US Open Men's Singles Final Tips: Zverev chances under-rated by market

Today's men's singles final brings the US Open to a close, and returning to preview the match is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...

Differing paths taken in the two semi-finals

Friday's semi-finals saw two rather different type of matches take place, with Pablo Carreno-Busta taking a two-set lead in his match with Alexander Zverev before the German fought back to win in five. One suspects that was Carreno-Busta's best chance of a Grand Slam final in his career.

This has rather been a regular theme in Zverev's tournament so far - he almost seems to need a bad start to a match to shock him into action. He dropped the opening set to Adrian Mannarino in round three before winning in four, and did the same against Borna Coric in the quarter-finals as well - and that time the first set was a 1-6 thrashing. In fact, only in his win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina did Zverev win a first set easily (6-2), all his other first sets in this competition have been losses or 7-5 or 7-6 wins.

As for Thiem, this is from one extreme to the other after his disappointing display against Filip Krajinovic at the Western & Southern Open several weeks ago. In his semi-final, Thiem defeated Daniil Medvedev in straight sets, which was a surprise to me - I have the Russian as the better hard courter. Match stats suggest that this was extremely level for a straight-setter, with Thiem only winning 53% of points in the match and Medvedev actually winning more points in set three, which he lost.

However, Thiem getting the job done in under three hours is a huge positive for him from an accumulated fatigue perspective and he's now played around 4.5 hours less match time in the tournament than today's opponent in the final, Zverev. People may point to a five-setter in Zverev's semi-final but the match only took 30 minutes more than Thiem's three-set win, which may surprise some readers.

Hard court data struggles to make a case for prices

My thoughts on the market lines are quite polarised. Thiem is a very heavy 1.27 favourite to get the win here, and this does look short to me based on 12 month hard court numbers. I'd be happier if it was Medvedev at this price against Zverev but Thiem has never really produced elite-level hard court data. In the last 12 months on hard court, Thiem only has a marginal advantage for holding on serve and breaking on return over Zverev and, based on these numbers, it's extremely difficult to make an argument about the price being right.

Having said this, the market is clearly factoring in the nature of the player's wins here, and also potentially some accumulated fatigue concerns. Thiem does have better numbers to get to this stage in the tournament, but not absurdly so, and also not to the extent that would make this price justified.

Does the head-to-head record have any weight in the market? The duo have met nine times, with Thiem winning seven, but if we look at the context behind them, we can see that five were on clay - where Thiem is world-class - and the first five were when Zverev was ranked outside the top 20, and Thiem wasn't. It is difficult to really assert that this should have any influence in the pricing, and a closer look at the head-to-head matches between the two players shows that the historical pricing in their all-top 10 clashes is nothing remotely close to today's lines - they tend to be much closer to evens.

Handicap market looks the best approach

Subjectively, I am not a huge fan of this spot but numbers-wise, it looks a good play. We can get Zverev +5.5 games on the Exchange at 1.96 and this could well rise several ticks in the run-up to the match in line with general market pricing. Their previous non-clay matches have been pretty tight and competitive and I am hoping for a competitive final tonight as well.

Austrian Tennis Player Dominic Thiem

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