22h. 

Last updated on: August 31, 2020, 09:40h.

One of the few things normal about this year’s US Open is that the major tennis tournament will start on time. First round action in what is typically the fourth leg of the sport’s Grand Slam will start Monday.

Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the Western & Southern Open in New York on Saturday. Oddsmakers also expect him to win the US Open, which starts on Monday. (Image: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

But just as COVID-19 has done with everything else, little else will be typical at Flushing Meadows this year. Like with many other sporting events, there will be no fans at the US Tennis Association’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center cheering on the Williams sisters, or Novak Djokovic.

There’ll also be fewer stars gracing the courts at Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums. On the men’s side, Roger Federer is still rehabbing from double knee surgery, and clay maestro Rafael Nadal has chosen to get ready instead for the French Open, which will begin a week after the US Open ends.

The French Open will be the final major on the schedule this year. Wimbledon officials decided to scrap its tournament this year, as it’s held on grass courts, limiting when it can be played.

On the women’s side, Australian Ashleigh Barty decided to skip the major, citing concerns about traveling amid the pandemic. The last time the US Open didn’t feature the world’s top-ranked player came in 2010 when Serena Williams missed the tournament with an injury.

Djokovic the Heavy Favorite

On the men’s side, it appears the US Open may be a one-man show, especially without Federer and Nadal looming. Top-seeded Djokovic comes into the tournament with a 23-0 match record this year. His tourney wins include the Australian Open, the only tennis major not affected by COVID-19, and the Western & Southern Open, which he claimed Saturday in a tune-up.

The Western & Southern typically takes place in Cincinnati. But organizers moved it to the USTA Center this year to limit travel for the world’s top players.

“I think, so far, these couple of weeks that we have been here, the USTA and ATP and everyone involved has done a pretty good job making sure that we are safe and that we are able to compete,” Djokovic said after Saturday’s win. “Hopefully, we can have another great two weeks and US Open.”

Both FanDuel and DraftKings expect the Serbian to add to his Grand Slam trophy collection. He’s -125 at DraftKings and -135 at FanDuel. For those looking for value, FanDuel is offering Djokovic at +730 to win the US Open without dropping a set.

His top competition will likely come from the remaining top four seeds. Third-seeded Daniil Medvedev, a US Open finalist last year, is offered at +500 at FanDuel and +550 at DraftKings. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the fourth seed, gets +650 and +800 odds, respectively, at FanDuel and DraftKings. Second-seeded Dominic Thiem fetches +850 and +900 odds at the two sportsbooks.

One thing of note, Tsitisipas is just 1-2 for his career at Flushing Meadows, and Thiem lost there in the first round last year and fell in the first round of the Western & Southern this year. They’re heavy favorites to win their first-round matches. But it’s certainly possible neither will stay around for long.

Can Serena Tie the Record?

Naomi Osaka and Williams are the co-favorites on the women’s side, with FanDuel and DraftKings offering them at+550 each. However, both players have some question marks hovering over them.

Osaka, the 2018 champion, pulled out of the Western and Southern final on Saturday, citing a hamstring injury. Williams, one of the most dominant players ever on the women’s tour, maybe as much a sentimental pick, as she still tries to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

Williams’ last major came at the 2017 Australian Open. She’s only won once on tour since — an Aussie prep in New Zealand earlier this year.

Daniela Hantuchova, a former tennis champion turned analyst, told she thinks Williams, who has reached the last two US Open finals, still has a good chance to win.

She’s such a great champion who keeps evolving and improving with the game,” Hantuchova said. “The sport has become much more physical, so she may still have to adjust to the fact that players are better able to stay with her, whereas she may have been able to hit them off the court in the past.”

Other odds of note include Karolina Pliskova (+850 FD, +900 DK), who is seeking her first grand slam. Australian Open champ Sofia Kenin is +1400 at FanDuel and +1100 at DraftKings. American teenager Cori Gauff, who made a big splash last year with an upset of Venus Williams at Wimbledon, is +2900 at FanDuel and +4000 at DraftKings to win her first major.