2021 U.S. Open Men’s Betting Guide: Breaking Down the Draw With Outright & Quarter Winner Picks
Danielle Parhizkaran, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Novak Djokovic
A tennis season simply isn’t the same without raucous fans in Queens electrifying one of the best tournaments the sport has to offer.
That was the case in 2020, when the ATP and WTA both resumed their tours in New York for two events, a pseudo-“Cincinnati” tournament and a U.S. Open held without spectators.
For tennis fans, it was a welcome sight to have anything meaningful to watch, let alone a grand slam. But when 40-shot rallies are played and players have nowhere to look except for their box, it takes a bit of joy away from the spectacle.
I think all sports fans can agree that sports without fans are not the same, and the New York crowd could create one of the best sporting events of the year.
Thiem’s Breakthrough 2020
Last year, Dominic Thiem took home the crown in a final against Alexander Zverev that was entertaining if not the highest level of tennis. It was understandable that the two were tight as could be, with both players having their first great chance to win their first grand slam.
But why was it their first “great” chance? Neither man had to face a member of the big three en route to the title. It started with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal electing not to play the tournament due to circumstances and injuries.
Novak Djokovic played the event but was disqualified from it in remarkable fashion after he caught a lineswoman with a ball he hit out of frustration.
🎾 World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has been DEFAULTED from the #USOpen, during the first set of his match against Pablo Carreno Busta, after a ball he hit toward the baseline struck a linesperson.pic.twitter.com/hogtqn4j6I
— Bet.co.za (@betcoza) September 7, 2020
Unfortunately, the defending champion Thiem won’t be able to compete for a chance to be the king of New York again. The Austrian has been dealing with a wrist problem he developed in the week before Wimbledon, and he won’t make an appearance on tour for the rest of the year.
In a similar fashion to 2020, however, the two legends Federer and Nadal will miss out again on a chance to add to their slam totals, as both are out for the rest of the season as well with injuries.
Djokovic returns to New York in his first event since the Olympics, where he suffered a shocking defeat to Zverev in the semifinals. Coincidentally, Carreno Busta was the person who defeated Djokovic in the bronze medal match and added insult to injury.
With that context in mind, let’s break down the tournament.
Alexander Zverev (+600)
It would be easy for me to write here about why Djokovic is an absolute lock to win this tournament and that you could guarantee his victory, but that just isn’t the case.
At -140 (or even shorter at some books), Djokovic’s value isn’t there, particularly after losses in Tokyo that called into question his physical and mental state after such a grueling and unusual season. It’s far more reasonable to look elsewhere for opportunities.
Zverev is the player that comes into this event with the most confidence in the field, and every ounce of that confidence is justified. The German has been on an absolute tear since Wimbledon, showing signs that this could finally be the slam where he breaks through.
Of course, pundits and fans have been asking if the U.S. Open could be Zverev’s breakthrough event, but there’s reason to believe the hype this time.
Since falling to Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, Zverev won the Olympic title in Tokyo and the Cincinnati Masters 1000 crown. In the process, he picked up wins against the likes of Djokovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, all while dropping just two sets.
Simply put, when Zverev is on, he’s one of the best ball strikers and servers in the world and is capable of beating anyone.
The issue for him is that he tends to go through spurts of tightness, often in big moments of matches, where his game can unravel mightily, resulting in a severe double fault problem that stems from second serve nerves in addition to unforced errors on the ground.
But it’s possible that Zverev may have stifled that problem – to an extent – which could be a turning point in his career. He’s fourth on tour in the past year with 5 double faults per match, but he only doubled 13 times over 5 matches in Cincinnati.
Despite this, it’s yet to be seen whether Zverev can put his serving woes behind him on the biggest stage. In his third and fourth-round matches at Wimbledon, he hit 29 double faults over 9 sets. If he reverts to that level in New York, he’s doomed. But if he can sustain his momentum, he’s the person best positioned to defeat Djokovic, who he would likely see in the semifinal.
Matteo Berrettini (40-1)
It’s nearly impossible to beat Djokovic at a slam, as Berrettini experienced in his Wimbledon final defeat earlier this year. Despite playing an incredibly high level of tennis, the Italian couldn’t break down Djokovic, falling in four exhausting sets.
Berrettini also pushed Djokovic at the French Open one slam prior, where he was also able to take a set off of the man who went on to defeat the king of clay, Nadal.
Picking outright winners means looking at who has the best shot at taking Djokovic out, and Berrettini is at the top of the list when it comes to that task. The weapons he displayed in London are nothing short of breathtaking at times, and it’ll take a full match at that level, plus some luck, to get the job done in New York.
At 40-1, it’s worth taking a look at that possibility. Berrettini is poised to meet Djokovic in the quarterfinal. It’s just about the worst QF opponent that Djokovic could have possibly been drawn to face, and he’ll be hoping that Berrettini is ousted earlier in the tournament.
Leave: Daniil Medvedev (+400)
The 2019 runner-up and 2020 semifinalist has the second shortest odds to win the title, but at this number, you should be staying away from him.
Medvedev is rightfully the second-ranked player in the world, but that ranking doesn’t come from major success in slams. Sure, he reached the Australian Open final, where he was thoroughly outclassed in three sets by Djokovic, but the Russian is prone to let his guard down in slams when the expectations are high.
For example, the aforementioned Aussie Open final was a pick ’em, with many believing that this was finally the time for a changing of the guard in men’s tennis. In Australia the year prior, Medvedev had the third-shortest odds to win the tournament, behind Djokovic, and he wasn’t able to meet the hype, falling in the fourth round to Stan Wawrinka.
In last year’s U.S. Open, Medvedev was the odds-on favorite to win the title after Djokovic was disqualified, but was abysmal in big moments of his semifinal contest with Thiem and lost in three sets.
To his advantage, Medvedev has a solid draw set up for him, which I expect him to utilize. But even with that caveat, if he reaches the final he’ll likely be a sizable dog (think 200ish) against his projected opponent Djokovic. There isn’t much to be gained with this number.
Leave: Stefanos Tsitsipas (+900)
The third straight player on this list that has fallen to Djokovic at a major final, Tsitsipas is another player to avoid in New York.
A graceful ball striker with a well-rounded game, Tsitsipas will thrive in the near future as draws open up with the big three’s era coming to an end, but he’s not ready to compete for slam titles on the hardcourt just yet.
As we learned in Paris and earlier in Barcelona, Tsitsipas has the game to be one of the best clay players on tour, but he hasn’t had the mental stability needed to finish the job, and he can’t be trusted to find that mentality without being on his preferred surface.
Further evidenced by mental struggles in recent weeks, both in Cincinnati and Toronto, Tsitsipas’ time for hard court dominance hasn’t arrived just yet.
Quarter 1 Winner Best Bets
For a full look at the draw, click here.
Matteo Berrettini +800
The value in this quarter lies with Berrettini, who will be favored in every match he plays prior to a prospective quarterfinal with Djokovic.
A theoretical parlay with the matchups that Berrettini would engage in would be far less than the 8/1 being offered, and given that he was a +350 dog against Djokovic, you’re essentially getting about a +500 or +600 pick at +800.
It won’t be a cakewalk to the Serbian for Berrettini, but it would be a big disappointment if he fails to secure a QF berth.
Ilya Ivashka +3300
The one player that could give Berrettini serious problems before a match with Djokovic is the Belarusian Ivashka.
He’s in remarkable form heading into the Open and will be coming fresh off of his first ATP title. That title, of course, came in ridiculous fashion, as Ivashka won the final against Mikael Ymer 6-0 6-2.
A bit of a hangover can be expected, but at +3300, you’re getting a player that is one of the hottest on tour.
Leave: Novak Djokovic -500
I already touched on it in the prior section, but there’s no point in taking Djokovic at -500. Of course, he’s the favorite to advance out of the quarter, but the risk you take in laying such a substantial favorite was displayed last year, when he was DQ’d prior to the semis.
Quarter 2 Winner Best Bets
Sebastian Korda +1600
It may seem counterintuitive for me to lay off of Zverev at -110 in this quarter, but hear me out. The German is a player that is prone to letdowns, and thus the value that exists with Zverev is a boom or bust type of deal. Don’t trust him to secure easy victories before more highly contested ones should be expected.
Instead, go with a player that has massive upside like Korda. It will take some impressive wins for the American to progress to the semifinals, possibly including Carreno Busta, Reilly Opelka, Denis Shapovalov and Zverev, but if anyone can go on a big run, it’s Korda.
Korda has easy power all over the court and is capable of competing with nearly any player in the world, evidenced by battles with Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Aslan Karatsev and Diego Schwartzman, just to name a few.
At this price, Korda is a steal.
Jannik Sinner +800
Another great opportunity comes in the form of Sinner, who has a particularly smooth path to a possible fourth round with Zverev.
He’s already beaten the German in that exact spot at the French Open in 2020 and has the talent to put on a consistent tournament that forces opponents with a pedigree to be very cautious.
Sinner will be a hefty favorite in matches that lead up to a fourth-round with Zverev, and he’d be near a pick ’em in a possible quarterfinal. That is a great spot to be in.
Leave: Denis Shapovalov +750
The Canadian is far too unreliable for this number to be valuable. A potential path to the semifinals includes Karen Khachanov, Korda/Carreno Busta and Zverev.
Despite an impressive Wimbledon run that saw Shapovalov make the semifinals and compete well with Djokovic, it will take far more in the form of consistent results for me to look at this price.
Quarter 3 Winner Best Bets
Andrey Rublev +333
After a flat final in Cincinnati, there’s reason to be bearish on the Russian. But don’t let that result scare you, as he’s still one of the best ball strikers on tour, and a clear path to the quarters won’t hurt his chances here.
There isn’t a dangerous player in the quarter that Rublev hasn’t beaten in the past. He’s notched big wins against Tsitsipas, Kyrgios and Humbert, and has reached the fourth round or better in his last two appearances in Queens.
This represents one of the best value opportunities the card has to offer.
Ugo Humbert +1400
Another massive ball striker with prior hardcourt results to back up his seed, Humbert is a sneaky player in this draw.
In recent tournaments, the Frenchman has simply had rough draws. Though he’ll be disappointed in himself bowing out to Frances Tiafoe in Cincy, his loss to Tsitsipas in Toronto was nothing to be ashamed about, nor his QF loss to finalist Khachanov in Tokyo.
Humbert doesn’t have a particularly easy draw, as an underrated player like Gojowczyk and even in form Benoit Paire could give him trouble, but he’s got the talent to make a big push.
Leave: Felix Auger-Aliassime +800
Much like his Canadian counterpart Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime has the capability of winning or losing nearly every match he plays. For that reason, better value can be found in outright wagers, though I wouldn’t recommend that here.
Felix’s time to shine will come, but this tournament won’t be where it happens.
Quarter 4 Winner Best Bets
Daniil Medvedev -155
This quarter could be one of the most straightforward the tournament has to offer. Medvedev has an extremely kind road to the semifinal. There isn’t a single opponent the Russian has that has the capability of troubling him until the quarters, outside of Marin Cilic who pushed Medvedev at Wimbledon. But the former champion would have to play the match of his life to win.
In the quarters, there a number of players that could meet him, and he’d be a big favorite against each and every one of them. I don’t believe Medvedev will win the tournament, as I talked about earlier, but this quarter helps his chances mightily.
Leave: Rest of the quarter
Look, I’d love to provide an alternative with value in this quarter, but it just doesn’t exist.
Casper Ruud and John Isner have the shortest odds behind Medvedev, each at +1000 respectively, and that is a brutal number. Ruud is a player that struggles against quality competition off of clay and would be a major dog in a quarterfinal with Medvedev. If you fancy the Norwegian to take out Medvedev, take him at that point.
Isner is capable of winning matches in New York, but his draw has a number of banana peels to overcome. His first-round opponent Brandon Nakashima could pose him problems, as could his third-round opponent, likely either Kevin Anderson or Diego Schwartzman. This number doesn’t make sense for the American.
Essentially, if you believe that members of this quarter can make a run, you have much better value picking them in individual matchups than in this form.
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