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US Open day 3 preview

The US Open is underway and once again I'm moaning at the scheduling. Bloody Yanks and scheduling everything for local TV rather than the international audiences or the welfare of the players .

Anyway, I've not had time to write my comprehensive previews this year, but I have managed to secure the services of someone with an incredibly sharp eye, using analytics and data to back up observations and opinions.

Please welcome to the blog Dan Weston, @tennisratings. Follow his work on his website - Tennisratings and make sure you take a look at his magnificent new piece of work, the 'Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet'. I wish I had the time and dedication to produce something like that!

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There are another 34 matches today in the US Open as the tournament continues and the workload for bettors and traders reduces to a more manageable level!

So far in the ATP tournament there's been 77.1% holds which is 1.6% below the current hard court average, but in the WTA there's been 64.2% holds (1.3% above average) so it's still difficult to guage whether court speed is anything other than around medium. Judging the matches on their merits without unduly worrying about court speed is what I’m doing currently although I will assess how things vary in the next few days.

It’s still round one of the men’s competition today and as with the two previous days this week I recommend caution with stake sizing. Player motivation and fitness has been questionable in some quarters this week and until a player has played at least one match and ideally two, I’m not going to go overboard on the stakes.

On the whole I feel that the market has priced the players pretty well today although with 34 matches there are a few that catch my eye.

Daniel Brands hasn’t played for a month which concerns me slightly but the stats I have on the big serving German give him a better chance than the odds suggest against another big server, Kevin Anderson. Both players have a similar win percentage on hard courts – Brands is 57% (8-6) whilst Anderson is 62% (23-14). Anderson does have marginally better hold (87.4% to 86.6%) and break (16.7% to 16.1%) statistics but these don’t justify odds of around 1.32 on the South African. As you might expect, projected holds are high and this match should be pretty tight.

I feel Mikhail Youzhny is fairly short at 1.20 against Nicolas Mahut. The Frenchman hasn’t played a lot on hard court in the past year (only 4 main draw matches) but should be full of confidence after a fantastic grass court season where he picked up two titles. I rate Youzhny much more on indoor hard and my model has the Russian at a bigger 1.39 price so a lay to back seems in order here. Some stats from the Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet show Mahut has only given a break back 10.53% of the time in 2013 when a break in front (top 100 average is 32.54%) so it definitely wouldn’t be reasonable to lay him if he was a break up in this match. Projected holds are close and around ATP average.

Marcos Baghdatis is not in great touch but a defeat to Go Soeda, who also has declined in the past year would be a very poor result for the Cypriot. He’s priced at about 1.42 today and I make him a little shorter at 1.32. Soeda has a low projected hold so I will look to oppose his serve in-play when possible. I feel Baghdatis needs to take this in 3 sets though – otherwise he may struggle according to my stats. In 2013 in 3 set matches he’s won 52.4% of first sets, 42.9% in second sets and 30.00% in third sets. Those stats indicate his level hugely drops in later sets and should he take a 2-0 lead in sets he could well even become a viable lay at a likely 1.0x price.

Igor Sijsling has a terrible ATP record on hard courts in the past 12 months winning a mere 3 from 14 matches. He’s held a below average 75.9% in that time, and breaking just 13.0%. He’s also taken a mere 2 sets from 5 defeats in a row (against Michael Russell and Thiemo De Bakker) and he’s definitely very vulnerable as a 1.53 favourite against the German qualifier, Peter Gojowcyzk. Gojowcyzk has solid Challenger Tour stats on hard courts, winning 65% (11-6) in the past 12 months and got to the final of the Oberstaufen Challenger (on clay) in July. Sijsling has a low projected hold and I’m looking at opposing the Dutchman on serve to start with and when I reasonably can in this match. The stats also back up that strategy with Sijsling holding 79.6% across all surfaces in ATP matches in 2013, but a lower 76.25% in his first two games of a set. Opposing him in early service games has definite positive expected value. He’s also another one with a poor deciding record in deciding 3rd sets of ATP matches (30% this year) and may struggle in the latter stages of this.

Both Victor Hanescu and Leonardo Mayer are much more comfortable on clay but it’s the Argentine who is significantly better on hard courts according to the stats. There’s been a bit of a gamble on him from an opening 2.13 to current 1.78 with Pinnacle Sports and that’s more than justified – in fact I make him a lot shorter than this. In the last 12 months Hanescu has won 2 from 8 ATP main draw matches on hard court (both via retirement against Andrey Kuznetsov in the 3rd set, and Bernard Tomic in the 1st set), holding a mere 69.6% of the time, breaking just 14.3%. Mayer’s record is slightly better with 4 wins from 10 but crucially in those matches he’s held and broken significantly more (79.7% and 24.2%). Those stats make him huge value even with his price steaming. I’m looking at opposing Hanescu in-play with him having a very low projected service hold. Another thing worth considering here is Mayer’s excellent percentage for breaking late in sets (any point where either him or his opponent has 4 games or more in the set). Overall across all surfaces in 2013 he’s broken his opponents 20.3% of the time. However late in sets this rises to an excellent 28.74%. Stats like this are something that the vast majority of the market will be completely unaware of and gives us an excellent edge over the competition.

I can’t help feeling Fabio Fognini is short at 1.23 against Rajeev Ram. Ram does not impress me at all with his stats being at a very low level (with the possible exception of on grass) but Fognini has had so many poor results on hard courts I cannot see how he justifies this price. In his last match, against Radek Stepanek in Cincinnati, he gave up 11 break points in 9 games and was broken 7 times. That can inspire no confidence in his short odds backers. Projected holds are both low so I feel there will almost certainly be breaks in this. Opposing the charismatic Italian’s serve should be viable and a lay from the start is also possible.

James Blake has announced his imminent retirement and I like his chances of a final hurrah against fellow veteran, the Croatian big server Ivo Karlovic. Blake starts as marginal 1.91 favourite and I make that good value. Karlovic has only broken his opponents 5.3% on hard courts in the past 12 months and with Blake’s surface hold above average at 82.9% it’s unlikely Karlovic can trouble Blake’s serve regularly. Blake’s return stats indicating a 23.7% break are marginally above the ATP hard court average and he should be able to focus on breaking Karlovic without worrying unduly about holding himself. It’s also worth mentioning that Karlovic’s breaks of opponents tend to come at the start of sets. Overall across all surfaces in 2013 he’s broken opponents 6.0% of the time. In his opponent’s first two service games this is higher at 10.71% but in late games it drops to just 2.0%. This is by far the worst in the ATP top 100.

Two other matches where there could be some viable trading avenues opposing the servers is Lukas Lacko vs Somdev Devvarman and Benoit Paire vs Alex Bogomolov Jr. All four players have below average projected holds. I’m also interested in taking on the serve of David Goffin against Alexandr Dolgopolov. Goffin’s projected hold is 70.5% (a fair bit below the ATP hard court average of 78.7%) and the Belgian has given up a break lead an above average 44.44% in 2013. With the inconsistent Dolgopolov getting a break deficit back 38.30% in 2013 (again, above average), laying Goffin when a break up has definite positive expected value.

The women’s second round matches today sadly don’t give me as many trading angles. There are quite a few short priced favourites, and the majority are justified.

However, I do feel that Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki is short at 1.15 against the Argentine youngster Paula Ormaechea, who is considered more of a clay courter but actually has reasonable hard court stats. Lisicki often loses concentration during matches and I feel she has a good chance of trading higher. This is backed up by the fact that she’s lost at least one set in 7 of the 11 matches where she’s been priced below 1.20 since January 2012.

Yaroslava Shvedova is another inconsistent player and she showed her best side in a one-sided routing of Olga Puchkova in the first round but it’s worth noting that the Kazakh retired in her previous match in New Haven so may not be 100% fit. She starts at around 1.25 here but I make her more like 1.45 for this match. I’m considering a lay to back position here. There could well be breaks and swings in this with projected holds below average and both players being better at taking break points than saving them.

I’ve opposed Carla Suarez Navarro almost blindly on hard courts and I’ve had mixed success so far. Again I make her opponent, Coco Vandeweghe, value at around 4.00 today. However I’m going to be a little more circumspect today and look to lay Suarez Navarro’s serve only if my triggers are met.

In a match where there should be much fewer breaks, I make Bethanie Mattek-Sands slight value against Ekaterina Makarova. Projected holds are close and high and at about 3.00 the American represents the value in this clash.

I find Sloane Stephens generally over-rated and the 44.00 price on her to win the tournament outright was ridiculously short. She’s 1.57 against Urszula Radwanska but I make her more like 1.80 for this. Radwanska may also benefit from the experience of her sister who has given Stephens a lot of problems in recent matches. Projected holds again are close and around the WTA average. If Stephens looks like she’s struggling to hold serve I will try and oppose her serve in-play.

Finally, I’m also looking at opposing the serves of Alisa Kleybanova (vs Jelena Jankovic) and Jie Zheng (vs Venus Williams) should their price become shorter in-play. Both have a low projected hold and I’d be surprised if either of these players held serve more often than they were broken.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and good luck in the markets.

Follow Dan's work on his website - Tennisratings and make sure you take a look at his magnificent new piece of work, the 'Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet'.

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