THURSDAY got off to a good start for our bets when Mikhail Kukushkin took the opening set (just about) against Hyeon Chung for a nice 2.70 winner and went on to beat the Korean in straight sets.
Then there was some rotten luck when Pablo Carreno Busta retired about to go 0-3 down in the decider against Joao Sousa, with the ‘no tie breaks’ bet looking a winner at that point, but voided.
That was unlucky, but it was balanced out a bit when Gael Monfils retired when losing to Kei Nishikori, voiding our set handicap wager in a week that’s seen an unprecedented amount of retirements.
Finally, Marin Cilic had one of those days where everything went right and blitzed Hubert Hurkacz, who was nowhere near the overs mark on a perfect day for the former champion.
So, it was one win, one loss and two voids on the day for a slight profit.
It looks like the players will get a break from the extreme heat on Friday, with the forecast predicting showers on and off today and temperatures much cooler at around 23C.
It’ll still be very humid at over 70% humidity, but at more than 10C cooler it should be a bit more comfortable on Friday.
The first men’s matches of the day are on Court 17 and Grandstand at around 18:00 UK time (13:00 local) and they’re the ones between Nikoloz Basilashvili and Guido Pella and Dominic Thiem and Taylor Fritz and I was tempted to go with Pella.
The Argentine was very good against Paulo Lorenzi (Lorenzi was awful though) and his stats on outdoor hard are considerably better than those of Basilashvili, with the Georgian down at 93.5% in his service hold/break total in his 16 main level matches in the last 12 months
Pella’s way ahead on 107 and is a rightful favourite, but Basil seems to be learning from the cerebral coaching of Jan De Witt and he’ll be full of confidence having won Hamburg and a couple of rounds here.
He’s also won his last seven in a row against lefties on hard courts at main level, so I’m going to pass on Pella.
As for Thiem, the pace of the courts on this North American swing is not ideal for his game, preferring time on the ball to produce his big backswings, but his stats at the US Open are excellent.
Fritz has been very fortunate to make round three, being a break down in all five sets against Mischa Zverev and in the middle of a battle in the heat against Jason Kubler when the luckless Aussie fell and had to go to hospital.
The Austrian beat the American here in New York a year ago and I’m not feeling an upset this time around either.
I quite like the ‘no tie breaks’ in this one, with round three proving to be the one with the fewest tie break matches played of any in the tournament barring the semi finals.
Between 2012 and 2017 inclusive only 42% of the matches in this round went to a breaker (75% of the matches in round three were won by the betting favourite) and a price of 2.40 on no breakers (they didn’t play one in last year’s clash) looks decent.
Thiem has played only 0.07 tie breaks per set in his 17-match US Open career, while Fritz has only played 0.10 in his five matches and with Thiem breaking serve 26.4% of the time at the US Open this wager seems reasonable value.
I’m a bit tempted to go with either the overs or the handicap on Fernando Verdasco when he faces Juan Martin Del Potro in the late match on Ashe, but Nando’s tendency to flop the round after a big win is a worry.
I’m not sure that beating this 2018 version of Andy Murray should be classed as a ‘big win,’ but in Nando’s mind it surely will be and rarely does the Spaniard produce his best following such a victory.
Delpo seems to think he struggles against lefties, saying: “I do not like playing against lefties because they can mix shots very well all the time.”
I can’t find any evidence of him struggling though, with a hold/break total of 108.7 in his last 10 on hard versus left-handers – and two of those matches were against Nadal.
Delpo does look short at 1.16 though, as he was a 1.29 chance when beating Verdasco only in a final set tie break on indoor hard in Stockholm towards the end of last season.
Denis Shapovalov vs Kevin Anderson
So, instead I’m going to take a chance on Shapovalov, who has started his US Open career very well (5-1 win/loss so far) and who can certainly find the level required to beat Anderson on his day.
This sort of stage was made for the young Canadian, who took down another big hitter in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga here a year ago and made the last 16 before being squeezed out by Pablo Carreno Busta in three breakers.
Anderson has only won four of his last 12 matches on hard courts against lefties (and one of those was by retirement) and he was taken down twice by Verdasco towards the end of last year on indoor hard.
Fatigue after his run to the US Open final may have played a part in that, but his hold/break total against lefties in his last 10 matches on outdoor hard is only 101.9, compared to his one-year total against all opponents, which is 108.8.
Shapovalov has decent stats on this surface of 83.1% holds and 21.1% breaks in the last 12 months, but at the US Open in his six matches he’s on a total of 110.4.
The young Canadian has beaten big serving types Milos Raonic, Tsonga, Sam Querrey, Ivo Karlovic and Nick Kyrgios so far in his career (five times as underdog) and if he finds his best form this isn’t beyond him.
Anderson struggled badly against Ryan Harrison and faced an opponent that couldn’t see very well in Jeremy Chardy in the last round, with the Frenchman having an eye infection.
“The first two sets with the sun I saw nothing at all,” Chardy said. “I saw very vaguely.”
Either the over games or the Shapovalov win look the ones for me here.
Elsewhere, there’s a bit of a pick ‘em between Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka and it not one that I fancy a bet in, with both men still a little up and down at the moment after lots of injury problems.
Stan’s stats from his last 10 matches on outdoor hard (7-3 win/loss) show he’s getting better, with a service hold/break total from those matches of 104, which is just slightly lower than Raonic’s 105.5 from his last 20.
I wouldn’t back Raonic against a player of Wawrinka’s pedigree at odds-on, but I can’t trust this 2018 version of Wawrinka either, so I’ll pass.
Daniil Medvedev has surprised me a bit with how he’s been able to keep producing his best form despite having played a lot of tennis in some very hot and humid conditions in the last couple of weeks.
He’ll no doubt be relieved that the temperature is set to drop significantly on Friday, as he’ll probably need to produce another big effort to get the better of Borna Coric.
This pair met just a few weeks ago in Cincy and Coric was a comfortable straight sets victor that day and I’d give him the edge again here mainly on fitness after a much lighter schedule, with the cooler, slower conditions helping too.
Our outright Rafael Nadal takes on big-hitting Russian Karen Khachanov, who Nadal defeated in the semi finals of the Rogers Cup a few weeks back.
On a large, high bouncing court like Ashe over the best of five sets I’m not liking the impatient Khachanov’s chances that much, but he can threaten if Nadal’s length is a little short.
That often happens early on and the over 9.5 or over 10.5 games in set are tempting options in that one.
Dusan Lajovic has a shockingly poor record against big servers and I was tempted to take John Isner on the handicap against the Serb, but Isner’s five set toil in then heat in the last round is too much of a worry.
Lajovic is 3-20 on all surfaces against the big servers in my database and 1-8 on outdoor hard in which matches he’s only managed to hold serve 72.2% of the time and break 7.7% of the time.