WE managed to find a couple of odds-against winners on Wednesday in Paris when Fernando Verdasco easily covered the -1.5 set handicap in a straight sets win over Guido Andreozzi and Matteo Berrettini defeated Ernests Gulbis.
There’s roughly a 77% chance of us landing another one on Thursday as well when Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas continue their match, which was called for bad light with Thiem leading 2-1.
It’s now an easy one to cover, with our 3.80 wager on Thiem winning it 3-1 now a 1.29 chance.
There was a classic example in another of our matches as to how the conditions can totally change a bet on clay when Leonardo Mayer was beaten from a set up and 1.10 in-play by Julien Benneteau.
Because of the rain their match was delayed and ended up being called for bad light on Tuesday and when they came back on Wednesday conditions had changed, Benny played much better, Mayer was wayward, and the match totally changed course.
The forecast suggests that the best of the conditions on Thursday will be from the morning up until around 14:00 local time, at which point there could be scattered thunderstorms and showers.
Sergiy Stakhovsky, Casper Ruud, Pablo Cuevas, possibly Jan-Lennard Struff and John Isner on the over games all make the shortlist today.
John Isner vs Horacio Zeballos
We went with Isner on the set one overs in his round one match and, well, that was the only set that didn’t go to a tie break, which is typical of our luck just at the moment.
This is hardly the most original wager of the day, but once again the chances of Isner breaking serve much (if at all) on clay are pretty slim (5.7% of the time, in fact).
On Thursday he takes on Zeballos, who’s had plenty of experience of facing big servers at majors, beating Ivo Karlovic 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 here in Paris last year and losing 22-20 in the final set against the same opponent in Melbourne.
His opening set against the big servers in my database has gone over 10.5 games five times from his last seven matches on all surfaces and the last time he faced Isner on clay the first set went to a tie break.
Zeballos has the right sort of profile for this bet, holding 82.8% of the time on clay this past 12 months at main level and breaking only 14.9% of the time.
The Argentine does have a poor record against big servers of 2-16 on all surfaces at all levels and in those matches he’s broken serve only 5.5% of the time (on clay 1-9 win/loss and 7% breaks).
Slight odds-against on over 10.5 games in set one here looks decent, with these break of serve stats taken into account.
Sergiy Stakhovsky vs Mischa Zverev
Similarly to the Verdasco match yesterday I’m a little puzzled by the prices in this one and I can only assume they’re based on the career head-to-head, which is very old and hardly relevant to the here and now.
Zverev leads it 4-1, but the most recent one was five years ago on hard courts and the others are from between 2007 to 2010.
We were unlucky (or I chose the wrong bet again) with Stakho in the last round when I highlighted him as likely to cause Feli Lopez some problems on the damp clay, but Stakho ended up winning far too easily.
Lopez was struggling with a left arm injury that may well have hampered him that day, but Stakho, as he often does, raised his level in the main draw of a major.
Zverev’s record, both on clay generally and at the French Open, is not good, with the conditions as unsuitable for him as they usually are for Stakho, and his hold/break mark of 82.0 in his seven French Open main draw matches tells a tale.
He’s lost six of those and the only success he’s had here came a few days ago when he beat the semi-retired Flo Mayer, while if we take a glance at Stakhovsky’s stats here we find they’re far superior.
He’s 7-8 in Paris in the main draw and he’s beaten Kei Nishikori, Alexandr Dolgopolov and now Lopez, all as betting underdog, compiling hold/break stats of 76.7% holds/20.6% breaks for a decent total of 97.3.
That’s not bad for a man that supposedly can’t play on clay, while Zverev has lost four times at the French Open to players ranked between 104 and 187.
Stakho warmed up for this clash with the net-rushing leftie Zverev by playing another left-hander who likes to attack the net in Lopez, which is ideal preparation. This match should be about 50/50 for me and I’ll take Stakho at this price.
Richard Gasquet had a comfortable time of it in round one against a very much out of sorts Andreas Seppi, who said of his performance, “One of the worst games of my life. I'm sorry to have played so on such an important field, I was embarrassing.”
Now he faces an opponent that’s improved a lot on clay this season in Malek Jaziri, who’s actually compiled a hold/break total of 109.6 (80.8% holds/28.8% breaks) from his 14 matches (9-5 win/loss).
Only five of those have been against top-50 opponents, but he did win a couple of them and should also have defeated Grigor Dimitrov in the one he lost; however when he beat Marin Cilic it was a just-married and injured Cilic.
I wouldn’t have thought Jaziri’s backhand would stand up to the test against Gasquet over the best of five, but he could well take it past 33.5 total games.
Adam Pavlasek has been playing well of late, winning the Rome Challenger after splitting with his coach and fitness trainer and saying: “I have been experiencing a difficult time in my personal life too, I have had my head filled with rotten nonsense.”
It’s funny what a few wins can do and now he’s in round two of the French Open facing Diego Schwartzman, who was very solid in his round one match and should prove too much for Pavlasek.
I said before Ruben Bemelmans’ clash with Yuki Bhambri that the Belgian should have been slight favourite and he duly obliged by beating Bhambri in straight sets, but his next match against Jurgen Zopp looks a tricky call.
Zopp, not exactly unexpectedly, beat Jack Sock in round one, and he does lead the career series 3-1, but they were all on hard courts between 2006 and 2012, and Zopp’s poor record with injuries means I wouldn’t fancy backing him after a five setter.
That Sock win is Zopp’s only fifth set win at a major, so there’s no history to look back on regarding how he fared the next round, but I’d probably favour Bemelmans on fitness here.
Zopp’s only ever played three main level matches against lefties in his career (lost all three), so this one looks one either to chance Bemelmans in or avoid.
Denis Shapovalov has come on massively since his terrible level on clay at the start of this swing and he should be too good for Maximilian Marterer, while Borna Coric is expected to beat Thomas Fabbiano, who only just edged past Matt Ebden in round one in five sets and may be outclassed here.
Albert Ramos vs Casper Ruud
There’s little between this pair based on their 2018 main level clay court hold/break numbers, with Ramos’ level a fair bit lower this season than in years gone by.
The Spaniard in his 23 matches (12-11 win/loss) on clay so far this season is short of the 100-mark on a hold/break total of 99.3 (78.6% holds/20.7% breaks) and it’s that latter facet of the game, the return, that’s a good 7-8% down on past levels.
I was expecting him to be tested by Mikhail Kukushkin in round one, but the Kazakh lost an opening set tie break 0-7 and faded pretty quickly after that, and perhaps Ramos has saved his best tennis for Paris.
He does have a good record here of late, but my interest here is to take him on early, as Ruud played a five setter in his round one encounter and he may not have the legs for five sets of baseline grinding with Ramos.
The young Norwegian led Jordan Thompson 2-0 in that one, but admitted after the match: “I got a little tired after the first two sets. I felt I dropped off a little and then he hit back. It's a little different playing best-of-five sets, but I managed to extract some extra power that I had left.
Ruud, in his 16-match main level career on clay (8-8 win/loss), has compiled a tidy hold/break total of 102.2 (81% holds/21.2% breaks) and one of those 16 was against Ramos in Barcelona last season.
Ramos was a tight 7-6, 6-4 winner that day, but Ruud was 4-1 up in the opener and had a couple of set points in the tie break, and it’s set one where I like Ruud here.
Ramos has struggled at the beginning of his matches lately, losing 10 of his last 11 opening sets this season, with the one win coming in the Kukushkin match on a breaker.
With that and Ruud’s possible fitness issue in mind the 2.40 about Ruud winning set one looks decent.
Another one from my shortlist is Pablo Cuevas and he has a reasonable shot of upsetting Kevin Anderson, but I’d like conditions to be slow, and I’ll probably pass if there’s no more rain between now and the start of the match.
The pair haven’t clashed since Anderson beat Cuevas in a final set tie break at the 2014 US Open, but with Cuevas and Anderson both holding high tie breaks per set marks on clay due to their weak break of serve percentages the overs is a distinct possibility in this one.
The final one I thought about was Jan-Lennard Struff on a fatigue basis over Steve Johnson, who’s played a lot lately, but what puts me off Struff is his 2-5 record at the French Open and hold of serve mark of 69.9% in those matches.
Struff played pretty well in round one, although Evgeny Donskoy was poor, but I’ll stick with the three wagers on Thursday.