The last action on the ATP World Tour for a fortnight takes place in Sydney and Auckland on Saturday, as the players gear up for the Australian Open in Melbourne.
We saw some top level tanking from Bernard Tomic on Friday, who pretty much admitted to the chair umpire that he didn’t really fancy carrying on in Sydney, which once again highlighted the danger of short-priced shots the week before a major.
The rain in Sydney led to exactly the kind of fixture congestion that everyone doesn’t need days before a Grand Slam, but over in Auckland we landed a winner for the value bet when Jack Sock took a set from David Ferrer.
Jack Sock vs Roberto Bautista-Agut
I’ll be quietly seething if RBA wins this title after backing him last week in Chennai, but after beating two big servers in John Isner and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga already this week he has every chance.
And that chance surely increases given the physical state of Sock, who came within an ace of pulling out of the Ferrer match due to “flu-like symptoms”, which the American described in excessive detail thus: “I woke up with sweat through my sheets and wasn't feeling great at all.”
Nice. And with Melbourne being just a couple of days away how far will Sock want to push himself and indeed what has he left in the tank for the challenge of RBA on Saturday?
I certainly wouldn’t fancy putting much on Sock at 1.65 in these circumstances in what will be a fifth career meeting with Bautista-Agut in a career series that’s currently tied at 2-2.
Sock has won the last two and he has too much power for RBA – if he’s on his game – but if he isn’t the same fate as Tsonga may well befall him in this 01:30 UK time clash.
I said yesterday that Tsonga had a poor record ahead of majors and again he failed at the business end of proceedings prior to a Grand Slam, but this one was less of a tank and more of a dip in level when it mattered.
Bautista-Agut had to save a match point and come back from a set and a break down, but there’s little chance of RBA tanking this final having lost in two finals and five semi finals in 2015.
I would doubt Sock’s physical ability to come out and play the kind of tennis he’ll need to produce to beat RBA in these circumstances and I prefer the 2.23 on the Spaniard here.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Viktor Troicki
After a hectic day in Sydney their final is between Dimitrov and Troicki, with the latter having a good old moan at the fact that he’s defending champion and number three seed and he hasn’t yet played a match on the main court this year.
He does have a point, but the organisers have opted for the star quality of Dimitrov and also the Australian players ahead of him, which is fair enough, and he must also remember that Sydney is a joint ATP/WTA event and it’s a Premier for the ladies, so I’m afraid that Viktor is well down the pecking order.
Never once in my life have I rushed to the TV set so as not to miss a Viktor Troicki match and I can’t imagine many others have either – unless they’ve had a bet on him.
This one is played at the more acceptable (for European viewers) time of day of 08:30 (UK time) and it’ll be the second clash between this pair in a week after Dimitrov came from a set and 4-2 down to beat the Serb in Brisbane.
It’s clearly a tournament that Troicki enjoys playing in (despite also moaning that the fans were too noisy and drinking alcohol too close to him on Court 1) having made the final in 2011 as well as winning it last year and he’s been in a good groove on serve again this week.
He had to come from behind to beat both Teimuraz Gabashvili and Nicolas Mahut on Friday and was a set and 4-2 down to the Russian before clawing his way back into it, so he’s clearly determined and shouldn’t be discounted here.
Dimitrov defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov (needing only a few games to complete the match) and then Gilles Muller on Friday, so he should have a slight advantage in terms of fitness, and he does have a good 19-6 record as a 1.40 to 1.50 favourite.
As an underdog in the price range of 2.85 and up Troicki has lost 11 of his last 13 and I prefer the 2.14 about a tie break being played in this one.
In these quick conditions, with Troicki serving well I’d expect one, and it looks a better bet than the 1.42 on Dimitrov or the 2.85 on the Serb.
In finals Troicki has a 4-5 record at main level, while Dimitrov is 4-2, and perhaps the 2-1 to Dimitrov could be the one for long shot punters at 3.70.
Value bet: Back Bautista-Agut to beat Sock at 2.23
Value bet: Back over 0.5 tie breaks in Troicki/Dimitrov at 2.14