US Open Semifinals Betting Preview: Nadal, Del Potro Renew Rivalry

US Open Semifinals Betting Preview: Nadal, Del Potro Renew Rivalry article feature image

Robert Deutsch, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Rafa Nadal.

  • The US Open Men's Semifinals take place on Friday night on ESPN.
  • Rafa Nadal is a -165 favorite against Juan Martin del Potro in the first match of the night.
  • Novak Djokovic is a -525 favorite over Kei Nishikori in the second contest.

It’s the penultimate night of the US Open for the men’s side as both semifinals will take place under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens.

The first match of the day features defending champion Rafa Nadal vs. “The Tower of Tandil” Juan Martin del Potro. That tilt is slated to begin at 4 p.m. ET with the Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori closing the show.

The Nadal-Del Potro match is the clear headliner, so let’s dive into Kei vs. Djoker first.

Novak Djokovic (-525) vs. Kei Nishikori (+405)

I got Djokovic in this one and I think the Serb will take care of business in three sets. With the way he’s been going, it’s not implausible that Djoker will lose his cool — and shortly thereafter the set — against a player like Nishikori but I don’t think the Japanese star will serve well enough to win this one.

Nole will prove too solid from the baseline, off of both wings and should have an easier time holding serve. The game spread is sitting at 5.5, and I’m leaning towards Novak covering it.

If this match goes four, I don’t see all of the sets being tight — and I don’t mind the prospect of (at least) one double-break set for Novak. Spread aside, I think the Novak moneyline should be a pretty clean parlay piece for you to pair with some football this weekend.

Rafa Nadal (-165) vs. Juan Martin del Potro (+140)

Friday’s semifinal match between Rafa Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro will mark the third time in a row that these two generational talents crossed paths at a Grand Slam. In fact, if you count back to last year’s US Open — Friday’s semifinal is the fourth time in the past five Grand Slams that the two have met in the quarterfinals or semifinals.

Thus far, it’s been one-way traffic with Nadal winning each of the aforementioned contests, but something tells me DelPo’s luck can finally turn.

Rafa will come into this match with heavy legs. In his last three matches, he’s taken on three of the hardest hitting (and at times bludgeoning) players on tour: Karen Khachanov, Niko Basilashvili, and Domi Thiem.

Mostly everyone in the tennis world (even the casual, only-watch-Slams-when-televised-on-ESPN, fans) is aware of Nadal’s marathon quarterfinal classic against Thiem — but what they might not take into account, however, is how hard Nadal worked in his previous two matches.

Basilashvili made Nadal work into a fourth set and Khachanov, kept the Spaniard on court for almost five hours, and made him sweat in the process.

Although Nadal, most of the time, makes it very hard for us to believe that he is, indeed, human — I get the feeling he emptied most of his tank in that Thiem match.

The Argentine, on the other hand, comes in relatively fresh. Del Potro dropped his first set of the tournament in his QF match against Big John Isner — a first set tiebreak, where one misstep cost him the set — and, away from that match, has moved through this tournament on cruise control.

And I like him in this match, for a few reasons.

One (almost quirky) betting strategy that I like to sprinkle in from time to time is what I like to call the “Post-John Effect.” The primary logic driving the “Post-John Effect” is that opponents coming directly off a win against John Isner will, by the sheer volume of 130 mph serves they were forced to return in their last match, have have an edge returning serve their next time on the court.

Kinda like how, when you were younger, playing in Little League, you’d go to the batting cages and take cuts at 70 mph. Even though the hardest throwing kid in the league only topped out at 60, maybe.

Nadal doesn’t have the strongest of serves in the first place, but after a match trying to return Isner’s serve, that thing is going to come in looking like a grapefruit for del Potro. Just like in his last match against Thiem, I expect Nadal to have to work hard to protect his serve.

Delpo should, theoretically, protect his service games better — and, if he serves well, has the quality of first serve to get a lot of free points. Especially when he’s backing it up with the 1-2 punch of the forehand.

What has really impressed me about del Potro this tournament is his defending. I feel like he’s committing more to forcing his opponent to play that extra ball (and extending sets). Given his eye-popping forehand and endless firepower, it’s easy to overlook this aspect of his game.

But, keep in mind, his patience and defense within points are what allow him to work the point onto his forehand, where he’s able to hit winners; like good basketball teams turning defense into offense.

Of course, he will have a much more difficult time doing this against Nadal — whose lefty cross-court forehand, which he hits with such shape and spin off the court, will no doubt be a different echelon of test for the DelPo backhand. So, “The Tower of Tandil” will have to do what he can to construct points with patterns that cut off angles for Nadal.

At the end of the day, I think del Potro is a smart — and mentally strong — enough player to win this match on his own terms.

I think Nadal’s shining moment, unfortunately (as a Rafa fan, myself), came last round in his thrilling win over Thiem. I think today will be del Potro’s day — and, though time will tell for sure, I think this might be his tournament.

The Pick: Juan Martin del Potro +140