The fourth round of the men’s singles in the 2017 Australian Open begins on Sunday and if history is any guide this should be a round for the favourites.
In the last five years of the Australian Open only two underdogs in 39 completed matches have won in round four of the men’s singles, so we may have our work cut out in the next couple of days.
Saturday’s wagers were both winners when Roberto Bautista Agut just about covered the handicap against David Ferrer, despite a performance littered with mistakes and a poor first serve percentage.
RBA hit 85 unforced errors in four sets, but still had enough to get past Ferrer, and a battling performance from Gilles Simon led to another narrow handicap win, this time against Milos Raonic with a 5.5 game start.
Roger Federer vs Kei Nishikori
Surely the match of the day for the neutral will be this 08:00 (19:00 local) UK time clash between the Swiss maestro and the Japanese superstar, with Federer priced up as a 1.55 favourite.
It’ll be the seventh career meeting between the pair in a series that Federer leads 4-2, but this will be the first time that they’ve met at a Grand Slam and it should be a really entertaining encounter.
Both players love to attack and it will be a case of who can stay on the front foot for longest and I’d expect an up and down affair, with the value bet that stands out for me being no tie breaks at 3.25.
The history of the last five years of fourth round men’s matches at the Australian Open tells us that there have been tie breaks in only 16 of the last 39 completed matches, which makes it odds-on that there won’t be one here, yet the price is 3.25.
Also, in their 15 sets against each other only one set has been a tie break – and they’ve clashed on all four surfaces.
Nishikori has only held serve 70.6% of the time against the Swiss, who holds his own deal 80.4% of the time against the Japanese and both of those percentages are well down on their career averages.
Nishikori faces 0.62 break points per game when he plays Federer on all surfaces and over their last 50 matches each on outdoor hard courts at main level they both have quite low tie breaks per set ratios of 0.14.
The Japanese has played only two tie breaks in his last 22 sets against top-10 ranked opposition and Federer is top-10 in all but official stats after his injury break last season.
Federer hasn’t played a tie break in his last 18 sets against top-five ranked opponents, so the no breakers bet appeals to me much more than backing either man here.
Fed has won nine of his 12 matches when priced as a 1.50 to 1.60 favourite, while Nishikori has won six of his 12 as a 2.30 to 2.50 underdog and it may be asking a lot of Federer to produce his best again at his age and with a lack of matches.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Daniel Evans
We had a nice winner with Evans in the last round, but I expect this to be the end of the road for the Brit, with Tsonga likely to overpower him in these conditions.
Evans’ win over Marin Cilic in the second round was his first at main level over any of the big servers in my database, but it was a pretty slack showing from Cilic, who complained afterwards that he hasn’t been able to “get up” for this season yet.
Gilles Muller, Kevin Anderson, Feli Lopez and Juan Martin Del Potro have all beaten Evans comfortably and while the Brit is in the form of his life now and playing at a great level I’m not convinced about him against a Tsonga type of opponent.
Evans also looked to be approaching the end of his energies during his win over Bernard Tomic and you got the feeling that if he hadn’t have won the third set tie break the match would have been up for grabs.
He seemed to be cramping up and after a lot of tennis this year already (26 sets compared to Tsonga’s 18) and he does need to use his legs more than most to get the speed on his serve from his 5’9” height.
Tsonga has never lost at main level on an outdoor hard court to an opponent shorter than 5’10” and he’s never lost in the fourth round of a major to an opponent ranked worse than number 14 in the world.
Evans might have some success if he can find the Tsonga backhand often enough, but that seems unlikely in Tsonga’s service games if the Frenchman serves well.
The Frenchman seems likely to win this in three or four sets and the 3-0 to Tsonga at 2.43 will be my wager here.
Andy Murray shouldn’t have too many problems with Mischa Zverev’s style of play, but both the Scot and Stan Wawrinka are too short for me to take an interest.