DAY three of Wimbledon 2019 saw us turn a profit, as Jiri Vesely defeated Pablo Cuevas in the four sets that we wagered on, after Miomir Kecmanovic was forced to retire against Benoit Paire.
Kecmanovic was unlucky against Paire, with one shocking decision from the hapless Fergus Murphy in the chair turning the set one tie break Paire’s way, but Kecmanovic probably wasn’t fit enough to go long anyway, as his right ankle became intolerable when he twisted it again in set two (and he said afterwards he also had a wrist issue).
We’ve got the 16 remaining matches in round two scheduled for Thursday when a perfect day for tennis is forecast: no rain, very little wind and warm, but not hot at 24C.
Mikhail Kukushkin vs John Isner
Despite the 4-0 head-to-head in favour of Isner this has been a tough match-up for the big American over the years, with Kuku’s very flat ball off both wings causing problems for the 2.08m tall Isner.
Indeed, Kukushkin has held serve 92.2% of the time against Isner in those four clashes, which were played on clay, indoor hard and outdoor hard, and the only real difference has been Isner winning six of their eight tie breaks.
That latter fact is perhaps not much of a surprise given Isner’s ability to conjure up a run of unplayable serves at the right time and Kuku’s weak record in tie breaks generally: 12-20 win/loss on grass and 24-52 on clay at main level.
Isner has held serve 98.4% of the time against Kukushkin, but he’s very often struggled in the first week of Wimbledon when the bounce is lower than in the latter stages before the grass firms up.
Nine of Isner’s 10 Wimbledon losses have come in week one and with the players opining that it’s slow and low bouncing here this year this match-up on week one Wimbledon grass against Kukushkin may be tricky.
Add to that the lack of matches that Isner has had of late: only one since March and it could be a very long affair. Over 41.5 games at odds-against looks decent or the +4.5 games on Kukushkin is 1.91.
I’m hopeful that after coming through potentially tough round one matches Sam Querrey and Marin Cilic will be able to ease their way into the tournament in quarter three and both are in action on Thursday.
Cilic has a very one-sided head-to-head against Joao Sousa of not just 4-0, but he’s held serve against Sousa 97.4% of the time, while Sousa has held his own deal just 55.8% of the time.
Querrey’s opponent Andrey Rublev has had wrist problems and hasn’t played too many matches of late and none against any of the big servers on my list on grass (3-6 win/loss on other surfaces).
On his day, Rublev is capable of big things, but he has only played six career matches on grass at main level and it’d be disappointing if Querrey was beaten.
Both Cilic and Querrey have Rafael Nadal in their sights in Q3 and he faces an intriguing match-up against Nick Kyrgios, who’s beaten Nadal three times, most famously here in 2014 as an 11.24 chance, but he also beat Nadal in Acapulco earlier this season.
Kyrgios didn’t look great at all against Jordan Thompson in the three sets I saw, but he may or may not get inspired by playing Rafa on grass and I’m hopeful he can stun the Spaniard again, but he didn’t seem fit or to be putting much effort in much of the time against Thompson.
My gut feeling is that Rafa will win comfortably and Kyrgios will blame fatigue or injury, but it’s not one to bet on.
Two that I quite like at the prices instead are Steve Johnson to beat Alex De Minaur and Jan-Lennard Struff to beat Taylor Fritz.
Both Struff and Fritz have really found their grass games this summer, but Fritz looks to me like he’s been made a 1.67 shot here because of his Eastbourne win and a round one stroll against a virtually retired Tomas Berdych.
It’s Struff that has the better one-year combined service hold/break number on grass (106.3, holding 93% of the time) than Fritz (104.8) and we’ll see how Fritz’s defensive skills hold up against Struff’s power.
Struff started very well this week against Radu Albot and at these prices I’m happy to risk Struff for a small wager.
And I’m not convinced either that De Minaur is back to his best yet after injury problems this year, so I’m taking him on as well against big serving Johnson in a fourth career clash.
De Minaur has a lot to prove against big servers generally, losing six of his last eight versus the ones in my database, and he’s 0-2 against them on grass.
The Aussie relies very heavily on his movement and ability to get one extra ball back in play, but I don’t think that’s quite there yet in the matches I’ve seen of his this grass swing, where he’s 2-2 win/loss, with defeats coming against Aljaz Bedene and Jordan Thompson.
A win over a poor Marco Cecchinato here tells us little about how he’ll cope with the power of Johnson and I’ll take the American as underdog here.
One that might be interesting as well is Ricardas Berankis, who’s been put in as a 7.5 shot against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Berankis is 4-14 on grass at main level in his career, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, as his hold/break total is a respectable 97.2 in those matches and 100.6 in his nine matches (3-6 win/loss) at Wimbledon.
He’s been known to go well against big servers, too, with Berankis winning at least one set in 15 of his 22 matches against the ones on my list.
The overs or Tsonga 3-1 are options there.
Elsewhere, Dan Evans’ stats on grass don’t amount to much (no better than Berankis at 97.6 hold/break total at main level) and he’s a 1.30 shot due to perceived home advantage and Nikoloz Basilashvili’s weak grass level (7-11 win/loss and 89.2 hold/break total).
Again, the 3-1 to Evans might be worth considering there, with Basil likely to play at a high level for a while at least.