Round two completes at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, with another blazing hot day expected at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
We’re set for mid-30s in the shade conditions again on day four when the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer begin their 2017 campaigns and we start an hour earlier today (UK time) at 18:00, as the clocks change in the U.S.
On the whole it was an excellent day’s tennis betting at Indian Wells on Saturday, with Albert Ramos defeating Damir Dzumhur and those who took my other underdog suggestions would have won with Dusan Lajovic, Pablo Cuevas, and Yoshihito Nishioka too, with Alexandr Dolgopolov the only loss – and he led by a set when he retired.
Fabio Fognini rewarded ‘tie break played’ backers at 3.0 in his win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while those on ‘no tie breaks’ in Nishioka’s defeat of Ivo Karlovic also enjoyed a 3.0 winner.
Karen Khachanov rewarded +1.5 set backers, while Bjorn Fratangelo was competitive against Tomas Berdych, but there was disappointment in Stan Wawrinka beating Paulo Lorenzi rather more comfortably than I’d expected.
The top half of the draw opened up with another poor Indian Wells showing from Andy Murray, who was stunned by Vasek Pospisil, leaving David Goffin as the high seed in that quarter.
And we may see some more seeds fall on Sunday, with Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori likely to face decent tests in their opening matches to name but two.
Marin Cilic vs Taylor Fritz
One of these players loves these conditions and is very familiar with them and the other is Marin Cilic.
“I always think I play well here,” says Fritz. “This is where I'm from. I’ve played in Indian Wells since I was eight years old, come down here for tournaments… it's like a second home to me.”
He was rather fortunate in round one to face a disinterested Benoit Paire, who was in full sulk mode for most of the match, but Fritz played well enough and I like his chances against an out of form opponent, whose confidence seems low.
Cilic was crushed 6-1, 6-2 by Nadal in similar conditions last week and the Croat has never found Indian Wells to his liking, with a 9-9 record and just the one quarter final, which was a year ago.
He still seems to be suffering from a Davis Cup hangover from November and his 2017 season so far has been really disappointing, with every win he’s managed so far having come in a deciding set.
Since beating Djokovic in Paris last November Cilic has failed to win any of his next 16 matches in straight sets and he’s suffered losses to Josef Kovalik, Dustin Brown and Dan Evans in that time.
Clearly Fritz will be up for this match and has the advantage of playing more or less at home, while Cilic is in a malaise and has struggled to control the ball at this tournament.
Cilic still has very good service hold/break stats over the last year on outdoor hard at main level of 84.8% holds and 24.8% breaks, but in 2017 he’s only broken serve 16.7% of the time.
Fritz has respectable stats of 82.6% holds and 18.7% breaks and he looks a good wager to take a set today at 1.92 or to win set one at 3.05.
No tie breaks also appeals here, with Cilic having a peculiarly low tie breaks per set mark for a big server of 0.06 over the last year on outdoor hard at main level.
Dan Evans has a great chance of making things difficult for Nishikori at a venue that the Japanese is yet to seem comfortable in, but as I’m on Grigor Dimitrov in that section outright I don’t need to be backing Evans as well.
Nick Kyrgios vs Horacio Zeballos
Slight odds-against on over 9.5 games in set one of this 22:00 (approx.) UK time clash on Court 4 between the Aussie and Argentine looks a decent proposition given the serving numbers of both men.
Zeballos is a tricky customer on slow outdoor hard courts at this level, as wins over Juan Martin Del Potro, Fernando Verdasco and David Goffin testify, and although Miami has been a more lucrative hunting ground for him he’s still capable of challenging Kyrgios here.
Kyrgios was only a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 winner at the US Open over Zeballos last summer in quicker conditions and the Aussie is yet to show that he can handle Indian Wells, with only one win from his three career matches thus far.
The one win was against Denis Kudla and only one of his seven sets at this tournament has ended in nine games or fewer, with a 7-6, 7-5 loss to Ramos the outcome of his 2016 Indian Wells campaign.
The service hold stats of both men on outdoor hard at main level over the past year indicate a tight affair, with 89.5% for NK and 86% for Zeballos and the Argentine’s break of serve percentage is a woeful 10.4% – lower than John Isner’s.
Kyrgios’ 17.6% isn’t great, but it should be enough to see him win this match, however the Aussie will do well to record a 6-3 or better score line in set one.
In Zeballos’ last nine matches on hard courts six have featured tie breaks (and a 22-20 set) and 18 of the 23 sets went to 10 games or more (including all three against Kyrgios).
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Federico Delbonis push compatriot Del Potro in a similar way to Zeballos, with Delbonis clearly comfortable in these conditions, having beaten Murray here last year and he started well again versus Andrey Kuznetsov this time around.
1 point win Fritz +1.5 sets to beat Cilic at 1.92
1 point win over 9.5 games in set one of Kyrgios/Zeballos at 2.02