IN hindsight I opted for the wrong overs sets bet of the two I considered on Saturday, with Benoit Paire failing to take Juan Martin Del Potro past three sets and Ernests Gulbis easily managing it versus Alexander Zverev.
Paire had his chances from 4-2 up in set two, but an easy volley which would have given him game point for a 5-2 lead was missed and the Frenchman melted down in the heat from there, losing his cool with the umpire and all the rest that goes with it.
However, we bounced back with ease later (much later) in the day when our handicap bet on Kei Nishikori to beat Nick Kyrgios was pretty much in when Kyrgios, in typical style, tanked the opening set after dropping his opening service game.
Nishikori took full advantage and was a worthy straight sets winner of that one in probably his best grass court performance, but he was certainly helped along by NK.
The courts are looking rather parched at the moment and they’re set to stay that way on Monday, with little chance of rain on another warm day of 28C forecast for the Wimbledon area. The wind is meant to pick up to around 20kph in the evening, but conditions are perfect for most of the day.
Round four of the men’s singles at Wimbledon in the last five years has produced an average of 24% underdog winners, while 63% of the matches have featured tie breaks.
Set one has gone over 10.5 games 30% of the time, while 53% of the matches have been decided in straight sets.
I think that the four favourites that may be worth taking on in one way or another on ‘Manic Monday’ are Milos Raonic, John Isner, Juan Martin Del Potro and perhaps Kei Nishikori.
Juan Martin Del Potro vs Gilles Simon
We narrowly failed when we went against Del Potro on the handicap with a Frenchman on Saturday, but we may well have better luck this time when a rather less combustible French player tries his luck against Delpo.
I always much prefer Simon’s game in quicker conditions when his flat, accurate hitting is given some assistance by the speedier courts, and if we look at his service hold stats on grass it backs my theory up.
Simon has held serve 82.1% of the time in his last 10 on grass and 83.6% of the time in his Wimbledon career (21-12 win/loss), while still breaking serve between 21 and 24% of the time, so as far as stats are concerned he’s close to Delpo.
The big Argentine has held serve 86.5% of the time and broken at a rate of 21.2% in his last 10 on grass and that’s similar to his all-time Wimbledon hold/break total of 110.0.
So, he’s about 5% better than Simon on those totals, which isn’t a lot, and their clashes (all on either grass or hard courts) have been battles, with Delpo only winning one of their seven (4-3 to Delpo) in straight sets.
And even that one shouldn’t have been 3-0 to Delpo really, as it was 7-6, 7-6, 7-5 and Simon had set points to win the opener, way back in 2011.
Although the vast majority of their clashes were from the dim and distant past there was little between them, with Delpo only winning 2.8% more points than Simon on first serve and 1% more on second serve in their head-to-head clashes.
And it’s been Simon that’s often hit more aces, which is surprising, but it shows how much more he gets out of his game in these conditions – his service hold percentage in the last year on indoor hard is 65.6, while on outdoor hard it’s 74.3 and on clay 73.2. On grass that leaps up to 82.1 in his last 10.
Simon out-aced Delpo four times in those seven career clashes and on two of the three occasions that Delpo hit the most aces he only did so by one ace overall., so the price of 7-1 I saw today about Simon to hit most aces looks generous.
Delpo would be delighted to get this one done in straight sets, but Simon has been good so far this tournament and over 35.5 games is the one for me here.
Mackenzie McDonald vs Milos Raonic
I’m going to take a chance here on McDonald maintaining his recent form into week two of a major for the first time and I’ll take the +5.5 games on the American.
McDonald has played very well on the grass this swing and the only match in six at main level that he’s lost was one we backed him in and he should have won against Jeremy Chardy.
McDonald failed to close the match out from 4-2 up in the final set breaker that day in Rosmalen against Chardy, but in those six matches this grass swing at main level he’s held serve 91.5% of the time and broken 15% of the time.
That’s decent stuff indeed and he’s also shown that he can hang in there mentally and come out on top when faced with a big serve and a barrage of winners, as he did when beating Nicolas Jarry two rounds ago.
Jarry hit 103 winners that day (24 of which were aces) and that experience should stand him in good stead against an even bigger server in Raonic on Monday.
Raonic got a bit lucky with the delay to his match against Dennis Novak when it was called for bad light at 7-6, 4-6, *5-6, and Novak was immediately broken and dismissed in the final set when they came back the next day.
Prior to that he beat John Millman in three tie breaks, so Raonic has hardly been sweeping his opponents aside (the hopelessly outmatched Liam Broady aside), and again he faces an opponent of similar stature.
Raonic failed to cover -5.5 games against either Novak or Millman and if we look further back in his Wimbledon career we find that he’s only covered -5.5 games in two of his last 13 matches here – the Broady match and one against Jan-Lennard Struff last season.
Some of the opponents that Raonic has failed to cover -5.5 games against at Wimbledon include Albert Ramos, Daniel Gimeno-Traver, and Igor Sijsling, as well as Novak and Millman, and McDonald’s aggressive ground game should be good enough for the American to cover it as well.
The drier conditions at Wimbledon this year seem to be helping John Isner a bit, with the big man’s serve firing through and the lack of grass probably enabling him to move better than he normally does on this surface.
Even so, he’s a bit skinny to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, who’s taken to grass well by now, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Greek were able to nick the win on Monday.
What worries me is Tsitsipas’ record in tie breaks, which is only 10-16 at main level so far, and that puts him at a disadvantage against Isner, who won the two tie breaks they contested in Shanghai last year (on indoor courts, due to rain).
It’s always interesting in this second week to see how the betting underdogs fare against the best and a case in point is Karen Khachanov, who faces Novak Djokovic on Monday.
Khachanov is 1-14 against the players I have listed as ‘top-10 quality’ and with a hold/break total of just 88.9 in those matches.
He was a little fortunate to get past both Marcos Baghdatis and Frances Tiafoe (the latter struggling with some sort of illness) and while Djokovic isn’t the player he was I’d still expect him to win this one in straight sets.
Khachanov’s lack of patience surely won’t help him against Djokovic and his tendency to pull the trigger either too early or from poor positions will play right into Novak’s hands I would have thought.
Ernests Gulbis isn’t without a chance against Kei Nishikori if he has a good day and the Japanese isn’t on his game, with the Latvian buzzing after his won over Alexander Zverev in the last round.
Ernie’s a bit too up and down for my liking these days – even more than in his glory days (such as they were) – but he can still light it up for a couple of sets and I’d hesitate to call Kei a cert for this match. I’d probably go with the 3-1 to Nishikori in this one.
Gael Monfils showed exactly why (as if we didn’t already know) he’s a nightmare to try and bet for or against, with his injury theatrics that fried poor old Sam Querrey’s brain in the last round.
From a set up in their clash Querrey watched on as Gael took one of his frequent MTOs (this time for a supposed groin tweak on top of the knee problem he already had), but surprise, surprise, there was nothing wrong with him and he went on to win at a canter.
I’ll leave betting on the Gael Monfils show to someone else, if he serves as well as he did against Querrey then Kevin Anderson may well find it tough, as Lamonf’s recent performances on grass have been much better than earlier in his career.
It’s hard to see either of the lefties (Jiri Vesely and Adrian Mannarino) having the belief that they can challenge Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, with both favourites looking highly likely to progress.
There’s always some doubt over Nadal on grass and Vesely may well force a tie break against him given his 90% hold of serve mark in his career at Wimbledon, and that’s a 1.95 chance.