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Novak Djokovic Significant Favorite in 2019 Rakuten Japan Open

Dave Friedman

by Dave Friedman in Tennis

Updated Mar 24, 2020 · 7:34 AM PDT

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic returns to the court following his injury at the U.S. Open in Japan. Photo by Carine06 (Wiki Commons)
  • The top player in the world is returning to action after retiring during the fourth round of the U.S. Open
  • Novak Djokovic is the favorite at the Rakuten Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo
  • Check our preview and see if Djokovic is our pick to win in Japan

During the 45-year history of the Japan Open the tournament has usually attracted good players. The inclusion of world number one-ranked Novak Djokovic this year brings more attention to the event.

You have to go back to 2010 to find a time that tennis royalty won this event. That year Rafael Nadal captured the title. He lost the title match to Andy Murray in 2011. Roger Federer won in Tokyo in 2006. Djokovic, who exited the U.S. Open with a shoulder injury, is returning to the court and seeking his first Japan Open title.

Let’s look at the pre-tournament odds and consider what options we have for some value in wagering.

2019 Rakuten Japan Open Odds

Player Odds
Novak Djokovic -140
Marin Cilic +1200
David Goffin +1400
Alex De Minaur +1600
Borna Coric +1600
Denis Shapovalov +2000
Taylor Fritz +2200
Benoit Paire +2500
Giles Simon +2500
Lucas Pouille +2500
Pablo Carreno Busta +2500
Filip Krajinovic +2800
Hubert Hurkacz +2800

*Odds taken 09/28/19. 

How Healthy and Motivated is Djokovic?

If the 16-time major champion is fully recovered from his shoulder injury, and is treating this tournament as important and meaningful as opposed to getting a feel for how his conditioning is and just getting his feet under him then Djokovic will be really tough to beat.


As much as we can speculate that Djokovic is ready to roll, it is impossible to believe he is fully cranked up. This is not the majors season and the top players are using this time to try new things, get a feel for how their body is doing, and work out kinks. A 65% Djokovic may win this tournament, but he’ll be quick to withdraw at the first sign of tightness or pain, and other players are just more vested at more attractive prices. That said, Djokovic is the deserving favorite and would surprise nobody if he wins. We just don’t care to bet on him.

Past Rakuten Japan Open Champions

Year Player
2018 Daniil Medvedev
2017 David Goffin
2016 Nick Kyrgios
2015 Stan Wawrinka
2014 Kei Nishikori

The Pros to Keep an Eye On

Past champions at this event tend to be the hard knocking pros. Not the world’s elite except for Nadal and Federer, and back in the day Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg, but the next group of players. This is the type of tournament the Ferrer’s and Tsonga’s win.

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David Goffin took the title two years ago and lost in the final in 2016. While he lost to Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round a couple of weeks ago in France, and plays that same rival to begin this tournament, Goffin reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open falling to Federer, and made the finals in Cincinnati.

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Marin Cilic also profiles as the type of player who wins in Tokyo. The hard-knocking Croatian has reached three major finals and won one. He has 18 career singles titles, and performed admirably at the U.S. Open, falling to Nadal in the fourth round.

Show Me a Longshot?

Borna Coric is a 22-year-old from Croatia who lives in Dubai. He has been past the third round of a major only twice, and has two singles titles in his career. His victories are in Marrakesh in 2017, and on grass at Halle in 2018. So why might he win now?

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Coric is ranked 16th in the world and has battled a back injury for the last several months. He withdrew from Wimbledon and retired during the second round at the U.S. Open. However, his best effort of the year came in the recently completed St. Petersburg Open where he reached the final, and the draw in Japan is incredible for him.

While Djokovic, Goffin and Cilic are all on the same half of the draw in Tokyo, Coric’s toughest competition in his half are Taylor Fritz, Benoit Paire, and Alex de Minaur. All are capable, but none strike fear in you.

A relatively easy bracket, improved health, and strong recent play make Coric a good value.

Who’s the Best Bet?

It is hard to pick Djokovic based on the questions regarding his health, and the other names you would typically pick, those with reasonable odds, are on the same side of the draw as the Novak. Coric is underpiced because of his lack of name but he offers a lot of value with an easy path.

The pick: Coric (+1400)

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