A decade ago Tiger Woods dominated golf and Roger Federer was on his way towards winning more tennis majors than any other man in history. While Tiger’s downfall came fast and unceremoniously, it appeared Federer was in an elegant decline. He won just one major between the end of 2010 and start of 2017.
Then this year happened. Federer won the Australian Open, skipped the French Open, and dominated Wimbledon. He goes for a third major title starting Monday (Aug. 28) at the 2017 U.S. Open and is a heavy favorite. That doesn’t make him the best value.
Who is? Let’s find out, just like we did with the women’s side yesterday.
The last of Federer’s five U.S. Open titles came in 2008, a win which capped five straight victories in the event. He has reached the final twice since (2009 and 2015). He did not play in New York last year, but with the last two winners (Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka) sitting out this year, Fed is a big favorite, and there aren’t really that many quality options aside from the GOAT.
Like Federer, Nadal is now over the age of 30. He won the French Open this year, his first major title since 2014, and tenth win overall at Roland Garros. Nadal won the U.S. Open in 2010 and 2013, and lost the final to Djokovic in 2011. He hasn’t had much success in New York the last three years.
Murray has a decent track record in the biggest tournaments: he’s won Wimbledon twice, the U.S. Open once, and two Olympic gold medals (one on grass, one on hard court). He’s also reached seven major finals on hard courts. Yet, he only captured the one hard-court title (2012 U.S. Open). His recent performances in New York are mediocre at best, reaching the quarterfinals (but no further) in three of the last four years. This season, he exited the Australian Open in the fourth round, reached the semis at the French Open, and lost in the quarters at Wimbledon. He has been nursing a hip injury since Wimbledon and has largely struggled since taking over the no. 1 ranking.
Tennis has been looking for new blood for a decade, and the 20-year-old German, who idolized Federer growing up, is the latest “next big thing.” He he took Nadal to five sets in the third round of this year’s Australian Open. He fell to Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the French Open, and made his deepest run at a major dropping a five setter to Milos Raonic in the fourth round of Wimbledon. He has been very strong thus far during the hard court season though he exited the most recent warm-up tournament in Cincinnati early.
Cilic’s only major title came at the U.S. Open in 2014, and he made the semis the next year. He also reached a major final this season, losing badly to Federer at Wimbledon and suffering an abductor injury that has kept him out since.
Neither Murray nor Cilic is healthy enough to wager on, and Nadal doesn’t offer a good enough payout to justify a bet in light of his lack of recent success at the tournament. Federer is the most likely champion; the question is: does he have a 50-percent shot (or better) of winning? The answer very well may be yes, and he’s the safest play on the board given that two of his main competitors (Djokovic and Wawrinka) are sidelined.
If you’re not content riding the favorite and want a better price, look no further than Alexander Zverev. He is young, talented, playing well, and worth a long look. Just don’t get confused and bet on his brother, Mischa!
Photo Credit: Christian Mesiano [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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