WE'VE got quarter final and semi final action from Brisbane, Doha and Pune on the ATP World Tour on Friday, with eight matches scheduled for day five of the opening week of the season.
Kyle Edmund overcame a second set blip to land us a handy underdog winner in Brisbane on Thursday, with the Brit ending up having to win in three after blowing a set and 3-1 (break point for 4-1) lead in set two against Hyeon Chung.
Then Grigor Dimitrov provided us with a welcome 3.85 winner when the Bulgarian defeated John Millman by two sets to one in the sort of tight encounter I expected in that one.
We’ve got our Brisbane long shot Denis Istomin going for us at around 03:30 UK time on Friday, with the Uzbek taking on Ryan Harrison for a semi spot where he’d face either Michael Mmoh or Alex De Minaur.
I’d have taken that at the start of the week and when Istomin is serving well and hitting cleanly like he is this week he’ll be tough to stop, so I’m hopeful that he can get past Harrison.
The prospect of having a wager in a match involving Nick Kyrgios and Alexandr Dolgopolov leaves me cold, with NK yet again moaning about one injury or another and Dolgo being Dolgo.
This time it’s the left knee that’s the issue for Kyrgios, who said after his opening match: “I've been given a hip program that I have to do pretty much every day and I felt good, then just something like this [the knee] to flare-up – it's a bit disappointing. But I am happy to get through and hopefully I can manage it.”
That one is one to watch for me, as is the clash between the two young guns, Michael Mmoh and Alex De Minaur, who are meeting for the first time since US Open juniors in 2015.
The Aussie won that one in three from a set down and he’s been made slight favourite at 1.72, but that’s probably down to perceived ‘home advantage’ and who knows how either of these two will react in what’s a big match for both.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Kyle Edmund
The Bulgarian is entitled to improve upon his opening match of the season, but he’ll need to, with Edmund likely to prove an equally tough, if not tougher, opponent as Millman was.
Dimitrov was way off his best form against Millman, hitting 42 unforced errors, and while you’d probably expect a sluggish start to the season after such a great end to 2017 for Dimitrov this clash with Edmund may come a few matches too soon.
The World Tour Finals champion met Edmund in somewhat similar circumstances in Washington DC last season when Dimitrov was playing his first match since Wimbledon and emerged a narrow winner in three sets.
This time Dimitrov has had a good six weeks off and his price of 1.34 looks a tad short given that Edmund has played six sets here in Brisbane already and should be starting to feel in form.
The Brit still has his ups and downs in matches, as shown again in the second half of the second set against Chung, but he’s getting closer to the standard required to really challenge these top players.
Edmund took sets off Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic last season and played tie breaks against Novak Djokovic, Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev, so I think we’re seeing a steady improvement from the Brit.
His stats suggest that, with a very decent hold/break mark of 105.2 in his last 35 matches in 12 months on outdoor hard, and that’s only 2.4% behind Dimitrov, so I’d expect this one to be competitive all told.
That 1.34 on Dimitrov is a fair bit shorter than the 1.49 that he started the Washington DC match at and a few wagers appeal here, including over games, the handicap on Edmund, or the straight win for the Brit.
Guido Pella vs Andrey Rublev
The other one I like in terms of betting value on Friday is to take on Rublev, who looks rather short in price at 1.46 against Pella, who’s very much improved on hard courts these days.
Both of these men have played 19 main level matches on outdoor hard courts over the last 12 months and it’s Pella that comes out on top in the hold/break stats, with a very solid mark of 101.6 (80.1% holds/21.5% breaks).
That’s better than the 100.9 of Rublev (74.8% holds/26.1% breaks) and the Russian’s record against left-handers doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny either.
Fernando Verdasco should have beaten him in straight sets in round one and if we look at Rublev’s last 17 completed matches at all levels against lefties we see that Rublev has only won one of them in straight sets and that was against world number 1401 Taha Tifnouti in qualies for Marrakech in 2016.
That record has to be a real worry if you’re backing Rublev at 1.46 on Friday and it looks no value at all given also how hit and miss and temperamental Rublev still is at times.
Pella has improved markedly on hard courts of late and made the semis in quick conditions in Chengdu towards the end of 2017, beating Dominic Thiem, Borna Coroc and Taylor Fritz before losing to Marcos Baghdatis in a decider.
The Argentine looks a decent price here and worth a small wager at 2.70.
Over in Pune it always looked like it would probably be a tournament for the higher seeds and Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson are favourites to progress to the final there, but neither look like certs.
Cilic has a poor record against Gilles Simon, but most of those matches were from years ago and I haven’t seen much of Simon this week. The Frenchman will need to be at a much better level than he was in 2017 to cause a surprise there.
Anderson and Benoit Paire have never met in their careers, but Paire has certainly had to work hard to reach this stage and against had the trainer out for blisters on Thursday in a deciding set win over Robin Haase.
He also served poorly at just 41% and 43% in his two matches so far and he doesn’t seem in the right sort of form or fitness to cause an upset, but you never know with Benoit.