THE irony of Wednesday’s rain delay, which was caused by the only few hours of light drizzle the UK has seen during the past month wasn’t lost on me, as it ended up being largely responsible for two daft losses on Thursday.
Both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Ruben Bemelmans were on top when play was called on Wednesday, and had to come back and try to break a big server straight off the bat the next day.
Kohlschreiber went 0-6 on break points against Muller and there wasn’t a lot that Bemelmans could have done on his two match points, as John Isner came up with four huge serves (one at 144mph) to win the game and another to save a break point the next game.
We got some back later though when Marcos Baghdatis saved match point and covered the set handicap, thanks to a Karen Khachanov choke, and Jiri Vesely was also an odds-against winner.
Finally, the third set proved to be key in the Bernard Tomic versus Kei Nishikori clash, with Tomic failing with three set points to take it (two before the tie break) and paying the price.
The forecast showers didn’t arrive on Thursday and the experts are expecting a hot day in the Wimbledon area on Friday, with no rain forecast, 29C temperatures and a wind speed of around 12kph.
Playing conditions are a little different tso far this year, with the lack of rain making the courts harder, quicker, and the ball is shifting through the air faster than it usually does, due to the hot weather.
Statistically speaking, round three has been the one with the most winning underdogs in the men’s singles at Wimbledon in the last five years, with 28% of betting underdogs upsetting the odds.
The amount of matches featuring a tie break in this round is 56% over the last five years, which is the fewest apart from round one (50%), while 33% of the matches in round three have gone over 10.5 games in the opening set.
As far as over sets is concerned, over 3.5 sets has been successful 60% of the time in round three in matches played between 2013 and 2017.
Looking back at rounds one and two in this year’s Wimbledon men’s singles it’s been pretty much on trend, with 21% of underdogs winning in round one and 25% in round two.
Round three starts on Friday and it looks a tricky day for value, but I’m going to risk a play on a slight underdog.
Adrian Mannarino vs Daniil Medvedev
The Frenchman has had a lot of joy in this match-up so far, with a couple of comfortable wins over the Russian on grass and outdoor hard, while Medvedev’s record against lefties in general also isn’t the best.
I was courtside for their first clash in Rosmalen a couple of years ago and while I’m willing to make allowances for the fact that Medvedev was playing only his third main level match that day he suffered a similar fate a year later against Mannarino.
That came on medium-fast outdoor hard (36.3 CPI) in Montreal and it was another of those matches where Medvedev lost the plot and racquets were broken and lots of moaning was forthcoming from the Russian – pretty similar to the Bemelmans match here at Wimbledon last year in fact.
So, he’s struggled against the slightly unorthodox, flat hitting, lefty style of the Frenchman so far and he’s lost five of his last six matches against lefties in a 4-7 overall record at main level.
Two of his wins were gimmes: Thiago Monteiro on a hard court and Horacio Zeballos on grass, while another came this year against the very much out of sorts Gilles Muller.
The Russian has plenty to prove at the moment against not only Mannarino, but also lefties in general, having lost in straight sets to Fernando Verdasco on grass in Rosmalen last month and of course to Bemelmans here last year.
The harder courts may well help Medvedev in the sense that the ball probably won’t stay as low and as a tall man that should aid him, so it’ll just be a point on the Frenchman for me.
John Isner vs Radu Albot
The American is another one likely to be helped by the drier, harder, higher-bouncing conditions, but I am still tempted by the over 3.5 sets in his clash with Albot.
We’ve already profited from Albot twice this week and the layers continue to make him a big underdog in matches he’s perfectly capable of being more than competitive in.
Again here, Albot has played Isner three times this season and won one, lost one in a decider and lost the most recent one on clay, on which surface the Moldovan has never won back-to-back matches on at tour or major level.
On grass he’s much better suited to the conditions and as I’ve said a few times this week he’s very determined and tough to shake off at Grand Slams, with 16 of his 18 matches having gone to at least four sets.
A good mover on this surface he’ll give Isner little rhythm to work with, with net rushes and returns taken early, all to try and rush the big man and expose his poor movement and some drop shots thrown in there as well.
There’ll be plenty of times during this match when none of that is possible and he’ll be a spectator if Isner serves as well as he did for the first three sets against Bemelmans, but I think Albot will have his moments.
He’s proven he can return the Isner serve on hard courts and his game isn’t oo dissimilar to that of Dudi Sela, who beat Isner here last year, with a low trajectory ball coming at Isner from the 5’9” (1.75m) Albot.
The only time in Isner’s career that he won in straight sets the match after a five setter the previous round was when he beat Louk Sorensen at the 2010 Australian Open after defeating Andreas Seppi 3-2.
So, I’m happy to side with Albot again and the over 3.5 sets at 1.80.
Elsewhere, Sam Querrey takes on Gael Monfils for only the third time in his career and this pair have never met on grass and indeed Monfils has very rarely faced a big server like Querrey on this surface.
Monfils has a fine record against the big servers on my database, winning 13 of his last 15 on all surfaces, but he’s only twice faced them on grass – once against Milos Raonic in Halle in 2013 (won in round one) and once versus Ivo Karlovic back in 2008 (lost in two tie breaks).
If I could trust the Frenchman’s fitness I may have taken a chance on him here, but as usual it’s virtually impossible to tell his physical (or mental for that matter) condition.
Against Paulo Lorenzi in the last round he had knee problems and had to have his left knee taped up, so we’re guessing once more as to how fit he is.
For what it’s worth (and it usually isn’t a lot), here’s what he said of the issue.
“I was a little slow for a lot of reasons. My knee has hurt since day before yesterday. I also have pain when I'm doing muscle work. I did not want to bend the knee, but it had to be done during the match to ease the pain.”
Roger Federer hasn’t been tested yet and history suggests he probably won’t be again, given he’s won all 15 of his round three matches at Wimbledon and only been taken to five sets once (by Julien Benneteau in 2012).
He could well have a routine time of it on this occasion too, given that opponent Jan-Lennard Struff played a near-four-hour match in round two against Ivo Karlovic and another five setter in round one against Leo Mayer – in both matches he had to come from behind to win.
Struff kept it close and covered the +8.5 games handicap when by met in Melbourne earlier this year and was a 6-4, 7-6 loser when they clashed on grass in Halle in 2016.
After two five setters he now faces Federer on Centre Court in what will be his maiden appearance on the most famous court in the sport, so I won’t be backing Struff to cover the handicap this time.
Dennis Novak has never faced any of the big servers on my list, due to the fact that he’s only played 10 matches at Tour and Grand Slam level, so I’m not sure how he’ll cope with the serve of Milos Raonic on Friday.
Lucas Pouille can serve pretty big at times, but he’s hardly Raonic, and despite the Canadian yet again struggling slightly with his fitness (this time a minor lung infection) it’s hard to see Novak landing another upset.
Philipp Kohlschreiber could give Kevin Anderson a hard time though, with the German more than capable of giving as good as he gets from big servers, but Anderson should enjoy these conditions and is starting to play pretty well.
I wouldn’t be backing Anderson at a price like 1.40 against Kohli though and that one could well go long.
I’m not even going to hazard a guess in Guido Pella’s match with Mackenzie McDonald, as there are far too many unknowns in that one, while Stefanos Tsitsipas should prove too classy for Thomas Fabbiano.