It’s quarter finals day on Friday in week 16 of the ATP World Tour at the Barcelona Open and BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy on the clay.
We enjoyed a nice 4.75 winner on Thursday in Barcelona when the 2-0 win for Fabio Fognini and over 22.5 games in Philipp Kohlschreiber and Feli Lopez landed our ‘long shot’ double.
The ‘value bet’ was a little unlucky, with, in the end, the wrong choice of wager of the three I suggested in the Kei Nishikori vs Jeremy Chardy encounter in Barcelona.
That one did go over 20.5 total games, but it was the second set that was the more competitive after a fine start from Nishikori rather than the opener.
And there was one winner and one loser for the ‘sure thing’ wager when Lucas Pouille beat Ivo Karlovic in a match carried over from Wednesday in Bucharest.
But after Federico Delbonis had beaten Ilya Marchenko we needed Alexander Zverev to beat Malek Jaziri, but the German couldn’t do it and amazingly Jaziri is now into the quarter finals on clay for the first time at main level.
Kei Nishikori vs Alexandr Dolgopolov
The odds suggest that we’re going to see another Nishikori vs Paire encounter in the semi finals of the Barcelona Open, which would be their third clash in the last seven or eight months – and Paire won both of their clashes in 2015.
But first Nishikori has to beat his pal Dolgopolov and that should be fairly straightforward if the previous career meetings between the pair are any indicator.
Nishikori has won all four in straight sets against the Ukrainian on outdoor hard courts of varying speeds and given his superb run here at The Real Club de Tenis de Barcelona it’s hard to see Dolgo being the man to end that sequence of victories.
The Japanese is a more consistently classy ball-striker than the mercurial Ukrainian and the bag of tricks at Dolgo’s disposal doesn’t seem to have any effect on the speedy Nishikori, who can run down the drop shots, slices and heavily spun swipes that come at him.
Nishikori is 38-5 at main level in the 1.20 to 1.30 price range, with nine wins from 10 on clay, and his most recent loss at that sort of price was to Paire in Tokyo at the end of last season.
Given the dominance of Nishikori in these match-ups and his clear liking for conditions in Barcelona he looks the best of the short prices on Friday at 1.20.
Federico Delbonis at the same price against Marco Cecchinato looks another good short-priced option, but I’m not so sure I could back Paire at 1.24 – even against Jaziri.
Robin Haase vs Fernando Verdasco
It would be one of the most remarkable turnarounds I can think of if Haase ended up winning the Bucharest title after a truly dire performance in Monte-Carlo on his comeback from injury last week.
The Dutchman took advantage of a rusty and typically hapless Bernard Tomic on clay on Thursday after beating Andrea Arnaboldi in round one and he brings a fine record against Verdasco into this 14:00 approx. UK time clash in Romania.
Haase has won three of the four prior meetings between the pair and Verdasco is yet to beat Haase in straight sets on grass, clay or hard courts.
The Dutchman is hardly a lover of grass court tennis, but he’s beaten Verdasco (who is handy on grass) twice and despite being on Verdasco outright this week the Spaniard seems short at 1.33 in this one.
Haase has won 10 of his last 12 against lefties, with the two defeats coming to Rafa Nadal and Delbonis, and it would be a surprise to me if Verdasco won this one in two comfortable sets.
The over 21.5 games or Haase +1.5 sets seem the ones to focus on in this one.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs Guido Pella
I don’t much like GGL against lefties and couldn’t back him as favourite in this 12:00 approx. UK time start in Bucharest against Pella.
Garcia-Lopez has lost eight of his last 12 against left-handers and against top-50 ranked lefties GGL’s record reads 12-21, with losses in 12 of his last 17 of those matches going back to 2011.
Pella has the power in his lefty forehand to pile the pressure onto the backhand of GGL and as it’s been found wanting on many occasions I couldn’t trust the Spaniard as a 1.60 favourite here.
Pella wasn’t brilliant against Daniel Gimeno-Traver on Thursday, but he didn’t need to be, with DGT having a poor day, and I like the 1.87 about Pella +2.5 games in this one or the 2.33 about the outright win.
To make it a 5.14 ‘long shot’ I have to take a chance on Fognini to nick a set against Nadal, with the Spaniard looking rather short in the betting at 1.1 in their 15:00 approx. UK time clash.
The Fog beat Rafa here in Barcelona a year ago and if he’s fit enough I see no reason why he can’t make Nadal work hard again, having won three of their last five meetings.
Rafa’s title in Monte-Carlo has made him too short for this 10th career meeting with Fognini and hopefully the Italian will be the fresher of the two after a few months off the tour with injury.
He certainly seems to be getting back towards his best form here this week and he loves to take on Nadal, which is half the battle with Fogna.
Nadal’s Spanish opponents have obligingly rolled over for him (again) so far this week and this should be a much bigger test than that of the likes of Granollers and Montanes if the Italian is in the right physical condition to compete.
Sure thing: Back Nishikori to beat Dolgopolov at 1.20
Value bet: Back over 21.5 games in Verdasco/Haase at 1.78
Long shot: Back Pella +2.5 games and Fognini +1.5 sets at 5.14