ROUND two of the men’s singles at the 2018 Australian Open completes on Thursday, with 16 matches scheduled for day four at Melbourne Park.
We lost Belinda Bencic very disappointingly to a defeat by 124th ranked Luksika Kumkhum on Wednesday, while Denis Istomin didn’t look fully fit in a one-sided contest against Kyle Edmund, who produced a very good performance to win in straights.
I still think Kyle was too short at 1.41 for that match, but our second wager of the day was a winner when Marcos Baghdatis, after putting us through the ringer in set two, covered the over 36.5 games against Andrey Rublev.
We’re set for by far the warmest day of the tournament so far on Thursday, with the dial reaching 37C in the shade, so tough conditions, and there’s a 23kph wind around as well. So it’s worth thinking about those that tend to struggle in the heat and see if it’s worth taking them on at the prices.
With that in mind, then, of those playing today, the likes of David Goffin, Richard Gasquet, Adrian Mannarino and Daniil Medvedev have all been known to suffer in these sorts of extreme heat conditions and I wouldn’t be too trusting of Alexander Zverev either.
Peter Gojowczyk vs Alexander Zverev
Zverev the younger was far from convincing in his round one match against the limited Thomas Fabbiano, who served for both the second and third sets before going on to lose them 7-5 and 7-6.
Zverev admitted to being “a little bit rusty” after that victory over Fabbiano and he should improve for this match against his compatriot Gojowczyk, but odds of 5.20 are a little insulting to Gojowczyk who’s been playing good attacking tennis this year and last.
Indeed, in his last 13 matches in the past 12 months on outdoor hard at main level Gojowczyk has compiled a service hold/break total of 109.3 from 79.9% holds and 29.4% breaks and this should at least be a test for a less than peak form Zverev.
Of course, those stats aren’t from facing top class opposition week-in, week-out, but Gojowczk has held his own against Gael Monfils (should have taken Lamonf to three in Doha), Kyle Edmund, Marcos Baghdatis and defeated Jack Sock and Leo Mayer in that time and he’ll certainly be aided in his attacking intent by the pacy courts here in Melbourne.
HiSense isn’t the quickest, but on a very hot day it’ll still be lively (and 35C in the shade) at 18:00 local time, so it’ll be a physical test for Zverev, who’s for me unproven at best in these conditions.
What would also concern me as a Zverev backer here at cramped odds are his hard court major hold/break stats, which are 81.8% holds/17.2% breaks in his 10 career matches.
He was beaten as a similarly priced favourite by Borna Coric at the US Open in his previous Grand Slam and Zverev is still to show what he can do at this level, so +2.5 sets on Gojowczyk at 1.78 looks the bet here.
Of the others on the shortlist it would be very good for our outright on Juan Martin Del Potro if David Goffin were beaten and he has lost two of his three against veteran Julien Benneteau.
Goffin was injured and exhausted in their most recent clash in Paris, but the Belgian has really wilted in the heat in the past and plays at around 15:00 local time when it’ll be very hot.
Daniil Medvedev is also likely to struggle after a lot of matches lately (21 sets in the last 10 days) and he’s a doubtful one in the heat anyway, but his price reflects that as a 2.75 underdog against Hyeon Chung.
Jiri Vesely vs Adrian Mannarino
I was happy to go against Vesely at what looked a short price in his round one match, but now that he has that under his belt he looks a big price at 3.25 against an opponent he last faced as a 2.5 shot (and before that 1.60).
The pair have clashed on only those two occasions when Vesely won the Auckland title in the final against Mannarino in 2015 in straight sets and last autumn in Tokyo when the Frenchman won by the same scoreline.
It’s certainly Mannarino that has the best form in the past year, but he’s not one to trust in the extreme heat, and produced one of the most unfortunate retirements I can recall here in Melbourne in 2015.
He led Feli Lopez by two sets and 4-0 and missed a match point before retiring unable to move and was given morphine and rehydration treatment after the match, so in Thursday’s forecasted weather it’s a very risky bet to back Mannarino at 1.35.
The pair are due to play at around 1pm (second match on Court 13 after 11am) and as well as being brutally hot the quick conditions will also help the powerful game of Vesely.
We did well backing Lorenzo Sonego against Robin Haase the other day and the fast conditions in the heat will also aid the big serving of the Italian against Richard Gasquet, who has certainly been known to struggle in very hot conditions.
The Frenchman hasn’t looked in form so far this year in losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas and failing to impress against the limited game of Blaz Kavcic, so Sonego could be worth a small investment at a very backable price of 8.0.
This one is due on court at around 16:30 local time, but it’ll still be very hot and Gasquet looks a risky wager at 1.09 in such conditions.
Plenty of others could suffer in this heat if the forecast is correct, but probably not Swiss pair Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, who get the night matches. It’ll still be hot, but certainly the best of the conditions have been handed to Fed and Stan.
Wawrinka’s physical condition is tough to call after just one match back, but Tennys Sandgren joins Ricardas Berankis as a player I wouldn’t fancy to beat even a not fully fit Wawrinka.
Novak Djokovic may be tested by Gael Monfils, depending upon what mood the latter is in, as few could forget the bizarre semi-tank that Lamonf produced against Djokovic in the US Open semi final of 2016. Gael didn’t exactly look fully fit in his round one match either.
Tomas Berdych also looks short enough against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who’s beaten Berdych on the fast hard courts of Shanghai before, but I’m not sure how much GGL has left at the top level these days.
It would be sadly typical of Fernando Verdasco to lose to Maximilian Marterer after a fine win in round one against Roberto Bautista Agut, but again, conditions may well play a part in that one.
Marterer won’t have played a best of five match in heat like this, so we’d be guessing as to how he’ll handle it, but I can’t help thinking of how Nando lost from a set up against Dudi Sela here after he’d just beaten Rafa Nadal the previous round.