Friday is quarter finals day at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, with a stellar line-up of the best in men’s tennis on display at the Qi Zhong Tennis Centre.
Our day on Thursday got off to a great start when Albert Ramos took Jo-Wilfried Tsonga past the 10.5 games mark in set one of their third round clash to land the 3.90 ‘long shot’.
It always looked a tricky assignment for Tsonga, who was much too short given his recent performances and it took the Frenchman the full three sets to overcome the resistance of Ramos.
The ‘sure thing’ was also a winner, just about, when Novak Djokovic and Feliciano Lopez went past the 16.5 total games mark, but Gilles Simon was disappointing in a loss to Tomas Berdych.
So, we have six players in action on Friday that have contested Grand Slam finals, and the action begins at 06:30 UK time.
There was one winning underdog from the four quarter finals a year ago, which was, ironically enough, Simon beating Berdych as a 3.22 chance.
Novak Djokovic vs Bernard Tomic
As quarter final match-ups at Masters 1000 level go this looks about as comfortable as Djokovic can expect against an opponent that he has rarely looked in any sort of trouble against in the past.
Tomic has beaten Djokovic at exhibition level events the Kooyong Classic and Hopman Cup, but they hardly count as competitive matches, and the Serbian has won 12 of the 13 sets he’s contested against the Aussie at main level.
None of the last nine have gone beyond 10 games and the feeling is that Tomic’s game is just too passive to really bother the world number one.
And it’s even less likely to after Tomic finished a tough three setter that lasted two-and-a-quarter hours on Thursday at after midnight local time.
Djokovic made his clash with Lopez look easier than I had expected it to be in these quick conditions and in the end we were rather fortunate to land the over 16.5 games in that one.
Lopez’s second serve was nowhere near strong enough to compete with Djokovic on the day and off the ground he was rarely a threat to the Serb and I’d expect something similar again in this 11:00 UK time start.
Tomic landed a nice winner for us the other day when he beat David Ferrer and he’ll need to maintain an aggressive approach and then some if he wants to cause any damage to the Djokovic defences.
There are plenty of options on the handicap on Djokovic, but I can't see him dropping a set to a fatigued Tomic and the 2-0 to the world number one has to be the 'sure thing' for Friday.
Kevin Anderson vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
The first match of the day at the Qi Zhong Tennis Centre is a big-hitting match-up between Anderson and Tsonga and it will surprise no-one to learn that all four of the sets they’ve played against each other have been tie breaks.
The pair have only met once at main level, which was on clay at the Rome Masters last season, and that was a 7-6, 7-6 win for Tsonga, who was a 1.38 chance that day, but now it’s more or less an even money match.
Their other clash was at the Hopman Cup on hard in 2013 and that was also 7-6, 7-6 to Tsonga, but times have changed since their prior clashes and the Frenchman is now only a narrow favourite for Friday.
Anderson landed a great win over Kei Nishikori on Thursday, which was his second top-five win in his last five matches, and he of course had to serve very effectively to achieve it.
Tsonga stuttered to a three set success over a half fit Ramos in his own third round match and for me Anderson has played a better level of tennis over the last few months and would be my pick here.
But if it goes to tie breaks again – and it probably will – just the odd point here and there will settle this match and the better wager would be the over 12.5 games in set one at 2.60.
Tsonga, as ever, was guilty of failing to take his break point opportunities against Ramos, with only three of 15 converted, and Anderson broke Nishikori only the once, and we’re not talking about impregnable serves here.
Anderson for me here then, but the better value lies with a tie break opener.
Sure thing: Back Djokovic to beat Tomic 2-0 at 1.17
Value bet: Back over 12.5 games in Anderson/Tsonga at 2.60