ROUND three of the men’s singles at the 2019 US Open begins on Friday and Sean Calvert returns to assess the action on day five in New York.
Friday’s play has eight matches from round three on the schedule and it’s set to be another warm one, with 30C temperatures in the shade and round about 40% humidity, plus 23kph winds.
Round three of the men’s singles at the US Open over the last seven years has produced an average of 24% of underdog winners (only 3 of 16 won last year) and 44% of its matches have featured tie breaks.
The big question to many regarding Friday’s play is how fit is world number one and defending US Open champion Novak Djokovic?
He certainly appears to be struggling with a shoulder injury and after a laboured win over Juan Ignacio Londero a couple of days ago he said: “I’m probably going to freeze my arm for 48 hours and see how it goes. It was definitely affecting my serve and backhand, but look I don’t want to talk about it too much.”
“It is new in a sense that I have never had this particular issue in my career, but it's not new in a sense that it has been bothering me couple of weeks,” he added. “It has been there – some days it’s more intense, sometimes less.”
I imagine he’ll probably get away with it against Denis Kudla unless he really is in a great deal of pain, but Djokovic’s prospects of defending his title appear poorer at this moment in time. A lot can change though and I’d be wary of paying too much attention to what the players say about their conditioning.
It is tempting to take the big price on offer about Kudla here, but Djokovic is hardly the only one today likely to be suffering from physical issues.
Daniil Medvedev was in all sorts of trouble yesterday and barely got through in four sets against Hugo Dellien, who’s never beaten a top-500 player in a completed match away from clay in his career.
“I honestly don’t know how I won,” Medvedev admitted. “At one point, I thought, ‘I can’t move anymore.’ Hopefully, tomorrow I will be okay.”
He’s been given a night match, so maybe he’ll recover, but with so much tennis in his legs (18 matches in one month) he looks a poor price at 1.40 to beat a fresh and in form Feliciano Lopez, who’s played seven-and-a-half matches in the same timeframe.
It looks like Lopez is saving his best stuff for the tournaments he fancies (Queen’s and grass swing and now here) and he’s been impressive in his two matches so far in New York.
Lopez is in a superb groove on serve at the moment, racking up 50 aces (1.3 per game) in his two matches against good opposition in Taylor Fritz and Yoshihito Nishioka and if carries on like that he has every chance here as underdog against an exhausted Medvedev.
The late night scheduling of the match may help Medvedev, but Armstrong is usually one of the faster courts and Lopez will be really up for this one, plus Medvedev, despite his eye-catching form, is only 6-7 win/loss against top-50 ranked opponents.
Lopez is certainly playing top-50 tennis right now (he dished out only his third career bagel set on a hard court to Nishioka on Thursday) and he may well take advantage of Medvedev’s obvious physical issues.
The other underdogs that may well do better than their dog status suggest include Alex De Minaur, Kamil Majchrzak, Dan Evans, Dominik Koepfer and maybe Paulo Lorenzi.
Dan Evans has a tough one, obviously, against Roger Federer, but Fed will need a lot better than he’s shown so far if he’s going to beat Evans as easily as his odds suggest.
Indeed, the layers think so, too, as Fed was a 1.05 chance to beat Evans in January at the Australian Open and now his price has more than doubled to 1.13.
Fed has started poorly in his two matches so far and the set one overs appeals here, but Fed will probably improve and I’m not sure that Evans’ style will bother Federer as much as it does against the Lucas Pouilles of this world.
The Swiss has a history in the last decade of unexpected defeats here and I couldn’t count that out, but that would be a great result for our outright on Goffin to make the semis and I don’t feel the need to bet on it today as well.
Paulo Lorenzi must have loved every minute of his time on a noisy Court 14 yesterday in a typical Lorenzi battle and the veteran grinder outstayed an opponent half his age in Miomir Kecmanovic.
And that was after over four hours in round one and three-and-a-half hours in the last round of qualifying, so clearly the odds are stacked against the Italian against Stan Wawrinka, who’s beaten Lorenzi three times from three.
It’s tough to see Lorenzi winning, but tie break played at 2.65 is interesting. Lorenzi won’t just roll over here, surely.
Lorenzi has played seven breakers here already this week and both Lorenzi and Wawrinka have played 0.31 tie breaks per set in their last 12 months on outdoor hard at main level.
Alex De Minaur has better stats on this surface over the past year than Kei Nishikori, so purely on that he has a decent chance against the struggling Japanese.
De Minaur is 23-10 on outdoor hard at main level this past 12 months and with an impressive service hold/break total of 108.9 (Nishikori 107.4) and Nishikori has proven to be poor value when priced up between 1.50 and 1.69 lately.
Nishi’s only 8-9 win/loss in his last 17 matches in that price range and he lost to a player that relies largely on great movement (albeit a lefty) in Yoshihito Nishioka in Cincy.
Indeed, Nishi’s form has been poor by his former standards for some time now, with just one semi final since Rotterdam back in February and he’s been complaining of a wrist/elbow issue since Wimbledon.
We’ll see how he shapes up physically in the hot conditions on Friday and I’ve certainly seem him struggle for timing on windy days in the past, too.
I’m happy to have small bets on De Minaur and Lopez as underdogs today, along with the tie break option on Lorenzi and I was toying with the idea of opposing Grigor Dimitrov as well.
A player that’s failed to take a set off Kevin King on a hard court coming into this and lost seven of his last eight matches coming into New York is surely a shaky prospect as a 1.23 favourite.
I’m a bit concerned about the fitness of Kamil Majchrzak though after back-to-back five-setters (plus qualifying) on a hot day like today and that puts me off a bit.
Nikoloz Basilashvili will need a lot better than some of the error-ridden stuff we’ve seen from him so far if he want to beat Dominik Koepfer, while our man David Goffin should have the sort of game that takes the time away from Pablo Carreno Busta.