Friday is quarter finals day at the Grand Prix Hassan II and US Men’s Clay Court Championship in week 15 of the 2017 ATP World Tour.
Tommy Robredo will be in action again after the Spanish veteran got our wagers on Thursday off to a good start by beating top seed Grigor Dimitrov in Marrakech and covering the +4.5 game handicap.
One of our outrights is still in the hunt and has a good chance of making it into the semi finals when Jiri Vesely faces Paulo Lorenzi, but a dismal start from Jeremy Chardy against Philipp Kohlschreiber saw his chances of winning vanish.
Losing a 26-point opening set tie break was the key to Dustin Brown’s defeat against Stevie Johnson, with Brown winning five straight points from 2-6 behind to serve for it at *7-6, but failing with that and three further opportunities ultimately cost him the match.
The Marrakech quarter finals all look competitive today, with my hopes for Vesely high, looking at Lorenzi’s 4-16 record against top-100 ranked left-handers on clay, and taking into account fatigue on the part of the Italian.
Benoit Paire played well yesterday and has a good record against Tommy Robredo, but who knows which side of the bed he’ll have got out of today.
Kohlschreiber -3.5 games looks decent at odds-against versus fellow German Jan-Lennard Struff, while Albert Ramos is likely to edge out Borna Coric in a probable grind of an encounter.
Ernesto Escobedo vs John Isner
But underdog backers will be more interested in events in Houston, where the American quartet all appear vulnerable today, and the one I fancy the most is to take a chance on Escobedo.
Of all four US stars still in the tournament it’s reportedly Isner that came off that long journey back from Davis Cup in Australia feeing the worst and the big man may well struggle again today.
“I woke up this morning and didn't feel great,” Isner said after the Mayer match. “Fortunately, a lot of times it can be really humid here, but it wasn't bad today. It's been a lot worse.”
He had the doctor and trainer out during that three set success over the Argentine and it must be questioned as to how much energy the big man has in the tank for today in what’s likely to be another serve-dominated affair.
Escobedo has a similar big serve/big forehand game to Isner’s and given that Big John has broken serve only 8.7% of the time on clay in his last 10 matches at main level on this surface chances seem likely to be few.
Whoever serves and hits their powerful forehand the better will win and I wouldn’t like to back Isner to be that man at a price like 1.30 given his condition and losses here in recent years to Teimuraz Gabashvili and Dustin Brown.
In his last 15 matches in Houston Isner has won only one that didn’t either go to a deciding set or feature at least one tie break and he’s won just one of his last 14 by 3.5 games or more.
Therefore, Escobedo +3.5 games at 1.78 would be a bet, and over 10.5 games in set one at evens seems highly likely too, with all of Isner’s last four opening sets in Houston going to a breaker.
And I like the younger man’s chances of taking at least a set in this one, so plenty of options in the opening match of the day.
Sam Querrey has dealt well with Thomaz Bellucci on his own favoured surfaces of grass and hard courts in the past, but on clay the Brazilian certainly has a shot, though he was poor yesterday and should have lost in two to Maxi Gonzalez.
Fernando Verdasco has already beaten Johnson twice here in Houston (2013 and 2014) and has won all four of their career clashes, so he looks likely to make that five today (although he’ll probably make hard work of it), which just leaves Jack Sock.
Sock was just two points better in total than Tommy Haas last night and was grateful to be facing a 39-year-old in the final set of that one, but he brings a good record versus lefties into today’s clash with Feli Lopez. Not on clay though. Not yet at least.
The Spaniard has been poor this season and was a set and a break down to Hyeon Chung yesterday before deciding that attacking might be the best way to win.
Sock’s record versus lefties on all surfaces is good, with a 72% winning mark at main level, but in his six matches versus lefties on clay he’s 3-3, with losses to Ramos, Federico Delbonis and Rafa Nadal.
It’s a small sample of course, but his only wins came against Bradley Klahn, Kenny de Schepper and Guido Pella on this surface.
Allied to that, Lopez is yet to fail to take a set from Sock in their three meetings, and that Lopez has the better clay service hold/break stats over the last year and the American seems a less than convincing 1.30 favourite.
The eight sets they’ve played against each other at all levels (the latest was Hopman Cup this year) have all ended in eight, nine or 10 games, which is odd given their break of serve percentages of less than 20% and strong hold numbers.
Lopez on either the set or game handicap look the ones to consider here.
1 point win Escobedo +1.5 sets to beat Isner at 1.81
1 point win over 10.5 games in set one at 2.0