ATP Tennis Betting: Djokovic could drop a set to unpredictable Monfils

Our 16-1 outright pick goes for the title at the Antalya Open on Saturday, while there’s also final action in Eastbourne at the Aegon International.

Adrian Mannarino heads into Saturday’s final versus Yuichi Sugita as the narrowest of favourites, as he looks to end our rotten run of luck in this year’s outright bets.

The Frenchman is the 13th of my outright wagers to have made at least the semi finals this season and only two have gone on to actually win a title so far.

It was one from two for our wagers on Friday, as once again Andreas Seppi and Mannarino failed to go past 10 games in a set for the 11th and 12th times in their career series, but Gael Monfils let us down later on.

Monfils led by a set and *4-2 and had two match points to finish off Richard Gasquet 6-4 in that second set as well, but one was brilliantly saved by Gasquet and so they went to a tie break, which meant a loss for my second wager of the day.

Adrian Mannarino vs Yuichi Sugita

I said yesterday “I’m not sure if Baghdatis will have much left in his legs for another boiling day,” and so it proved, as the Cypriot pretty much collapsed in the third set in Antalya against Sugita on Friday.

In worrying scenes, Baghdatis was down for some time before being led off the court and we’re expecting more brutal heat on Saturday, with the dial reaching 41C by the time the final starts at around 17:30 local time (15:30 UK).

And given the bad luck we’ve had on outrights this season it makes sense to cover our stakes in this final, so I’ll be having three points on Sugita to ensure no losses on this week’s outrights.

The nightmare scenario (and it’s already happened to us once this week, with Martin Klizan) would be Mannarino retiring before one set is complete and we’ll just have to assume that won’t happen.

Looking at the main level grass hold/break stats for this one we see that there’s the smallest margin possible separating the pair, with Sugita on 101.7 and Mannarino on 101.8.

They have met twice in the past, with one win each, but the most recent was on clay in Monte-Carlo a few months ago on clay when Mannarino was a 1.33 chance (he won in straight sets).

Before that they clashed at the Nottingham Challenger of 2012 on the grass and Sugita won that in a final set tie break.

This one looks set to be nervy, with Sugita into his maiden tour level final (he’s won his last six finals at Challenger level) and Mannarino into just his third after losses in Auckland and Bogota on hard courts in 2015.

Mannarino has won his last seven finals at Challenger level, so this pair know how to win at the level below, but this is a fabulous opportunity for both to claim an elusive Tour level title.

Sugita’s last defeat to a lefty was that Monte-Carlo clash against Mannarino and his only success versus a left-hander at tour level in five matches came against Jesse Levine on grass in Newport back in 2013.

And in total Sugita is 1-7 against top-100 ranked left-handers, which would put me off backing him in this one if I weren’t covering an outright.

Mannarino is hardly a player you’d choose to serve for a match for your life, while Sugita tried his best to choke against what’s left of David Ferrer the other day, so this is a pretty nasty one to get involved in.

Novak Djokovic vs Gael Monfils

Monfils ruined our no tie breaks wager on Friday and in the end he should have won all three sets played against Gasquet without needing a breaker, as he also served for set three at *5-4, but in typical Monfils style he made a mess of it.

The crazy Frenchman also tried his best to lose it in the final set tie break when he bizarrely (or normally for Gael) played a jumping, left-handed smash (pictured above) on a ball that looked to be drifting wide, so he’s in full clown mode this week.

He also toyed with retiring at the end of set two after a couple of his usual grass court comedy falls and after a chat with his team and some more treatment he decided to carry on and won.

All in a day’s work for Monfils, but now he faces an opponent he’s lost to 13 straight times and I think we all remember the last Djokovic vs Monfils encounter, don’t we?

It came in the US Open semi final last season when Djokovic was looking shaky (as was proven the very next round, the final, when Stan Wawrinka beat him comfortably), so Gael decided not to turn up for the first two sets.

Shuffling around, half tanking and confusing commentators into thinking he was injured, Monfils had lost the match in his head well before he even arrived on court and who knows how he’ll approach this one, if he approaches it at all.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he withdrew from this one citing the injuries from Friday, but if he does turn up he actually might have a bit of a chance.

Without the pressure of a Grand Slam semi final on a surface he dislikes and with yet another injury to relax him Monfils’ big serving and big hitting that we saw against Gasquet can definitely do damage against this season’s Djokovic on this surface.

The brain of Monfils is the problem of course and he said after the Gasquet match: “At 6-2, 4-2, he put me under more pressure and the tension settled in. He began to make me think.”

And that is a position nobody wants to see Monfils put in – having to think rather than just doing what comes naturally. The results are usually not good.

Playing with freedom saw him close to beating Gasquet on grass in two comfortable sets, which would have been a superb result for Monfils – probably the best of his career on the surface – so there’s a reason to think he could surprise Novak on Saturday.

I wouldn’t back him to win the match, but a point on him to win set one at 3.85 or on Djokovic to win the match 2-1 at 4.0 look the ones for a bet on Saturday.

Monfils has taken a set in five of their last seven meetings and Djokovic should have dropped a set to Donald Young here this week, so he’s hardly an unstoppable force.

Three of the last four finals in Eastbourne have gone all the way and we’ll get a void on set betting if Gael retires anyway.

It’s been another profitable week on the grass (more so had Martin Klizan played one more point against Marsel Ilhan) and this looks a day to have one small wager and get ready for better opportunities to come at Wimbledon.

Best Bets
3 points win Sugita to beat Mannarino (only if backed Mannarino outright at the start) at 1.93
1 point win Djokovic to beat Monfils 2-1 at 4.0