The last-16 of the Mutua Madrid Open 2016 is the order of the day on the ATP World Tour on Thursday, as the Masters 1000 clay court tennis continues in the Spanish capital.
And hopefully there won’t be any more bad luck around on Thursday as there was at the start of the day on Wednesday when Feli Lopez wasted what were effectively four match points to cover the handicap against Roberto Bautista-Agut.
Lopez failed from *5-5, 40-15 needing only that game to guarantee the handicap win, but despite two further game points a lack of first serves and some strange shot choices cost Lopez in the end.
And to make that one even more annoying the second half of the double came in when Fabio Fognini took a set and almost the match against Kei Nishikori, who I said was far too short at 1.21 in yesterday’s preview.
Typically, Fognini failed to serve it out and then gave it away with two code violations in the space of two games, but he’d already done enough for +1.5 sets backers.
We did get winners for the ‘sure thing’ and ‘value bet’ though when Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer were victorious and the match between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Albert Ramos was as tight as I had expected and comfrotably over the 9.5 games in set one.
The round of 16 at the Madrid Open last year yielded only one underdog winner, which was only a slight underdog in John Isner, who beat Nick Kyrgios.
Richard Gasquet vs Kei Nishikori
One of the most peculiar head-to-heads in men’s tennis has its seventh outing on Thursday, with Richard Gasquet taking a 6-0 career series lead over Kei Nishikori into their 12:30 UK time (approx.) clash.
Most observers tend to tear their hair out with Gasquet when he stands miles behind the baseline and tries to beat the best in the world from there, but for some reason he uses a different tactic against Nishikori.
Up on the baseline and taking the ball early has seen him win 11 of the 12 completed sets between the pair and why the Gasman doesn’t use this tactic against others is beyond me.
They’ve never played each other on clay, but it’s hard to back Nishikori today at 1.68 against an opponent he’s struggled so badly against in the past and there must be some level of mental block here after losing every time against Gasquet.
Nishikori himself admitted: “It is obvious that I have to change my tactics against Richard. I will talk with my team to prepare for this match and especially about the mental side.”
Nishikori was fortunate to survive in the tournament yesterday when Fognini threw it away and although the Japanese is entitled to improve for that first match whether it’ll be enough to overturn the dismal head-to-head with Gasquet is debatable.
The over 22.5 games seems the one to be on here at 1.93, with a tight clash expected, and an alternative ‘value bet’ could be the odds-against about there being a tie break in the Nick Kyrgios vs Pablo Cuevas clash.
Kyrgios has played seven tie breaks in his five career matches in Madrid, while Cuevas has played seven in his last six matches on the tour, so another one at least today would be no surprise.
Rafael Nadal vs Sam Querrey
The odds of 4.10 about there being a tie break in this match look big and worthy of today’s ‘long shot’ wager.
Layers have made the assumption that Nadal will wallop Querrey on clay and while the Spaniard is highly likely to win it may not be without needing a tie break if Querrey serves as well as he can.
The pair haven’t met since 2008, but all three of their priors on clay and hard courts involved tie breaks and Querrey won two of them, including the one on clay.
Querrey can play on this surface and with his height and serving ability he should find conditions here in Madrid about as good as he’ll get on the red dirt and he can cause problems for Nadal here.
The scheduling of this match at around 20:00 local time will surely help Nadal in that it’ll be slower than the day sessions, but even so that price on a tie break looks bigger than it ought to be.
The American has been serving very well this week and beating an in-form Lucas Pouille on this surface will be a confidence boost for Querrey, whose game has caused problems for Nadal in the past.
Milos Raonic vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
It was a late night for Tsonga last night thanks to the expected stubborn resistance from Ramos that saw the match finish after 01:00 local time and things are unlikely to get any easier for Tsonga today.
The Frenchman faces a serving contest with Raonic at around 19:00 UK time this evening and in these conditions today’s best ‘sure thing’ is that this match goes over the 19.5 games mark at 1.20.
The pair once played out a 25-23 set on grass and none of the last six sets they’ve contested against each other has ended in fewer than 10 games, so all things being equal it would seem very likely that they’ll play at least 20 here.
I’d expect Raonic to win it, as he seems to have just a little bit more about his game overall these days than the Frenchman, but his price of 1.50 seems a bit on the short side.
I don’t see any of today’s favourites, with the probable exception of Nadal and Djokovic, as ‘sure things’ in the match betting markets, but it would be surprising if this pair didn’t go quite long.
Sure thing: Back over 19.5 games in Raonic/Tsonga at 1.20
Value bet: Back over 22.5 games in Gasquet/Nishikori at 1.93
Long shot: Back over 0.5 tie breaks in Nadal/Querrey at 4.10