The third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells completes on Tuesday, with eight matches on the schedule for today.
We managed a couple of winners on Monday, with another success for the ‘sure thing’ in the form of Stanislas Wawrinka, while the odds-against ‘value bet’ was also successful thanks to Marin Cilic covering the -3.5 games handicap against Leo Mayer.
We got the right winner but the wrong set score in the ‘long shot’ when Richard Gasquet did defeat Alexandr Dolgopolov comfortably in the end, but a great start from Dolgo ruined the 2-0 wager on Gasquet.
That one was again due largely to Dolgo coming up with a very high first service mark of 73 percent in the opening set, which he won easily, but he dropped down to 41 percent and then 21 percent in sets two and three, which he consequently lost easily.
We start at 18:00 UK time today and it’s set to be a hot one, reaching 30C in the shade, so conditions will be tough for the earlier starters.
John Isner vs Adrian Mannarino
One of the reasons that Mannarino’s hair is receding badly on a seemingly daily basis (and this is a subject I have plenty of experience in by the way) is likely to be the prospect of facing big servers, such as Isner.
The Frenchman has lost 14 of his last 18 against the big servers on my list and the only occasion that he’s emerged from a clash with Isner with a win was when the big American retired injured at Wimbledon 2013 after only two games.
Mannarino has often commented on his dislike of facing big servers and in conditions at Indian Wells where the balls will fly all over the place off the racquet of Isner an injury seems his only chance of progression again.
And it is possible, with Isner sporting tape on his knee and strapping on his elbow in a round two win over Andreas Seppi, that Mannarino could get lucky in that regard, but otherwise an Isner win seems the best of the ‘sure things’ on Tuesday.
Mannarino didn’t have to do much at all to beat a woeful Benoit Paire in round two, but he did beat a big server in Lukas Rosol in round one, which at least is something for the Frenchman to hang his hat on here.
But this one is a different proposition and Isner has only been beaten here by players ranked inside the top-four in the world rankings at some point in their careers.
Five world number ones, a world number three and a world number four are the only players to have beaten Isner at Indian Wells so well do conditions favour him and all being well with Isner physically I can’t see Mannarino being the one to buck the trend.
The match odds looks a ‘sure thing’ at 1.22, but I also like the -3.5 games on Isner or the under 22.5 total games as well, with Isner having demolished Mannarino the last time they met in Shanghai in admittedly quicker conditions than these.
It’s a 13:00 local time start, so the balls will be flying around and you have to like Isner’s chances in this one.
Alexander Zverev vs Gilles Simon
Zverev has emerged as the young gun the most likely to challenge the top players on a regular basis, with some fine performances this season and he has every chance of taking down Simon here.
The young German showed what he can do again when overcoming a mid-match slump to take down former young gun Grigor Dimitrov in three sets of good quality tennis on Sunday and providing fatigue hasn’t set in he has a live chance versus Simon.
Gillou prevailed in a thoroughly bizarre match against Vasek Pospisil after being breadsticked in the opening set and the ever honest Simon made some telling comments after the match.
“Afterwards I felt better, though not as much as the score shows,” Simon said. “Here I have trouble expressing myself. Today I was very relaxed, as I don't expect much here, but at least I had a better feeling than usual here. That's not to say it is fabulous but I feel good.”
Much of Gillou’s struggles are in his own head, but clearly he doesn’t enjoy conditions here at Indian Wells and he hasn’t been playing the sort of level of tennis needed to justify him being a 1.59 favourite today against Zverev.
The German prevailed against the Frenchman in a tight match in Rotterdam indoors just over a month ago as a 3.85 chance and that too was played in slow conditions, where Zverev’s power advantage was key in the end.
Hopefully Zverev will still have enough energy for this after a tough schedule of late and if he has he looks good value again at 2.38.
Kei Nishikori vs Steve Johnson
This early start at 11:00 local time (18:00 UK) sees Nishikori face a tricky test in the form of Johnson, who looks a decent long shot to get off to a good start against the Japanese star.
At that time of day conditions will be lively and if Johnson serves well he can put pressure on Nishikori, who has not really been able to truly get to grips with conditions at Indian Wells so far in his career.
Nishikori has a 4-7 record in the main draw at Indian Wells and was beaten in straight sets by a big server in Feli Lopez here a year ago and with that in mind he looks awfully short at a price of 1.15 today in a fourth career clash with Johnson.
It was the American who took the opening set when the pair met on quicker outdoor hard in Melbourne last season and given Kei’s record of winning three set matches I don’t really fancy the upset, but a good start is definitely a possibility for Johnson.
The American played well in beating John Millman, creating 14 break point chances against the Aussie, who he only very narrowly beat a month earlier at Delray Beach, so we can assume he’s hitting the ball better right now.
Nishikori was beaten by a big-serving American in very similar conditions in Acapulco a few weeks ago when Sam Querrey took him down in straight sets and he’s dropped set one six times in the last 10 matches he’s played against my big servers.
If Johnson has a good day from the service line he can put pressure on Nishikori’s ground game, which has been less than secure here at Indian Wells in the past and 4.0 about a set one win for Johnson is possible.
Sure thing: Back Isner to beat Mannarino at 1.22
Value bet: Back Zverev to beat Simon at 2.38
Long shot: Back Johnson to win set one at 4.0