The last-16 of the 2016 Internazionali BNL d’Italia is the order of the day on the ATP World Tour on Thursday in Rome.
Roger Federer’s participation in the tournament was in some doubt on Tuesday, but he came out on Wednesday morning showing no signs of the back problem he’s been struggling with.
The Swiss maestro pipped our overs bet at the post, with Alexander Zverev needing one more game for that bet to come in, which probably would have had the German served first in the match.
It wasn’t to be though and Federer goes forward to face Dominic Thiem, who was a surprisingly comfortable winner over Joao Sousa, putting the Portuguese away 6-3, 6-2.
That is a very fine performance from Thiem and he may get lucky today, with Federer still being very cautious about his condition and admitting in his press conference that he may not play the Thiem match.
Federer also said in that press conference that that he expected to lose to Zverev in straight sets, which is exactly the reverse of what actually happened, and if that's how he plays when injured and taking "baby steps" the rest of the tour is in trouble when he is fully fit.
And I certainly chose the worst day possible to try a few overs wagers, as every single match of the 10 played on Wednesday ended in straight sets, the tightest one being the shortest price, which was Novak Djokovic against Stephane Robert.
So, no chance for any overs wagers and no real chance for any ‘long shots’ again either, with Jeremy Chardy’s win over Roberto Bautista-Agut the only underdog winner of the day, and we had him the previous day.
I wasn’t going to trust Chardy two days in a row, but we did get a winner for the ‘sure thing’ with David Ferrer beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez again.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs Juan Monaco
Wawrinka is my outright bet this week and having overcome a tricky test in the form of the unpredictable Benoit Paire in round one he really should be beating Monaco to take his place in the last eight.
Stan looked very much up for it against Paire, with a determined performance of no little passion, which has often been severely lacking away from majors, including in the semi finals here in Rome last year.
But now he needs match time on the clay ahead of a defence of his French Open title and having won all five career meetings with Monaco – four of which were on clay – it looks a pretty good match-up for the Swiss.
Monaco doesn’t really have the power to compete with a Wawrinka at the top of his game, but anything less from Stan and Pico will be more than happy to take advantage.
The Argentine has taken sets on a couple of occasions and we all know that Wawrinka’s focus and form can waver wildly during matches on occasion, but with Magnus Norman in the player’s box it’s a little less likely to happen.
Monaco showed he can still blunt the weapons of he big hitters on clay (admittedly, FastDry American clay) in Houston last month and he’s taken down Kevin Anderson and Steve Johnson here in Rome already, so he shouldn’t be taken lightly by Wawrinka.
If the Swiss goes about his work diligently then he shouldn’t lose this match and he’s my ‘sure thing’ for Thursday.
Novak Djokovic vs Thomaz Bellucci
While the big-priced winners are so few and far between in these Masters 1000 events we may as well go for the jackpot and side with the mercurial talents of Bellucci to take a set off Djokovic.
The Serb looked to be struggling with a back spasm or some such issue against Robert on Wednesday, which wouldn’t be that surprising given his efforts in Madrid, and if he doesn’t improve physically there could be half a chance for the Brazilian here.
Bellucci has taken a set from the Serbian in two of their three prior meetings on clay, one of which was here in Rome last year, so the +1.5 sets on the Brazilian isn’t that unlikely.
Only once in their five career meetings on clay, outdoor hard and indoor hard has the first set been done and dusted in fewer than 10 games and it’s been a case of Bellucci testing Novak early and then fading away.
The over 8.5 games in set one looks good at 1.59, while the over 21.5 at 3.30 is another decent option in this one, but the man from Sao Paulo is not without a chance of a set here.
David Ferrer vs Lucas Pouille
Lucky loser Pouille certainly rode his luck in his clash with Ernests Gulbis in which the Latvian gave it away from a set and 4-2 up, but Pouille is building a bit of a reputation as a fighter and came away with the win in the end.
He also came back from a set down to beat Ferrer in Miami on slow outdoor hard a couple of months ago and this 13:00 approx. UK time start should be a decent test for Ferrer as he works his way back to form and fitness.
Pouille’s two-hander is clearly capable of standing up to the consistency test posed by Ferrer and if he can serve a higher percentage of first serves he has a bit of a chance in this one.
The serve really seems to be a problem for Pouille, who was only putting 51 percent of his first balls into play against Gulbis and only twice in his last 32 matches has he managed 60 percent or better.
That is poor for a player who doesn’t exactly serve big and often he’s down at around the 50 percent mark, which hinders his chances against the best, but he did beat Ferrer serving at 56 percent in Miami.
The Frenchman has enjoyed some fine wins this season and beating the likes of Ferrer and David Goffin shows how good he is off the ground and having had a day off after the Gulbis match he should be fresh to take on this battle today.
Ferrer is getting better, but he doesn’t seem quite the force he was and despite the lack of any long matches yesterday I’d fancy this one to go past the 21.5 games mark at 1.98.
Sure thing: Back Wawrinka to beat Monaco at 1.31
Value bet: Back over 21.5 games in Pouille/Ferrer at 1.98
Long shot: Back Bellucci to win a set at 4.10