WE'RE not having much luck with injuries this week and after a couple of retirements the other day we had Evgeny Donskoy struggling with a hip problem and while he still should have won set two on the tiebreak he probably wasn’t in any condition to beat Filip Krajinovic from a set down.
Ryan Harrison started well enough against Daniil Medvedev, but from 3-3 he donated his serve away with errors, and that set the pattern for a bad-tempered and errant display from him.
Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer’s half of the draw play their round three matches on Friday and this round is one that has produced 21% underdog winners on average this decade and 48% of its matches have featured tie breaks.
Conditions are set to remain humid on Friday, with 60% to 75% humidity and a 15% chance of rain on another cloudy day in Melbourne.
Marin Cilic has won seven of his last eight matches against Fernando Verdasco on all surfaces and while their all-time head-to-head career has been close in terms of holds of serve (83% Cilic/80% Verdasco) on outdoor hard Cilic has a bigger advantage.
On this surface only he’s held serve 88.9% of the time in five matches against Verdasco (4-1 win/loss), while Verdasco has managed 79.4% holds of serve in those encounters.
Cilic also has a good 20-9 record against all lefties on this surface and his hold/break total in those matches is very similar to his overall one, so my only concern here if I were on Cilic would be whether his suspect knee holds up.
I’d be tempted to side with Roberto Bautista Agut as underdog against Karen Khachanov purely on the basis of the match-up, with the flat hits of RBA on this quick surface likely to rush Khachanov, who prefers the ball to get up higher.
There’s less than 1% in it in terms of their 12-month service hold/break numbers on this surface and this’ll be about the fitness of RBA, who’s had to play back-to-back five setters, and whether or not RBA is allowed by Khachanov (and by his own energy levels) to get his forehand into play.
The last time that RBA played back-to-back five setters at a major was here in Melbourne in 2016 and the next round he came out and beat Cilic as a 2-1 underdog, so he’s a possible option on Friday.
Talking of players that have gone the distance already this fortnight that brings me on to our 100-1 outright to win Q3, Nikoloz Basilashvili.
We haven’t seen the best of Basil yet this fortnight by any means and possible fatigue does worry me now in his match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, as there’s nothing in it in terms of outdoor hard court stats.
Against all opposition at main level on this surface each man has a hold/break total of 102 and versus the current top-25 Tsitsipas’ total is 94.7, while Basilashvili’s is 92.2.
The Greek’s numbers are marginally better on first and second serve points won, but he doesn’t do quite as well on return of serve, so slight advantage to Tsitsipas, but it’s not as much as these prices suggest.
Basil’s form so far this week is a worry, but it would be no shock if he were to find it on the day and take down Tsitsipas, although we don’t need to back him, rather let the Q3 wager ride.
Frances Tiafoe vs Andreas Seppi
Although he’s only a very marginal underdog (and may not be one at all by the time this match starts) I still think there’s a hint of value in the Italian here in this tournament and these conditions against Tiafoe.
Seppi’s been excellent this year so far in 2019 and this is his time of year, extending his run of form in Australia at all levels now to 17-3 win/loss in the last two years.
We were happy to back him at around 1.70 against Jordan Thompson in the last round and he obliged by winning it in three and at these odds I’m going to continue siding with Seppi.
There’s nothing between he and Tiafoe on their one-year stats on outdoor hard, but Seppi is clearly a different proposition in Australia to anywhere else, and I’m not convinced about Tiafoe’s ability to back up a big win.
Until this week Tiafoe had lost seven straight matches in Australia at all levels and Kevin Anderson was a huge favourite to make that eight when a set and a break up on him a couple of days ago until Big Kev suffered with a right elbow problem and was unable to compete at the same level that he has been of late.
So, that win may not amount to much, and this is only the second time in his career that Tiafoe has won back-to-back matches at a major (yet to win three in a row).
I’m also yet to be convinced about his stamina and heat resistance, with the sight of a clearly struggling Tiafoe at Wimbledon last year against Khachanov after having played back-to-back four setters, still a vivid recollection.
Seppi may also have issues in that regard given his workload in the last two weeks, which may have affected this price, as I’d have made Seppi slight favourite.
- 0.5 points win Seppi to beat Tiafoe (1.98, Unibet)