THE remaining two men’s quarter finals at the French Open are set for Wednesday, with Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem both in action, and Sean Calvert returns to preview the action in Paris on day 11.
Rain was a problem in Paris on Tuesday and if the weather forecast is correct we should expect more delays in proceedings on Wednesday in Paris, as rain is predicted pretty much all day.
And that could yet have a big influence on the outcome of this tournament, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal perhaps getting a day’s more rest in their legs than the winners of the second two quarter-finals.
Novak Djokovic vs Alexander Zverev
On current form it’s hard to see Novak Djokovic not proving too strong for Alexander Zverev, who’s finally beaten a top-20 opponent at a major with a win over an errant Fabio Fognini in round four.
I was very disappointed in Fognini from the middle of set two in that match, with the Italian all over the place with errors (over 50 in total for the match) and allowing a fairly dominant situation to slip away from him.
Perhaps the calf issue was bothering Fognini, but there’s little chance that Djokovic will be coughing up 50 unforced errors against Zverev, who still to me looks miles away from his best form.
Unless he decides to become much more aggressive with his court positioning and forehand he hasn’t much hope against a Djokovic that looked very good in what could have been a bit of a test against Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday.
If we look at the weak second serve stats of Zverev this clay swing we find that on no fewer than nine occasions the German has failed to win more than 40% of his second serve points.
And that’s not been against the elite either. The full list reads as follows:
Fognini in Monte-Carlo 36%; Jarry in Barcelona 36%; Garin in Munich 34%; Hurkacz in Madrid 40%; Berrettini in Rome 27%; Gulbis in Geneva 27%; Dellien in Geneva 29%; Millman in Paris 37%; and Lajovic in Paris 33%.
They’re nowhere near the sorts of numbers one would expect from a top-five ranked player and unless there’s a massive improvement Djokovic will surely prey on the shaky and pushy Zverev forehand all match long.
It’s not impossible that Zverev can find his form from seemingly nowhere. He did it at the O2 last winter and ended up beating Djokovic as a 6.73 chance in the final, but those days seem a while ago for Zverev right now.
Lately he’s been trying to win by waiting for errors from the opponent and much of the time he’s got away with it, as he did against Fognini, but it seems unlikely to work against the elite and I’m happy to take Djokovic -6.5 games here at 1.70.
The Serb was excellent against Struff and he looks to be moving through the gears nicely as the tournament reaches the business end.
One other bet of interest is the Zverev -3.5 on most double faults, with the German running this season at a whopping 0.45 per game on all surfaces and 0.46 per game on clay.
He hit 12 against Fabio Fognini and with pressure ramped up by the fine returning of Djokovic surely more are likely on Wednesday. Djokovic, by comparison, has hit 0.17 on all surfaces this season and 0.18 on clay.
The last of the quarter finals might be a competitive affair if the rain makes the courts damp and blunts the effect of the heavy top spin that Dominic Thiem likes to put on the ball.
He’s struggled against the power of Karen Khachanov on quicker surfaces, but on clay the Austrian looks a decent favourite, but I’d be a bit worried about the weather if I were backing Thiem at a price like 1.28.
Khachanov’s three wins over Thiem were all excusable from the latter’s point of view, with Thiem, as ever, exhausted by the time he faced Khachanov in Bercy at the end of last season and two exhibition level matches in Abu Dhabi just before New Year mean little, too.
All that shows is that Khachanov can rush Thiem on hard courts with his power, but on clay I’d expect Thiem to have the answers.
If we’re going to have one of those on/off days and long delays on Wednesday it’ll be tough for Thiem to keep his level up throughout and in any case Khachanov zoning for a set seems quite likely and the 3-1 to Thiem is worth considering at 3.65.
But with the forecast looking horrible for Wednesday it looks a day to be circumspect with our bets and just one for me on day 11.
- 0.5 points win Djokovic -6.5 games to beat Zverev (1.70, Unibet)