THE third round in the men’s singles at the 2018 Australian Open begins on Friday, with eight matches from the top half of the draw set for day five.
It was another day where one from the shortlist, Julien Benneteau, proved the best of the bets, as the veteran Frenchman took down David Goffin in the extreme heat.
As I said yesterday, a Goffin loss would be and is good news for our Juan Martin Del Potro outright, and I’m sure a few were on Benneteau anyway, given Goffin’s poor record in very hot conditions.
Peter Gojowczyk did take the one set we needed from him against Alexander Zverev for a winner there but Jiri Vesely came up a little short against Adrian Mannarino, who did enough, despite struggling in the heat.
“After a set and a half, I started to think about [the heat],” Mannarino said. “I lost my rhythm and I didn't really know what I was doing tactically. The conditions were really difficult to deal with. My head was spinning at times.”
Not spinning enough for Vesely to take full advantage and Lorenzo Sonego was nowhere near against Richard Gasquet, while I said it would be sadly typical of Fernando Verdasco to lose to Maximilian Marterer after a fine win over Roberto Bautista Agut.
Madison Keys came through easily in the women’s draw and will face Ana Bogdan next, while Del Potro looked a little tired during his win over Karen Khachanov, but when doesn’t he look like that?
We’re expecting another very hot day in Melbourne on Friday, with the dial peaking at 38C in the shade by 14:00 local time, so much the same as Thursday and with 28kph winds too, so tough conditions for the players.
Benneteau summed it up succinctly but well when he said of Thursday’s conditions: “It was hell out there.”
I think we had the right players on the shortlist on Thursday, with Goffin, Mannarino and Medvedev all suffering in the heat and you'd have to think that Kyle Edmund, would be a risky wager at 1.24 having struggled in extreme heat in the past, while the big men Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Muller will be looking for very quick points indeed in these conditions. Both played five setters in their last matches as well.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Andrey Rublev
I was happy to take Rublev on to some degree against Marcos Baghdatis, as the young Russian looked too short in price for me, and it worked out well in end (after a tense finish to set two).
Now the boot is on the other foot, as it’s Dimitrov that looks a tad short even at a price twice as big as the Bulgarian was when he took on Rublev at last season’s US Open.
Dimitrov was priced up as a 1.21 chance for that match and was duly beaten in straight sets by Rublev on a bad day for Dimitrov, but he has these poor days much too often in majors.
Indeed, Dimitrov was for large periods pretty awful against qualifier Mackenzie McDonald on Wednesday and getting bagelled by a man playing his second ever main draw in a major and just his sixth main level match is hardly a good sign for the Bulgarian.
Mackenzie actually won two more points than Dimitrov in the match and was very close to winning it in five, so a big improvement is needed from Dimitrov. The Dimitrov slice was sitting there begging to be put away and surely will be by Rublev.
It’s never easy to end a season a big high (or low) and come back again six weeks later and pick up where you left off, as Jack Sock has shown this season and Marin Cilic last year.
Rublev is a more polished player now than he was when beating Dimitrov in New York, with mostly better shot choices, but his second serve is still a bit of a liability, with another 14 double faults against Baghdatis to go with the 15 he hit against David Ferrer.
He’s now running at a shade under one double fault every two service games on average for the last 12 months on outdoor hard at main level and he’s in minus figures when comparing aces (0.38 per game) to double faults (0.47 per game) which is rare.
Rublev still doesn’t get enough first serves in for my liking, running at 56% on average for the last year at main level on outdoor hard, and he only holds serve 73.9% of the time.
However, where he scores heavily is on returning the second serve of his opponents, winning 55.2% of the points on his opponents’ second ball, which is more than Federer and exactly the same as Nadal.
And as a result he breaks almost 30% of the time and is a big threat to most with his aggressive returning, but how well will Rublev stand up to the heat?
Plenty of his Russian compatriots have struggled in these brutal conditions, but Rublev is yet to retire from any match at any level, being the beneficiary of seven retirements by his opponents, but never retiring himself.
They’ll play at around 15:00 local time on Laver, which isn’t an ideal time for the fair-skinned Rublev you wouldn’t have thought, so with that in mind the +1.5 sets at 2.14 looks the wager.
Elsewhere, Rafael Nadal retired in very hot and humid conditions against Damir Dzumhur in Miami a couple of years ago after feeling “dizzy” but that’s surely not likely to happen again and they’re on at night this time.
Dzumhur is the one that’s been struggling physically of late and it’s tough to see past a Rafa win in that one.
Marin Cilic was way too much for Ryan Harrison to handle in fast conditions in Tokyo towards the end of last season and unless the heat plays a part I’d expect the Croat to come out on top again there.
Nick Kyrgios vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
You never really know which version of Kyrgios will turn up and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing Tsonga against NK as a 3.10 underdog in that sense, but I get the feeling that the ‘bad’ Kyrgios would have to be on show for Tsonga to come through this match.
Tsonga rarely gets it done against the best players these days, going 3-7 on outdoor hard against the players I have in my database as ‘top-10 quality’ in the past year and holding serve only 79.8% of the time.
That’s compared with the 89.6% service holds that he has against all opponents in his last 12 months on this surface and while Kyrgios isn’t in that ‘top-10’ list yet it shows how the Tsonga serve isn’t too effective against the best.
As a comparison, Kyrgios is 6-4 against the ‘top-10’ group on outdoor hard this past 12 months and he holds his own deal 89.7% of the time, which is only slightly down on his 91.4% mark in his 36 matches against all opponents in the last 12 months on outdoor hard.
Tsonga beat Kyrgios in their only career clash almost a year ago in Marseille, but indoors (and more so at home in France) Tsonga is a different proposition, with a hold/break total of 112.2.
The Frenchman was lucky to survive against Denis Shapovalov, who failed from 4-1 up in their deciding set and while the price on NK offers very little value on pure form you’d expect NK to win this – assuming the ‘good’ Kyrgios shows up.
It will be interesting to see how the two big servers get on, with Gilles Muller and Ivo Karlovic both candidates to struggle in extreme heat, but what’s interesting in Ivo’s clash with Andreas Seppi is the Italian’s record in tie breaks.
In his last 10 matches versus the big servers in my database Seppi has played 10 breakers and lost all of them, often rather heavily, so I’d be tempted by the 4.33 on Karlovic taking the opening set 7-6 there.
Pablo Carreno Busta doesn’t exactly convince against big servers either, with a 3-14 record versus the ones in my database and 0-7 on outdoor hard. The three victories came on clay, so it’s hard to back him at odds-on here, despite Muller having played a five setter last round and in playing in extreme heat today.
Sean's best bet
- 1.5 points win Rublev +1.5 sets to beat Dimitrov (2.14, Unibet)