The quarter finals complete at the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, Rhode Island on Friday, with John Isner and Lleyton Hewitt both in action.
You’d have got a very decent price on their being not a whiff of a tie break in the Sam Groth vs Nicolas Mahut match yesterday and an even better one about a 2-0 win for the Aussie.
But my best bet of Thursday was a winner when Ivo Karlovic just edged past the minus 2.5 game handicap mark against Dudi Sela right at the last, with a break of serve to win the match at 6-5 in the second set.
Earlier, it appeared as if Ivo had blown his chance when wasting a couple of break points in game two, but a double fault from Sela at the vital time in game 12 cost the Israeli, who then succumbed on a Karlovic approach.
We start at 18:00 UK time on Friday with last year’s finalist taking on one of three Americans left in the draw.
Steve Johnson vs Lleyton Hewitt
Rusty gave a fine example of why he’s a nightmare to bet on these days in his first two matches in Newport this week, with one being a tight victory after struggling with his shoulder against Ryan Harrison and the other much a better display against Ante Pavic.
The latter performance – just Lleyton’s third straight sets win since January – cost me and it’s difficult to know which one will turn up against Johnson today.
Injuries and various aches and pains all play a part in Rusty’s game these days and it’s a risk backing him as favourite against a decent opponent like Johnson, who should be motivated to do well in America’s only pro grass court tournament.
That said, Rusty does hold a 25-12 record as favourite in the last two seasons, with and 8-3 mark on grass, so I wouldn’t back against him here on his favourite surface, but Johnson certainly has a decent chance today.
Johnson should be the fresher of the two after playing just 26 total games to reach this stage, compared with Lleyton’s 45, and he has played pretty well on the grass this swing despite some unfortunate draws.
The American won three straight matches against top-50 opposition to start the season, but has now lost his last eight in a row in some tough matches and his level against Roberto Bautista-Agut on grass at Wimbledon could well be good enough today.
It looks to me like one where Hewitt will probably force himself over the line after getting to Johnson’s backhand too many times and the Hewitt 2-1 at 3.75 and over 22.5 total games at 1.71 appeal here.
John Isner vs Jack Sock
This fourth meeting between the two big-serving Americans should go the way of Isner, with these relatively short matches very much in Big John’s favour in terms of conditioning.
Severely handicapped by having to win three, four or five long sets in the majors these best of threes suit him just fine, with even the traditional 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 not being hugely sapping on the Isner stamina.
And it may well be a score line like that on Friday, with Sock, boosted by his Wimbledon doubles title, in confident mood on the grass.
Sock is yet to beat Isner in three attempts, with the latter winning twice on clay and once on hard courts against his younger opponent and fatigue may well play a part with Sock, who had a fast turnaround to get to Newport after Wimbledon.
He’s dealt with two biggish servers in Rajeev Ram and Alex Kuznetsov so far though, but I would much rather be with the fresher Isner if this goes to a third set.
Three of the seven sets they’ve contested in the past have gone to tie breaks, but in these slick, grass court conditions it would be reasonable to assume that at least one will arrive today.
One generally knows what to expect from Isner, but Sock is much more of an enigma and his performances by and large depend on what mood or physical condition he’s in at the time.
Sock has broken Isner just once in the seven sets they’ve contested – and two of those were on clay – so the overs has been set predictably high again and the set one over 10.5 games at 1.83 looks the call here, with Sock not to be trusted not to fade in later sets.
Isner hasn’t won the opening set in fewer than 11 games against top-100 opposition since the Sock match in Nice back in May and he’s only done it twice all season, with the other being against Yen-Hsun Lu at Indian Wells.
Back over 22.5 total games in Hewitt/Johnson at 1.71
Back over 10.5 games in set one of Sock/Isner at 1.83