THE first of the men’s singles quarter-finals at the 2018 Australian Open take place on Tuesday at Melbourne Park, with Rafael Nadal in action on day nine.
It was pleasing that the good value at 3.20 on ‘tie break played’ in Roger Federer’s clash with Marton Fucsovics ending up providing us with a winner, but Fabio Fognini was injured against Tomas Berdych and unable to give his best. Our outright Madison Keys is through to the last eight and faces a tough clash with Angelique Kerber next, so a decent day for us overall.
For the afternoon match featuring Grigor Dimitrov and Kyle Edmund it should be 23C with 55% humidity and sunny, but with winds of 26kph and a degree or two cooler with the wind dropping a touch to 21kph.
Only three of the last 28 men’s quarter finals at the Australian Open have gone to five sets, while 12 of the last 20 quarter finals have featured a tie break and underdogs have a poor recent record. Just two betting underdogs in the last 24 men’s quarter finals have won and in total this decade there have been only five of 32.
Rafael Nadal vs Marin Cilic
This sixth career clash between Nadal and Cilic looks set to be a decent test of exactly where the Spaniard is at the moment and conditions should be about perfect for Cilic to make this a match, if a tad windy.
The Croat came fairly close to getting the better of Nadal on fast outdoor hard towards the end of last season in Shanghai, but it was Nadal that edged a tight one 7-6, 7-5.
Nadal didn’t really look like losing that match, but it should give Cilic enough belief that he can at least push the world number one, although it should be noted that Nadal picked up his latest knee injury during that tournament.
He then went on to withdraw from Basel and didn’t really play again for the rest of the season other than a couple of ill-advised appearances in Paris and one in London when clearly struggling.
We enjoyed a winner in the form of Diego Schwartzman on the handicap against Nadal in round four in a match where each player had 18 break point opportunities and much of the difference between the pair was Rafa’s performance on the break points.
He wasn’t hitting well enough to keep Schwartzman completely at bay and saved 15 break points, mainly with strong play when it really counted, but his 51 unforced errors should serve as encouragement to Cilic.
Schwartzman also hit 58 winners, so you’d expect a top form Cilic, if that’s the one that shows up on Tuesday, to be able to breach the Nadal defences on this surface too.
As for Cilic, well, you never know when his best form (or worst) will arrive, and if it’s peak Cilic that turns up he could well make Nadal dig very deep, but a more likely outcome is the 3-1 win for Nadal at a price of 3.80.
Only three of the last 28 men’s quarter finals at the Australian Open have gone to five sets and although holding a 33-1 voucher on Cilic outright from last October means I’d like him to prevail I can’t see him taking more than a set realistically.
Nadal doesn’t look like he’s struggling physically, which is what I was gambling on in backing Cilic several months ago, and rather the Spaniard seems lacking competitive matches instead.
From his point of view the Schwartzman match will have helped and while Cilic should be competitive, I fear it won’t be enough.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Kyle Edmund
It’s rather annoying that Edmund’s ‘breakout’ week has come the tournament after we backed him outright at 25-1 to win Sydney when the Brit was a no-show due an ankle injury, as we won’t be getting that sort of price again.
Looking at the way he’s been performing this week I suspect he took the Auckland week off as a precaution and for him it’s paid dividends, with a first major quarter final – and you’d have to say that it’s not the worst last eight draw he could have had.
If you avoid the ‘big four’ at this stage you’ve got to be pleased and given that Edmund and Dimitrov contested a close battle in Brisbane before Edmund picked up that ankle injury very late on in that clash you’d have to give him a chance on Tuesday.
The worries for Edmund backers at a price of 3.55 are fitness and experience at this stage of a major, with the Brit having had a MTO for a shoulder problem as early as the opening set of his fourth round clash with Andreas Seppi.
Edmund had to come from a set and a break down to win that one and on top of a couple of five setters as well this tournament he’s in uncharted territory stamina-wise in addition to experience-wise.
In pure tennis terms there wasn’t a great deal to separate them in Brisbane and Edmund’s hold/break stats on outdoor hard at main level over the past 12 months show that he’s on the upgrade, with a total of 107.3 (85.5% holds/21.8% breaks) at the moment.
Those numbers are better than Dimitrov’s total of 106.8 (86% holds/20.2% breaks) and if he hadn’t had the tough route through that he has maybe I’d have been tempted to take Edmund on one of the handicaps.
I said in my preview of Dimitrov against Kyrgios that the latter was too short at 1.61 given that Dimitrov could easily strike form and that’s exactly what happened, but he’s still anything but convincing when serving out a set or a match.
Worryingly for Dimitrov fans/backers he thinks he’s doing well at the important stages of matches, which certainly isn’t how plenty of neutral observers see it.
“The first couple of rounds or even the three first rounds I was not striking the ball well,” he said after beating Kyrgios. “I know that, but I was still clutch on the important moments.”
I’d suggest that only the first half of that statement is correct and Edmund is also known for the odd choke, so consequently we might see a tie break or two in this one, assuming Edmund is fit.
Again, this one has the feel of a 3-1 to Dimitrov about it, but we’re guessing a bit as to how fit Kyle is and how he’ll handle the occasion of a major quarter final on Laver.
I’ll pass on this one and stick with one wager in the Nadal match.
Sean's best bet
- 1 point win Nadal to beat Cilic 3-1 (3.80, Unibet)