Eight quarter final matches are the order of the day in Tokyo and Beijing on Friday at the Japan Open and China Open.
Fabio Fognini will be in action after the Italian saved our day somewhat on Thursday, with a 3.10 long shot success over David Goffin, after the shorter priced picks disappointed.
It wouldn’t be the Asian swing without several unfathomable results and Austin Kraijcek’s win from a set down against Joao Sousa was another shock in a week of oddities in the Far East.
Roberto Bautista-Agut was dismal against Nick Kyrgios, who played well, and was never in trouble, but Fognini was good for two of the three sets against Goffin, while Pablo Cuevas was also an odds-against winner, over Ivo Karlovic, who broke the world record for total career aces during that match.
Novak Djokovic vs John Isner
Isner was rather fortunate to come through on Thursday against John Millman and it looked at one stage that the American was to become another short-priced loser when Millman served for a 2-0 win at *6-5 in set two.
The Aussie couldn’t get it done though and Isner was only too grateful to take this one after a slow start and he goes forward to face Djokovic at 12:30 UK time on Friday.
Djokovic, as I said yesterday, was the only really ‘sure thing’ of the day, and cruised past the overmatched Ze Zhang to extend his perfect record at the China Open, but he should be tested by Isner.
I think it’s just a bit too slow here for Isner to have a good chance of beating Djokovic and better chances lie for him at venues like Indian Wells and Cincy, and possibly Shanghai.
The scheduling of this one at 19:30 local time won’t help Isner either, as it gets chilly at night at this time of year and the slower conditions will favour the Serb.
But, eight of their nine opening sets have gone to either 7-6 or 7-5, so the over 10.5 games at set one at 2.35 has to hold some value based on those stats.
Six times set one has gone to a breaker and twice 7-5, with the one that didn’t go over 10.5 (at Indian Wells this spring) going to a tie break in set two instead.
Djokovic tends to get very frustrated by Isner’s serve if he can’t get a sniff on it, but he’ll be prepared well and I don’t see the American getting any closer than a breaker or maybe two.
As far as stats are concerned I make Rafa Nadal decent value at 1.50 against Jack Sock, who has a shot, but it’s surely not a 2.50 chance.
Sock is a bit of an enigma and I wouldn’t have thought that the tough conditions in Beijing would suit him, but he’s done well so far, and earned himself a much shorter price against Nadal than the 14.8 chance that he was at the French Open in June.
Rafa has continued to play poorly by his standards, but I still suspect he’ll have too much for Sock, whose price seems very short indeed on the back of not a lot.
The -2.5 games on Nadal is tempting and I expect he’ll come through to another meeting with Fognini, who loves to play Nadal these days and will be motivated to do so against when he takes on Pablo Cuevas.
The Italian’s price is about right for me there, but Kyrgios looks a tad short against Benoit Paire, who was in full meltdown mode on Thursday.
Paire beat Kyrgios when the latter couldn’t move in the latter stages of their Australian Open clash last season and it looks a tight one again, with slight value for me on the eccentric Frenchman.
David Ferrer vs Yen-Hsun Lu
I think there’s some value in the big price on Lu in this 09:30 UK time start in Beijing.
The man from Chinese Taipei has won two of his four matches against Ferrer (all on hard courts) and Lu was a 5.37 chance when he defeated the Spaniard in their most recent clash, which was in Auckland at the start of last season.
Ferrer retired in their 2012 Beijing clash and he has failed to beat Lu in straight sets in all four of their career meetings so far, which brings the +1.5 sets on Lu at 2.0 into play.
Lu has played well this week so far, but surprisingly he’s never performed at the China Open before, although memorably he did beat Andy Murray here at the 2008 Olympics.
Ferrer has played a fair bit of tennis over the last 10 days, having won Kuala Lumpur, while Lu hadn’t played since the US Open before this week in Beijing and he’s had two good wins already, over Adrian Mannarino and Viktor Troicki.
Motivation should be high for Lu in this tournament and he could well have the legs on Ferrer after a month off. He’s already proven he can compete with and beat Ferrer, so he’s certainly an underdog with a chance on Friday.
Kei Nishikori vs Marin Cilic
Talking of players who will be highly motivated that brings me nicely to Nishikori, who should see off Cilic in this 07:00 UK time clash in Tokyo.
The defending Tokyo champion will be keen to put one over on Cilic in front of his home fans after losing the 2014 US Open final to the Croat and he should have more in his legs than Cilic here.
Cilic, like Ferrer, has played a fair bit of tennis over the last 10 days, with a trio of three setters and a tight two since the start of Shenzhen and it’s questionable whether his priority will be going deep here with a Masters 1000 next week.
A tired Nishikori was beaten in round one of Shanghai by Jack Sock last year and surely his priority once again will be winning Tokyo and given his record against Cilic he should be winning in these circumstances.
Nishikori has won four of his last five against Cilic, including a three set win in Washington a couple of months ago, and while he’s certainly tight enough on price today he looks the best sub-1.50 chance on Friday.
Stan Wawrinka and Djokovic should both win, but neither are appealing prices, and Gilles Simon looks a tad short too against Gilles Muller, although I suspect Gillou will probably prevail.
Sure thing: Back Nishikori to beat Cilic at 1.34
Value bet: Back over 10.5 games in set one of Djokovic/Isner at 2.35
Long shot: Back Lu to beat Ferrer at 4.35