With the 139th edition of the US Open upon us, The Stats Corner decided to take a look at some relevant US Open statistics for the key players in the draw.
The Big Three vs The Rest
Regardless of which statistics you wish to mine to inform your opinion, there is one likely outcome. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, or Roger Federer will win the US Open 2019.
You look at tournament history, without Juan Martin Del Potro or Andy Murray in the draw, the remaining “Big 3” have taken all titles, bar two, since 2004. The winners of the other US Opens, Stan Wawrinka (2016) and Marin Cilic (2014), will arrive at Flushing Meadows without their best form, inspiration perhaps the only way to see victory for either man.
Perhaps more convincing than the historical theory though is the more recent data. Taking the percentage of games held on serve and the percentage of games where they have broken the opponents’ serve and totaling them, it gives a strong indication of a players’ true level of a surface.
Using the data compiled on hard courts in the last 12 months, Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer have won a much higher percentage of games on the surface than anyone else. Except for Daniil Medvedev.
The Russian has moved from an also-ran to a clear fourth favorite with most bookmakers after his incredible U.S. hard court swing. He has made three consecutive finals, at Washington, Montreal, and last week in Cincinnati, finally winning his maiden Masters title against David Goffin in that match and becoming Russia’s new champion.
This, along with strong hard court form at other times in the past year, has moved him close to Federer in the hold/break percentages. This suggests that on his peak form he could be the one to challenge the old firm at the top of the game.
The Big Three or the Big One?
A further question that the data asks is whether there really is a big three here. Even within the astronomical numbers that Djokovic, Nadal. and Federer have posted, there does appear to be a slight gap between Djokovic and the others.
Djokovic sits top of the hold/break numbers, the career win-loss at Flushing Meadows, the win-loss at Grand Slams this season, and, obviously, the World #1 ranking. Nadal just pips him for career win/loss at Grand Slams, but that is severely skewed by Nadal’s incredible record at Roland Garros.
Despite all the stand-out statistics around Djokovic, there is one flaw when assessing his chances at the 2019 US Open. That is his comparative lack of success at this particular Grand Slam event. It’s bizarre to even say that out loud when we are discussing a three-time US Open champion, but when you compare that three to seven Australian Opens and five Wimbledons, it does beg the question, is there a slight difference when it comes to playing at Flushing Meadows?
The Best of the Rest
As discussed above, Daniil Medvedev arrives in New York as the form player, but his credentials are built solely on that form. His Grand Slam record is average and he has yet to reach the last 16 at the US Open. I would back that to change this time, but he has a long way to go to improve enough to take home the title.
If we are to look for someone underrated in the picture ,then the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut comes in with excellent statistics. He lies a clear 5th in the world on hold/break hard court data, with a much improved serve to thank for that. He also has had an excellent year at the slams, topped off by that run to the semifinal at Wimbledon.
Two others with good hold/break data, but with poor Grand Slam records, are Cincinnati finalist David Goffin and young Aussie Alex De Minaur. De Minaur perhaps has youth on his side to improve into a quarterfinal or beyond spot, but Goffin has been around a while and that mediocre Grand Slam record is a serious concern.
On the other hand, we have Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka, and Dominic Thiem. All of whom have good to excellent Grand Slam history, both in the US Open and more generally throughout their careers. The problem in advocating them as potential dark horses are the lack of form in the last twelve months on hard courts.
Where do the stats point to the potential winners of the US Open 2019?
No surprises, Novak Djokovic. He is the stand-out player.
However, I would have Rafael Nadal ahead of Roger Federer in the challengers, based upon his excellent hold/break numbers in the last year.
In terms of the outsiders, the statistics are strong on Daniil Medvedev to make a breakthrough here, and the chances of Kei Nishikori are enhanced by his US Open and Grand Slam 2019 results.
Main Photo from Getty.