So here we are: the final four of the US Open. The final major of the calendar year has provided plenty of thrills, spills and strong wills so far and it's hard to contest the advancement of any of the last men standing to the semi-final stage. Who looks primed for glory on a sunny Sunday in New York?
Sometimes in sport it feels like fate has as much to do with crowning champions as talent and bottle. While it would be rather grandiose to suggest that Novak Djokovic has got lucky at Flushing Meadows, he has certainly enjoyed a spot of good fortune in his run to the semi-finals.
Two of the Serb’s opponents, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mikhail Youzhny have retired hurt from their contests with the world number one, while Jiri Vesely withdrew without a ball being hit in anger. The rigours of another tough season have taken their toll on the many, while the glorious few – who don’t need to travel the world each week in search of ranking points and prize money – can take it rather easier.
Djokovic is merely reaping the rewards for his prior achievements. But the benefit of well-rested legs will become obvious in the searing 34˚C heat and while Gael Monfils has enjoyed a trouble-free run to the last four, this tournament comes at the end of another injury-ravaged campaign for the Frenchman.
Djokovic, fresh and confident, will be tough to cling on to here.It is worth mentioning their head-to-head record too: the world number one enjoys a commanding 12-1 lead over the 30-year-old. Incredibly Monfils won their first meeting, but Djokovic has won 12 in a row at an aggregate set score of 28-7.
They have met twice at Flushing Meadows too; the first more than a decade ago so not worthy of analysis (Djokovic won 3-2), then more recently in 2010 when the Serb triumphed 7-6 6-1 6-2. The smart money is on Djokovic with a -2.5 set handicap at Evens with NetBet.
It has not been a halcyon year by Stan Wawrinka’s high standards, but the final Grand Slam event of the season hands the Swiss ace a chance for redemption. The manner in which he has grafted to the last four is indicative of how determined he is. The greatest moment of Kei Nishikori’s career to date came on these very courts – he reached the final here in 2014 and served up a classic alongside Marin Cilic.
While many pundits had predicted Andy Murray was going to go all the way this time around, it was an outstanding and brave performance from Kei Nishikori that ended the Brit’s hopes and extended the Japanese ace’s fantastic record against top ten players at Flushing Meadows to 5-0.
Wawrinka will be hoping to avoid a similar fate in the early hours of Saturday morning; while the bookmakers favour him to do just that, there is more to this encounter than meets the eye. He has struggled at times in this tournament, dropping sets in his last three matches and going to a decider against world number 64 Dan Evans.
Nishikori has only won one of his five matches in straight sets, but we’ve seen time and again how the Japanese ace is able to find an extra gear when the chips are down. But Wawrinka’s better record in majors could be a huge factor with the spotlight on, so expect him to close out a hard-fought victory at a best price of 8/11 with Coral Sports.
This could well be the thirteenth Grand Slam triumph of Djokovic’s career – that would take him within one of Rafa Nadal, incidentally – and if he does end up meeting Wawrinka in the final on Sunday then the Serb would become a hot favourite on account of his 21-4 head-to-head lead over the world number three.
Indeed, the last time that Wawrinka defeated his old nemesis on a hard court was at the Australian Open in 2014; their head-to-head score on this surface is a rather damning 15-2 in the 29-year-old’s favour.
Is there any hope for the underdog? Well, in the last four meetings between the pair the aggregate set score is 8-6, which suggests their battles aren’t as conclusive as the evidence dictates, but then there can only be one winner in tennis and, more often than not, it is Novak.
He’s available at a best price of 4/11 with bet365 Sports to win the final – the bookmakers aren’t daft and in fairness that just about represents value. For all the latest markets in the 2016 US Open, visit Coral Sports today!