THE headline pick was a winner yesterday when Matt Ebden as expected outlasted Filip Krajinovic in the heat after earlier blowing a set and *4-3, 30 lead to go 2-1 down in sets.
Ruben Bemelmans should have made it two from two but took just four of his 19 break point chances to lose a five-setter to Jaume Munar, perhaps the most vital of these in the third set when Munar looked out on his feet and having treatment on his arm from the trainer.
The very hot and humid spell is expected to continue today with 38C heat and 50% humidity set to test the players again, with the dial not set to dip below 30C in the shade until after midnight local time.
The players are not happy about the conditions and here’s what a few of them had to say…
Leo Mayer: “I think we should not continue playing the best of five sets. That's my opinion. I think that is the past. They are not going to stop until someone dies.”
Ruben Bemelmans: “Worst match I ever played. It was physically the hardest match that I ever played. After two points you’re already as tired as if you had played a full set.”
Nick Kyrgios (mid-match): “’m f***ed; my legs are f***ed. I’m cooked, I’m f***ing done. I can’t play.”
Julien Benneteau: “With this heat and humidity, I think that they shouldn't play between noon and 4 pm. They were lucky. They only had retirements.”
Ricardas Berankis: “In my opinion, they should cancel the matches. It's dangerous.”
Paulo Lorenzi, Jason Kubler, Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco, Nikoloz Basilashvili , Nicolas Jarry and Andreas Seppi all look like underdog options on Wednesday, but can they stand the heat?
Guido Pella vs Paulo Lorenzi
I’m not sure where this price on Pella of 1.40 has come from; unless the layers are taking the result of his round one win over a struggling Casper Ruud purely on face value.
Ruud said of the defeat: “I really felt the heat and it scares the players a bit. It makes it difficult to play all the points with full intensity, and in addition to that, I had a little pain in the hip, so there was a mixture between the heat and the pain that made me fail to play at 100%.”
He was nowhere near 100% in truth and although I’d make Pella slight favourite for this match a price of 1.40 seems much too short given that Lorenzi has beaten him the last twice and there’s little between them in their hard court stats.
I was lucky enough to be courtside when the pair last met in Davis Cup on the clay in Buenos Aires last February and Pella was unable to break down Lorenzi in a 0-3 loss that day.
The big-hitting Kyle Edmund was also unable to do it here in New York in much quicker conditions (although he was struggling later on in the match) and as I said ahead of that match Lorenzi’s record here is very good.
The Italian has a winning 7-6 record in New York and he’s had some very good wins at this tournament and he certainly won’t fear Pella, who’s 3-5 at the US Open.
Indeed, Pella’s hard court form this swing so far consists of that easy win over an injured Ruud and a straight sets loss to Roberto Carballes Baena and he’s going to have to play a very clean match if he’s going to win this comfortably (or at all).
If we take Nadal out of the equation, Lorenzi’s won four of his last five main level matches on hard courts, beating Gilles Muller (here in New York), Albert Ramos, Mischa Zverev and Thiago Monteiro and losing to Adrian Mannarino.
Pella is 9-16 in majors (4-9 on hard courts) and he’s lost two of the three matches this season in which he’s been priced up as a sub-1.50 favourite.
At these prices I’ll take Lorenzi +1.5 sets at 2.06.
Daniil Medvedev got a little lucky with the later start time of his opening match of the tournament, but he’s got an 11:00 (16:00 UK) start on Wednesday against Stefanos Tsitsipas and I’d fancy the Greek to handle the conditions better than a fatigued Medvedev.
I’m tempted by the Tsitsipas -1.5 sets in that one or the -4.5 game handicap in these conditions at around 2.75.
Taylor Fritz vs Jason Kubler
Fritz was lucky to get past Mischa Zverev in round one, with the German a break ahead in all five of the sets they ended up playing in round one (and two sets and a break to the good) before typically running out of gas.
Fritz didn’t look in the best of shape out there in the heat either and after almost four hours against Zverev he now faces an opponent who played only a couple of hours in round one.
Kubler beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who had been injured for a while, and wasn’t at his best, but he’ll be delighted with that and he has every chance against Fritz, who looks possibly worth taking on on current form and in this heat.
What concerns me a bit is Kubler’s post-match quote: “That’s probably the best best-of-five-setter I’ve had. I’ve only had three or four of them before, but in each of them I was cramping or I was pretty tired.”
Kubler’s a talented player indeed, but he’s had a lot of injury problems and hopefully they’re behind him now and he certainly has a fine chance of beating a tired Fritz as underdog in these conditions.
Roberto Carballes Baena was really suffering in the heat in round one; hence his big price today against Borna Coric, and Coric looks the likely winner of that one, as does Stan Wawrinka over Ugo Humbert, and Juan Martin Del Potro should be too good for Denis Kudla.
Andy Murray still looks well below his form of old and Fernando Verdasco is more than capable of beating this version of Murray on a high-bouncing court like Ashe, where they play today.
Verdasco should find plenty of balls in his strike zone height-wise, but he has looked on the decline physically this season at the age of 34, and the price of 2.32 is too short for me.
We backed overs a few weeks ago when Jeremy Chardy took on Kevin Anderson and it was all going to plan until Chardy donated his serve away in set two in typical style and proceeded to collapse and had the match to Anderson very quickly.
Chardy should have a decent chance today after Anderson had to dig very deep indeed against Ryan Harrison in round one, but it’s Chardy and I’m sure he’ll find a way to lose against a much more determined opponent than himself.
John Isner doesn’t have the best record at the US Open and over five sets in this sort of heat he could well struggle against Nicolas Jarry, with the Chilean having the firepower to make this a match.
Isner’s preparation seems to have been better this year though in the sense that he hasn’t played every tournament post-Wimbledon and that may well help him this week, but I still wouldn’t back him at this price against Jarry.
Denis Shapovalov’s price looks a little short against Andreas Seppi based on the pair’s service hold/break stats in the last 12 months (10 matches in Seppi’s case) with only two percent separating them.
What puts me off Seppi is that he hasn’t beaten a leftie on a hard court of any kind since 2012 (lost his last five, winning one set in the process) and none of the matches were against Nadal.
Milos Raonic vs Gilles Simon
Another Canadian that looks short is Raonic, who was poor in his round one clash with Carlos Berlocq and he’s another one that’s struggled in the heat in the past.
Today he faces Simon, who for me is much more effective on these quick surfaces, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Frenchman went close here.
Ever the student of the game and very self aware, Simon says of this clash: “It's always hard to play servers like that when you do not have a huge service yourself. Against these types of players like Isner, Karlovic, I do not have great stats.”
He’s actually not bad against big servers, winning his last four against the ones in my database, and all-time against them he’s 23-29 (11-17 on outdoor hard) and he beat Raonic on slick grass at Queen’s as a 3.20 underdog in 2015.
Raonic has only held serve 81.9% of the time against Simon on all surfaces in their career series and the Canadian didn’t serve well or play well against Berlocq in round one, so with the heat a possible problem for Raonic as well Simon is worth half a point here.
Raonic cramped up badly here two years ago in a loss as a 1.05 favourite against Ryan Harrison and in these conditions and given Raonic’s injury issues in the last year or two he looks short at 1.23.
Elsewhere, it’s hard to see our outright, Rafael Nadal, being derailed by Vasek Pospisil, with the Canadian a very questionable stayer in extreme heat and humidity, as we’ve seen him struggle badly on numerous occasions in the past.
Lorenzo Sonego fired 27 aces past the now retired Gilles Muller in a five set battle in round one and if he serves well he could well have some success against Karen Khachanov.
Sonego’s rather hit and miss (as Khachanov can also be), but if he does put it all together he’s capable of causing problems for Khachanov, however the Russian looks in good touch at the moment and should be winning matches like these at this stage of his career.
Finally, Jack Sock is certainly one whose fitness can be questioned in these conditions, and if Nikoloz Basilashvili has one of his better days a win for the Georgian would be no surprise at all, but I'd want a bigger price on Basil than 2.48 given his weak record on outdoor hard courts.