The final places in round four of the 2017 Australian Open are to be decided on Saturday, with the wide-open bottom half of the draw in action on day six in Melbourne.
Headline pick Dan Evans did the business for us on Friday, with a straight sets win as underdog over Bernard Tomic, but Andreas Seppi failed by a single game to cover the handicap in his four set victory over Steve Darcis.
Seppi led 4-2 in what was the final set of that match, but ended up winning it in a breaker to frustrate our -2.5 games wager there.
Saturday seems set to be another day where heat won’t be a problem for the players, with highs of only the mid-20s expected and perhaps wind will be more of an issue, although that isn’t forecast to be overly strong.
Roberto Bautista Agut vs David Ferrer
This was the last-32 match-up that I was expecting for my outright fancy Bautista Agut and I’m still confident that RBA will prove too strong for Ferrer, with the players seemingly heading in opposite directions.
RBA is closing in on the top-10 and seemingly still improving, while Ferrer’s days as a force in the men’s game are gone, with the latter not the player he was a few years ago, as his stats show.
Before his round one match against Omar Jasika, which turned out to be one of Ferrer’s better recent showings, his service hold/break numbers were a combined 103.2 – still good, but not as good as they were.
He’s won only two of his last 12 matches versus top-20 ranked opposition and Ferrer himself when asked about this match-up with RBA (which he leads 2-0) said: “He’s changed and when I beat him in 2013, I was in the best moment of my tennis career.”
Now it’s RBA that’s in the best moment of his career, with service hold/break stats totalling 111.7, and the wager I like here is to take Bautista Agut on the -2.5 games handicap.
Despite Ferrer’s reputation as a dogged fighter he very rarely plays five set matches and especially on hard courts, with his last five setter on a hard court at a major coming against Richard Gasquet in the 2013 US Open.
He lost that one and in the next 41 completed Slam matches up to the present day Ferrer has played just two more five setters – one he lost to Andrey Kuznetsov on grass in 2014 and the other when he beat Simone Bolelli on clay in 2015.
So, unders is a distinct possibility here, and looking at Ferrer’s losses in slams the majority have all been by some distance – in short he rarely plays any close matches.
Ferrer’s last 10 defeats at majors have all been by a margin of at least seven games in total and on all 10 occasions he’s never been closer than a 3-6 score in the final set.
My only concern here is that RBA looks up to Ferrer and has trained with him a lot, but that shouldn’t stop him winning this by more than 3.5 games or -1.5 sets.
Gilles Simon vs Milos Raonic
Simon showed here in Melbourne last year against Novak Djokovic just how awkward an opponent he can be to even the very best in the world, with his tactical game.
And he’ll be trying to take the wind out of Raonic’s sails in this one, having beaten the Canadian as a 3.19 chance the last time they met, which was on grass at Queen’s Club in 2015.
The Frenchman still has one of the best records of anyone when it comes to breaking serve, with a percentage of 32.6 over the past year on outdoor hard at main level.
Indeed, Simon’s combined hold/break mark is currently 108.2, which is just behind Raonic on 109.6, so there are reasons to suggest that this match could well be closer than the odds make it look.
Looking at Raonic’s last 12 matches at majors versus top-25 ranked opposition only once has the Canadian covered today’s handicap mark of -5.5 games and that was against Kei Nishikori on grass at Wimbledon back in 2014.
Yes, Raonic’s return game has improved of late, but that hasn’t worked out to him covering this sort of handicap against the best players in the world. Not yet anyway.
Conditions won’t be that quick at 18:00 local time (07:00 UK time) on HiSense when this one is scheduled for and Simon has his chances on his best form.
Worth considering again is the ‘no tie breaks’ with Raonic’s tie breaks per set mark now 0.15, which is lower than Simon’s 0.17 and lower than the likes of Ferrer and Pablo Carreno Busta.
There are a few others to consider on Saturday, with one being no tie breaks in the clash between Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov, who have yet to play one against each other in 16 sets.
Gasquet’s excellent break of serve percentage of 32.5 in the past year at main level on outdoor hard has seen him play just 0.09 tie breaks per set, so again no breakers is decent there.
Benoit Paire has, unsurprisingly, got a poor record in the match following a five set win in majors, with the Frenchman losing six times in eight matches, and with Dominic Thiem starting to find his range the -5.5 games on the Austrian could be an option.
Gael Monfils has a strong mental hold over Philipp Kohlschreiber and even beat the German on Monfils’ hated grass courts in Germany, so with a 2-12 career mark to consider it should be another defeat for Kohlschreiber there.
I don’t see Pablo Carreno Busta slipping up against Denis Istomin, with a huge fitness advantage to the Spaniard seemingly after Istomin’s marathon against Djokovic, but PCB is too short in price as a result.
Rafa Nadal for me is likely to prove too strong for Alexander Zverev, whose hard court stats aren’t that good compared to the other players in action today, and the -1.5 sets or -3.5 games on Nadal seem the ones in that match, while David Goffin should eventually find a way past Ivo Karlovic.