ANOTHER loss in a tie break and a fine display from Daniil Medvedev left us out of pocket again on Saturday in what became a rough opening week in Melbourne.
As rare as underdog winners usually are in this tournament, 2019 so far has been the second sparsest this decade as far as winning dogs are concerned and if you thought week one was tough, it doesn’t get any easier in week two usually.
If you’re the sort of bettor that likes to find a bit of underdog value, you may be out of luck, as a whopping 85% of the favourites have won from round four onwards so far this decade.
All of which highlights why I opted to be circumspect with the number of bets and the stakes this fortnight.
We’ve got four matches from round four on Sunday when the weather forecast says to expect a sunny afternoon, but not a hot one at only 22C, and with 25kph winds around.
Marin Cilic had to rely on a trademark meltdown from Fernando Verdasco to avoid defeat in round three, with the Spaniard, in typical style, double faulting when match point up.
Cilic was very slow to get going in that one, which may be due to a lack of matches this season, and perhaps that five-set struggle against an in-form Verdasco will have done him some good.
His career series with Roberto Bautista Agut is interesting in the sense that although Cilic leads it 4-1 and has held serve against RBA 90% of the time in those five matches he’s saved a huge amount of break points.
RBA has created more break chances (0.58 per game to 0.45 per game) in the series, but Cilic has saved 82.9% of the ones against him and combined with his extra power on serve that’s been enough to get him the wins.
The layers don’t fancy his chances as much this time as they did in previous encounters, with Cilic being priced up between 1.29 at the shortest and 1.66 the biggest and now he’s a 1.78 chance.
I said in my outright preview that RBA was a fair wager to win this quarter and he still has a shot, but evens is a little short for me in this match-up.
Frances Tiafoe vs Grigor Dimitrov
Tiafoe should have beaten Dimitrov in similar conditions at the Rogers Cup in Toronto around five months ago, leading as he did by a break in each of the three sets played, yet he somehow managed to lose the match (winning one point more overall).
The opening prices that day were 1.89 on Dimitrov and 2.03 about Tiafoe and given that the Bulgarian has barely improved at all since that day (8-7 win/loss since then at main level) I’m not so sure that he should be a 1.37 chance here.
Indeed, it’s actually Tiafoe that has the better stats of the pair of them in terms of their service hold/break totals in the last 12-months on outdoor hard and main level (103.6 to 101.6) and surely the layers aren’t pricing this on a Dimitrov win over Tiafoe in the exhibition Laver Cup in September?
If they are that’s a questionable decision and perhaps it’s more abut possible fatigue for Tiafoe after that five set win over Andreas Seppi the other day, but conditions were hardly brutal – in fact they had to stop for rain.
I did question Tiafoe’s stamina in my preview of that match and it was one that Seppi had all the momentum in at the start of set four, but immediately let it go, but at these prices I’m happy to side with the American in some way.
Not only does Tiafoe have that better hold/break total than Dimitrov on outdoor hard at main level against all opponents, but he also has a better one versus the current top-25, where he’s a respectable 7-13 win/loss, with a 92.6 hold/break total.
Against the same class of opposition Dimitrov is 3-11 win/loss and with an 86.9 hold/break total, so I’m at a loss to see what Dimitrov has done to be priced this short.
He only just covered a -4.5 games handicap against world number 102, Thomas Fabbiano, who was coming off a five setter, so all told the +4.5 games on Tiafoe looks the call here.
Another possibility is to side with Stefanos Tsitsipas in some way against Roger Federer in the night match on Laver at 08:00 UK time.
This pair played out a tight one at Hopman Cup a few weeks ago that finished in two breakers to the Swiss and on the stats Federer is a strong favourite again, but the Greek, who gets plenty of support here, can test Federer on his best form.
Having won four of his last six main level matches against top-10 opposition (all six involved a tie break) and having faced Fed so recently (and run him close) Tsitsipas should fancy this, but it’s very rare that Fed loses to inexperienced players at majors.
The last player of around Tsitsipas’ age to beat Fed at a slam was Juan Martin Del Potro in the 2009 US Open final, but I’d be tempted to go with overs or the 3-1 set score to Federer if I were betting in this one.
Finally, our quarter winner hope Tomas Berdych has a tough task against Rafael Nadal on the slow Laver court, but at least it’s a day match (14:30 local time) and if the Czech goes into this with the right attitude he should be the first player to test Nadal this tournament.
Berdych beat Nadal in straight sets the last time they clashed at main level on a hard court (here in Melbourne in 2015) and it will be interested to see how fit Rafa is after three very comfortable wins against opponents lacking the power to put him on the back foot.
Berdych doesn’t lack anything in that regard and if I wasn’t already on him the 3.60 about him winning set one is tempting, given how well he’s started the season.
- 0.5 points win Tiafoe +4.5 games to beat Dimitrov (1.81, Unibet)