IT'S turning into one of those nightmare weeks at the French Open, with more bad luck to report on Tuesday, when Feli Lopez, who I said would be tested by Sergiy Stakhovsky, had a left arm injury and was beaten in straight sets, thus making our overs bet a loser.
That was after an injury didn’t affect matters earlier in the day when Fabio Fognini, despite admitting he’s undergoing “laser infiltration and treatment,” came up with his best tennis to cruise past Pablo Andujar.
At least Leonardo Mayer hasn’t yet made a mess of things and he looked in decent control against Julien Benneteau when play was called for bad light.
That said, at the same time, Tomas Berdych managed to lose both tie breakers from double mini-breaks up against Jeremy Chardy to give himself a mountain to climb on Wednesday.
Round two of the French Open men’s singles over the past five years has, like the rest of the tournament, been a poor one for betting underdogs, with only 16% of them winning between 2013 and 2017.
The 2013 French Open second round saw just one underdog winner from 31 matches, and there were only six last year, so as with round one it’s a thankless task trying to find value.
As far as tie breaks are concerned, 39% of the matches in round two played between 2013 and 2017 have featured a tie break, so on that trend we’d need a price of 2.56 as a guide before backing tie break played (unless Isner et al are involved).
The forecast predicts that the thunderstorms won’t reach Paris until around 18:00 local time on Wednesday, so we should get a reasonable amount of the day’s play in on day four.
Fernando Verdasco, Martin Klizan, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Benoit Paire and maybe Dusan Lajovic to some degree all look they have their chances as underdogs, and let’s see if we can find a way to play them correctly.
We’ve got a few round two matches on the card on Wednesday that should be very watchable, the first one being a fourth clash this season between Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Dominic Thiem vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
The layers clearly think that this best-of-five format and major tournament experience will be key in this one, with Thiem being put in as a 1.24 chance, despite having lost in straight sets to Tsitsipas in Barcelona just over a month ago.
Thiem was priced up as a 1.34 chance that day and although the Austrian has improved his form since then he’s hardly been at his best and he’s been quite up and down this clay swing.
He struggled in most of his matches last week in Lyon and while this fortnight is obviously more important than Lyon he still has some work to do if he’s harbouring any thoughts of making the French Open final.
Thiem’s a bit short for my liking today against an opponent who’s matched him in terms of hold/break stats on clay this season, beaten him on clay, and taken a set off him on hard courts too.
Their hold/break stats at main level on clay in 2018 are virtually identical, with Thiem on 110.7 (84.1% holds/26.6% breaks) from his 24 matches (19-5 win/loss), and Tsitsipas on 111.3 (86.6% holds/24.7% breaks) from his 16 (11-5).
In Thiem’s favour is that here at the French Open in his 17 career matches in the main draw (13-4 win/loss) his hold/break total is very similar to his regular season mark – on 111.3 (82% holds/31.3% breaks).
Also noteworthy is their comparative performance versus top-10 opponents on clay so far in 2018, with Thiem 4-3 and with a 102.5 hold/break total and Tsitsipas 2-3 and with a 96.3 hold/break total.
It’s definitely advantage Thiem here, but perhaps not by as much as a price of 1.24 suggests and Tsitsipas certainly isn’t lacking in confidence and won’t be anything like daunted playing on the big stage.
I expect the Austrian to come through this one, but Tsitsipas has enough quality to take this to four sets, with the 3-1 to Thiem at 3.80 looking a decent wager.
When you’ve got names like Klizan, Verdasco and Paire on the shortlist and Ernests Gulbis also involved in proceedings while in the middle of a bad run you’re asking for more pain, but we’re going to have to take a chance on at least one of them.
Benoit Paire’s already cost me one bet this week by a single point when he found some rare serving form against Roberto Carballes Baena when he needed it in round one and he is a tempting price against our man to win this quarter, Kei Nishikori.
The Frenchman has had success against Nishikori in the past, but who knows how Paire will shape up after that tough battle with RCB considering all his comments about his back problems.
He took some painkillers during the RCB match, so I think I’ll pass on that one, but Martin Klizan is interesting as underdog against a Gael Monfils who came into this tournament saying “if I won one match at Roland [Garros] I’ll be very happy.”
I’ve learned not to trust anything that Monfils says over the years, but he doesn’t seem to be fully fit and if I’m going with Klizan I’d probably side with him winning it fairly well and -1.5 sets at 3.25 fits the bill.
I can’t see Klizan winning it in a five set Monfils show in Paris and we really are guessing as to how fit Monfils is – we certainly can’t take his word for it – and another one with fitness doubts is Verdasco.
Fernando Verdasco vs Guido Andreozzi
The ever-unpredictable Verdasco stumbled over during his epic five set win over Yoshihito Nishioka in round one, but it didn’t seem too bad and he played doubles on Tuesday, so it can’t be that much of a problem.
He’s the second match scheduled on Court 6 on Wednesday and after that five set tussle and tumble the layers have made him slight underdog against Guido Andreozzi, which seems a bit odd.
Nando is not a player lacking in stamina and strength and we only have to look back to last year’s French Open for evidence of that when he beat Alexander Zverev in four sets, then went five with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and the next round he crushed Pablo Cuevas in straight sets.
Andreozzi has been winning matches at Challenger level, winning Tunis and making the semi finals in Aix En Provence lately, but this is a step up and Andreozzi too went five sets in round one here in Paris.
That was against Taylor Fritz when the Italian came back from 2-1 down to win it in a decider and while that match wasn’t over four hours like Verdasco’s was it was still over 3.5 hours, so hardly a walk in the park.
And that’s the first time that Andreozzi has played more than three sets in a match, so we’re hardly sure of how he will shape up today either.
That win over the 70th ranked Fritz is the Italian’s best career win in terms of ranking and it seems that the layers are either assuming Verdasco is unfit or making a lot of Andreozzi’s Challenger results.
Losses to John Millman and Gregoire Barrere in the last few weeks hardly make me want to rush out and back Andreozzi here after clobbering over 100 unforced errors in round one against Nishioka I’d expect better from Verdasco in round two.
Andreozzi seems a very shaky favourite to me and in case Verdasco is struggling with injury the 2.70 on him winning this -1.5 sets looks one way to go, with the straight win at 1.96 another option.
Matteo Berrettini vs Ernests Gulbis
This match is another where the layers have put a player in rather too short and this time it’s Gulbis, whose price in this one may be based more on years gone by than his current level.
Admittedly the inconsistent Latvian played quite well in Bordeaux, where he made the semi finals, but other than that he’s only won back-to-back matches at any level three times since St. Petersburg last year.
His win over Gilles Muller in round one came in a really poor match and one where Muller, who breaks serve at a rate of 9% in his French Open career, had 16 break point chances against the Gulbis serve.
At least Gulbis didn’t try to claim it was a decent match: “It wasn't good at all,” he said. “Too many errors. Whoever managed to put two balls in court was winning the point.”
We’ll see how Gulbis gets on against an opponent with a powerful game that’s not clay-averse, as Muller tends to be, in Berrettini, who’s been in good form of late.
The big-hitting Italian outgunned Estoril finalist Frances Tiafoe in Rome before playing pretty well against Zverev and having moved inside the top-100 this season on the back of some solid results he should arguably be favourite here.
I’d certainly take his forehand over Gulbis’s and against Oscar Otte he won 86% on his first serve and 66% on his second ball, giving up only two break point chances to his opponent all match.
You never know with Gulbis. He could turn it on any minute, but that rarely happens these days and I’ll take Berrettini as slight underdog here.
Dusan Lajovic has been playing some decent tennis of late and similarly to Tsitsipas against Thiem there could be some mileage in perhaps taking the over games or 3-1 win to Alexander Zverev in this match.
Maybe this is the tournament where Zverev finally proves himself at Grand Slam level after a string of below par results in majors and this is the sort of match that he needs to be winning in three or four sets if he wants to go deep in Paris.
Lajovic has posted some very decent hold/break stats of 82.3% holds/23.3% breaks (105.6 total) this season at main level on clay and it’s a big step up from Ricardas Berankis in round one.
One problem that Lajovic has had is that against very tall players his kick serve isn’t as effective and he’s actually lost 12 of his last 13 matches against players over 6’4” in height, such as Zverev.
He did beat Juan Martin Del Potro in Madrid though and probably should have taken down Kevin Anderson as well, so maybe he’s improving, but I still have him down as having a questionable temperament in the big moments.
Federico Delbonis has a good record against Pablo Carreno Busta, but the Argentine hasn’t shown much on the clay this season and his record at the French Open is a pretty poor 2-5.
He has the power to cause PCB problems, as he’s proven in the past, and there could well be a tie break or two in this, but the price on that isn’t big enough for me.
Roberto Bautista Agut didn’t look fit against Denis Istomin and had treatment for a hip problem, but the record of Santi Giraldo, both against RBA and at the French Open (and main level on clay lately) is poor.
Giraldo was knocking about with Novak Djokovic’s spiritual guru towards the end of last season and he was a little fortunate that Marcos Baghdatis retired against him in round one.
Grigor Dimitrov’s hold/break stats are not worthy of his status as one of the shorter priced outright bets for the French Open, but I’ll wait until someone a big more familiar with the clay than Jared Donaldson to take Dimitrov on.
Donaldson had a good win last round against Nicolas Jarry, but how much has that taken out of him and Dimitrov will probably progress in that one.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez hasn’t played a five setter since the 2015 US Open and it will be interesting to see how he shapes up against Karen Khachanov after going five with Stan Wawrinka in round one.
I’d expect Khachanov to come through that one and the -3.5 games is tempting after GGL’s round one battle at his veteran stage of his career.