ROUND two of the men’s singles at the 2020 Australian Open completes on Thursday at Melbourne Park and Sean Calvert returns with your daily tennis preview.
Once again it turned out to be one of those days where my list of potential underdog winners performed better than my final bet choices on Wednesday.
I said yesterday: “Of Wednesday’s underdogs Yoshihito Nishioka, Tommy Paul, Benoit Paire, Marton Fucsovics, John Millman and maybe Gregoire Barrere all hold decent chances, while Cristian Garin and Tennys Sandgren may do better than expected.”
Nishioka, Paul, Fucsovics, Millman and Sandgren all won, while Paire lost in five, so anyone following that would have done very nicely, while one of my two bets also won.
So, it was a mixed day, and one that was a real test for all when the wind got up on the outside courts.
And it looks like it’ll be another testing day on Thursday, with the forecast predicting more strong winds, combined with rain, up until lunchtime when the rain will abate.
It’ll still be pretty windy though up until pretty much the end of the day’s play, so again, life will be tough for the players on the less protected courts.
There are some players who you’d think probably won’t enjoy the conditions, either because their style is too aggressive or their movement isn’t great and/or their temperament is suspect.
Ernests Gulbis is one such player, while Nikoloz Basilashvili, Karen Khachanov and Peter Gojowczyk may also struggle to play their preferred style in very strong winds.
Khachanov is one favourite that can be taken on, while others include Stan Wawrinka, Alexander Zverev, and Kevin Anderson, while Nick Kyrgios looks short as well.
Mikael Ymer vs Karen Khachanov
With the forecast predicting early rain, some doubles matches might get moved around, so it’s not easy to estimate when some of these men’s singles will be played on Thursday.
As it stands this one is set for Court 3 at (not before) 18:00 local, at which point it should still be quite windy and it’ll be interesting to see how the big-hitting Russian fares against a very mobile and defensively solid opponent.
Ymer’s serve was always a bit too weak for him to do a great deal at this level until lately, but in 2020 he’s held serve 86.5% of the time in the eight matches he’s played so far.
He looks a lot more comfortable at the higher level now and especially on a windy day Khachanov may well find it tough to hit many winners past the excellent defence of the Swede.
Khachanov lost to a baseline grinder in John Millman just before Melbourne and if Ymer isn’t too nervous he can have a similarly neutralizing effect on the big Russian’s game.
We haven’t seen the best of Khachanov for some time now and even here in round one he went a set down to Mario Vilella Martinez, who’s 2-7 win/loss in his career versus top-100 opposition.
Ymer defeated an opponent in straights sets in Yasutaka Uchiyama, who likes to hit hard early in the rally with his forehand, and if he can remain calm Ymer has a game that can frustrate Khachanov in windy conditions.
Over 36.5 games at 1.91 looks the wager here.
Alexander Zverev vs Egor Gerasimov
The players will be protected from the wind and rain on Rod Laver, but will it help Alexander Zverev, who’s still struggling big time with his game?
Zverev may get lucky in that he’s facing an opponent in Egor Gerasimov who played a long five-setter than finished late at night in his last round, but if the Belarusian is fit for duty this is another one that might be tricky for the favourite.
I talked about Gerasimov’s recent good form ahead of his clash with Casper Ruud and he probably won’t get as much joy working on the Zverev backhand as Ruud’s, but Zverev was again shaky against a weaponless opponent on this surface in Marco Cecchinato in round one.
Gerasimov has held serve 90.2% of the time in his last 10 main level matches and given that Zverev has only held his own deal 77.2% of the time (and hit 0.47 double faults per game) in his last 10 I’m not keen on Zverev at 1.17 here.
The Cecchinato struggle was his first straight sets win in his last nine slam matches and of 51 career slam matches he’s won only 15 in straight sets (29%), so I’m happy with over 36.5 games here at 1.96.
Kevin Anderson was quite poor, as expected, it has to be said, in his match with Ilya Ivashka that he was fortunate to escape from and I’d expect Taylor Fritz to have a big chance in that one.
Anderson was all over the place at times off the ground and that’s what we planned for in that match, but he’ll need a pretty big improvement to justify favouritism against Fritz, who played well in his opener against an admittedly below par Tallon Griekspoor.
Gilles Simon has usually prevailed against the small group of players that I have listed in my database as ‘unpredictables’ with a 27-8 win/loss record, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against one of that group, Nick Kyrgios, on Thursday.
NK doesn’t have the best record at this tournament, considering he’s playing at home in often quick conditions, and much depends on what mood he’s in on the day, but 4.25 is tempting.
Only once since 2008 has Simon been priced up bigger than 4.0 against an opponent that’s not at some point been either a major winner or finalist and that was against the then world number five Zverev in 2017.
He won his last one at this price against Daniil Medvedev at Queen’s Club last summer, so for me in cool conditions at night I’m not keen on this Kyrgios price.
Andreas Seppi vs Stan Wawrinka
I’m not so sure that Stan Wawrinka is the player he was and in a clash of two veterans of the game against Andreas Seppi we’ll see if Stan can still justify being priced up as short as 1.20 versus a dangerous opponent.
Again, Seppi was one I had on my list the previous round as underdog against Miomir Kecmanovic and it’s remarkable how Seppi transforms his very ordinary form for most of the year into something much better in Melbourne.
Stan has a very good record against Seppi – hence the price – but I’ve only seen flashes from Stan in recent times that suggest that he should be this price against a Melbourne specialist like Seppi.
Indeed, when this pair met here in 2017 it was 7.50 shot Seppi that led in two of the three sets, but ended up losing all three in tie breaks.
The conditions should be calmer by the time these two play and it’s on Margaret Court anyway, so the weather may not play much of a part in this one, and Seppi +1.5 sets at 2.85 is worth the risk, I feel.