THE remaining places in the quarter-finals of the men’s singles at the 2018 Australian Open are up for grabs on Monday, with Roger Federer among those involved on day eight in Melbourne.
Pretty much everything I predicted proved correct on day seven in Melbourne, as Diego Schwartzman proved a tough opponent for Rafael Nadal, while Marin Cilic won 3-1 against Pablo Carreno Busta and Grigor Dimitrov defeated Nick Kyrgios.
I just had the one wager from that little lot though and it just about came in when Schwartzman sneaked over the handicap line against Nadal after a nervy seventh game of their fourth set.
The forecasters are predicting a sunny day on Monday, with 25C temperatures and around 60% humidity during the day, but it’s set to be pretty windy, with 27kph gusts in the afternoon.
Fabio Fognini vs Tomas Berdych
The first men’s singles match of the day is scheduled for around 13:00 local time (02:00 UK time) and features two players that can really light it up on their respective days.
Fognini at his best is a joy to watch, while Berdych, as he showed in the last round against Juan Martin Del Potro can be close to unplayable if he plays his absolute best for an entire match (or the vast majority of it).
And that’s what keeps this pair from winning major titles, that lack of consistency and inability to keep producing their best for long enough to defeat the elite – usually.
When they do land a big win over a top-10 or elite level opponent they’ve mainly failed to back it up too, with Berdych only twice having backed up a win over a top-10 player at a major with a victory the next round.
Both occasions were in 2010 when the Czech defeated Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back at Wimbledon 2010 and when he beat Andy Murray the French Open and Mikhail Youzhny the next round.
Since then he’s failed to win his next (completed) match after a top-10 victory five straight times and how many times have we watched Berdych put on a clinic one day and secretly fancied that he might just go all the way to watch him fail the next?
Probably not so many in the last couple of years, but over his career it must be a fair few and this one has ‘banana skin’ written all over it if Fabio is in the mood.
In Fognini’s last four matches at hard court majors against top quality opposition (all have been ranked between one and 13 in the world) he’s won two, lost one in five sets and been comfortably beaten in the other.
The one heavy loss was here in Melbourne against Djokovic in 2015, so no disgrace there, but he’s beaten Sam Querrey, who has a similarly big game to Berdych, gone five with Roberto Bautista Agut and beaten Nadal.
Another big factor here potentially is the wind, with Berdych often blown off course by strong winds, as his footwork isn’t nimble enough to change position once he’s set that big frame for a mighty wallop.
The career series is tied at 2-2, with only one clash coming on hard and that was when Berdych was a 1.10 chance at the 2011 US Open when Fognini gave up after failing to break the Czech at 5-5 in set one and didn’t win another game.
There’s always a chance of that happening with Fabio of course, but I’d be disappointed if he threw in the towel early here against a beatable opponent and in conditions that may well count against Berdych.
Fognini’s five setter against Julien Benneteau makes it a bit of a risk, but rarely is it worth betting on (or against) Fognini at a short price, so with the Italian in unusually good form early on in the season the 2.20 about him +1.5 sets looks the call.
Marton Fucsovics vs Roger Federer
An even bigger-priced wager I quite like, is the 3.20 on tie break played in Federer’s clash with Fucsovics, which takes place at around 15:00 local time (04:00 UK) on Rod Laver.
The concern here is that the often-nervy Fucsovics may not show up mentally for this biggest match of his career, but if he does play his best tennis, or near to it, a tie break is within his reach.
Looking at Fed’s most recent Grand Slam outings versus opponents ranked 75th or lower we find that in his last four completed matches he’s dropped sets twice and/or been taken to a tie break twice.
Noah Rubin, Dusan Lajovic, Jurgen Melzer and Mikhail Youzhny were the men concerned and given too that there’s a better than 50% chance of a tie break in Australian Open fourth round matches (21 of the last 39 have featured at least one) a price of 3.20 looks decent.
Federer has played all his matches at night so far and it’s never easy to switch to daytime conditions, so if Fucsovics can stay calm enough to play his tennis the breaker looks the bet here.
Fucsovics has only played one top-10 opponent before and he nearly won it, losing out 6-7, 7-5, 6-7 to Marin Cilic in Basel in October, and the experience of that match can surely only aid him here.
I wouldn’t say that Federer has been in top form so far and if Jan-Lennard Struff can force him to a breaker there’s no reason why Fucsovics can’t too.
Novak Djokovic doesn’t look to be in top physical shape and he can’t be in the best form of his life after so long out, but two things put me off taking Hyeon Chung to beat the Serb here (three, if you include the price).
I’m not convinced that Chung’s serve is good enough to keep the fine-returning Djokovic at bay for long and I don’t like Chung’s pre-match comments either.
“If I play him again, I'm just happy to share the court with Novak,” isn’t the kind of statement you want to hear if you’re backing Chung and while you have to take what they say with a pinch of salt that doesn’t sound like a winner talking.
I’d want a bigger price about Chung here and I’m not convinced at all about the ability of Tennys Sandgren to do much against Dominic Thiem even on a quick hard court.