US Open Men's Semifinals: Zverev vs. Carreno Busta, Thiem vs. Medvedev

US Open Men's Semifinals: Zverev vs. Carreno Busta, Thiem vs. Medvedev

Just like the oddsmakers, we have no idea who will win the titanic semifinal clash between Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev.

We have arrived at the US Open's final four. The men begin their semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m. ET, and our picks to reach the final are in.


First semifinal: Alexander Zverev [5] vs. Pablo Carreno Busta [20]

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Zverev is only 23 years old. But for a player who has spent his fair share of time inside the Top 5, to go along with three Masters 1000 titles, an ATP Finals championship and 11 titles in total, his past performance at the majors was certainly grounds for concern.

But after quieting his critics by reaching the semifinals at this year’s Australian Open, Zverev finds himself back in the final four of a major against the rock-solid but likely overmatched Carreno Busta. It’s a golden opportunity for the German to go one step further.

The pressure is squarely on Zverev’s shoulders, but if he can make it through unscathed, he’ll have the luxury of watching his championship opponents (Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem) zap the life out of each other in a match that is bound to be physically and mentally exhausting.

On the court, there’s not much PCB can do except play his game and remain steady. He’s not going to hit Zverev off the court; in fact, Zverev much prefers his opponents to provide the pace. But that might be difficult since Carreno Busta appeared to injure his back in the late stages of his five-set victory over Denis Shapovalov. At full health, the Spaniard is perfectly capable of defeating Zverev, but with a tight lower-back, the odds are certainly not in his favor.

“I’m destroyed, but I am very, very happy,” Carreno Busta said after his quarterfinal victory over Denis Shapovalov. “It’s incredible to be back in the semifinals again.”

Carreno Busta was able to withstand Shapovalov’s power, but it’s worth mentioning that he only had to play 11 games in his fourh-round victory-by-default against Novak Djokovic, while the Canadian played 41 grueling games against David Goffin. 

In the late stages of a major, health and physical fitness is becomes even more important. For that reason, and others, expect Zverev to outlast Carreno Busta.

The Pick: Zverev

Getty Images/USTA 

Second semifinal: Dominic Thiem [2] vs. Daniil Medvedev [4]

It’s a shame that Medvedev and Thiem ended up on the same half of the draw, because whoever wins their semifinal clash on Friday will be considered the overwhelming favorite to capture their first Grand Slam title. Both players have thoroughly dominated their competition over the past two weeks. Thiem has dropped just one set, while last year’s finalist has lost none. 

“I would say that he comes very close to the big three players in terms that he can play his level, his top level, for doesn't matter how long, I mean, four, five, six hours,” Thiem said of Medvedev. “That's going to be really, really difficult.”

Thiem owns a 2-1 head to head record over the Russian, but during their last encounter in Montreal, things got ugly. At one point, Medvedev won 12 points in a row in a 6-3, 6-1 victory that lasted just over an hour. Thiem had no answer for Medvedev’s quirky mix of hyper-aggressive first-strike tennis combined with flummoxing defense and scrambling ability. 

The oddsmakers have no clue who owns the advantage in this heavyweight clash, and have listed this match as a pick-em, with Medvedev as the ever-so-slight (-123) favorite—probably because Medvedev has been so dominant on the hard courts in Flushing Meadows.

One thing is for sure, though, Thiem is going to hit a lot of slice backhands. It's the key to this match. On a quick hard court, there’s no reason for him to hit aggressive topspin backhands to the 6’6” Medvedev, as perhaps only Novak Djokovic can defend better from his backhand wing. A low slice will force Medvedev to hit up on the ball and deprive him of angles to work with, and it will also deny him the leverage to lean into his backhand and drive the ball through the court. 

Thiem ended up missing this forehand, but by chipping it short and low to Medvedev's backhand, he got the shot he wanted. 

Thiem didn't force many errors in this match, but most of the ones he did were due to his backhand slice. You don't beat Medvedev by hitting hard to his backhand. 

Instead of hitting over this backhand, expect Thiem to slice it all day in Friday's semifinal. 

In the end, your guess is as good as mine, but Medvedev’s affinity for this surface just might give him the edge. Either way, it’s safe to expect a classic, with plenty of lung-busting extended baseline rallies. 

The Pick: Medvedev