ATP Tennis Betting: Nishikori has the edge over Del Potro in Rome showdown

There’s last-16 action from Rome on Thursday, with eight men’s singles matches scheduled at the 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

The very last person that needs luck during the clay swing is Rafael Nadal, but the Spaniard got some more on Wednesday when his match lasted only three games, while his next opponent toiled for over two-and-a-half hours.

That man was Jack Sock, who defeated Jiri Vesely yet failed to cover the handicap of 2.5 games, thanks largely to a superb serving performance from the Czech.

Vesely won only 38% on his second serve, but he served at over 70% on average in sets two and three (hitting 11 aces), which allowed him to stay in a match he looked losing comfortably in set one.

Talking of losing comfortably, Jan-Lennard Struff was poor against Sam Querrey, and after failing to break serve in the opening game the German gave up after being broken at the end of set one.

Those who took my three ‘no tie breaks’ plays of Wawrinka, Nishikori and Raonic would at least have enjoyed three winners, but after a mini-revival in Madrid last week it’s been pure pain on the clay again in week 20 and (very much like the thoughts of Roger Federer) I can’t wait for the grass swing to begin.

Kei Nishikori vs Juan Martin Del Potro

This one will probably be the match that they all want to see in Rome on Thursday and I think we have to side with Nishikori, who has the edge in recent performances.

The head-to-head is rather misleading here, with Delpo’s four wins over the Japanese coming between 2008 and 2012, and now that he’s missing a backhand his effectiveness is diminished.

Nishikori won their most recent clash, which was on indoor hard in Basel last season, when Delpo couldn’t take his break chances and Nishikori can do what Grigor Dimitrov started to do against Delpo on Monday, but failed to keep up.

Hitting hard into the Delpo forehand is what he expects least, with a natural tendency to cover that weak backhand side making the big Argentine a candidate to fall for the wrong-footer.

Nishikori can wallop it off both wings and if he can also bring the big man forward this match should be his for the winning.

Delpo has already made his intentions clear for this one, saying: “He [Nishikori]'s so fast on the baseline. I have to keep hitting winners with my forehand and serve.”

That’s easier said than done and now that Nishikori has seemingly (you can never be sure with him) recovered from his wrist problems he’s my pick to progress.

Nishikori’s hold/break stats on clay in the past year (12 matches/9 wins) are a little better than Delpo’s at 110.8 to 108.4 and in all main level matches on all surfaces this season the Japanese is 5% better.

The layers can’t split them at 1.90 the pair, but slight edge and therefore a hint of value is with Nishikori for me, with the Japanese also having won 12 of his 14 completed main level matches when priced up between 1.90 and 2.0 and all three on clay.

The enigma that is Fabio Fognini produced probably his best performance (certainly his best for some time) in proving far too good for the out of form Andy Murray on Tuesday, but which Fabio will turn up on Thursday?

Fogna produced out of this world stats of 88.9% holds and 44.4% breaks in that single match, but his wife is due to give birth on Friday, and surely we can’t expect him to repeat that sort of level anyway.

His hold/break stats are now exactly the same as those of opponent Alexander Zverev and if I was having a bet in this one I’d probably go with the German and expect a let down kind of performance from Fognini.

Our outright wager David Goffin has had a day off and should go into his fourth career clash with Marin Cilic with optimism, having beaten the Croat in three of their four prior meetings and with the better hold/break stats on this surface.

The only time that Cilic has beaten Goffin thus far was when he Cilic was on a tear at the end of last season, winning Basel and the match after he defeated Goffin in Paris he took down Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

That’s Cilic all over. When he’s on he’s on and after that Djokovic match he lost to John Isner 6-4, 6-3 in a dismal performance.

Goffin is the more comfortable of the two on clay and his low trajectory ball is tricky for the much taller Cilic, so I think the prices are about right here, with the Belgian’s hold/break stats 113.9 compared to the 110.8 of Cilic, but the way our luck’s been Cilic will probably have one of his lights out days.

I like the chances of Milos Raonic in the 14:00 (approx.) UK time clash with Tomas Berdych on Pietrangeli, with the Czech’s dismal record versus top-10 opponents a big factor here.

Berdych hasn’t beaten anyone ranked as high as Raonic’s current mark of six since a win over Nadal at the 2015 Australian Open and he’s lost 15 of his last 17 versus top-10 ranked opposition.

There’s nothing between them on the clay hold/break stats over the last 12 months, but Berdych’s shocking record against the elite puts me off siding with him as underdog here.

Novak Djokovic faces a similar sort of opponent in Roberto Bautista Agut as he did in round one in Aljaz Bedene – the solid, consistent, but largely unspectacular type that a peak form Djokovic would have few problems with.

RBA did beat Djokovic in Shanghai at the end of last season, but it’s hard to see him repeating that feat again, although this isn’t a peak Djokovic by any means and I might be interested in ‘tie break played’ there if the price is right (2.75 or higher).

Dominic Thiem is getting rather tired now, as he admitted after a win over Pablo Cuevas on Wednesday, but he should still have too much for Querrey in these conditions, while Nadal is expected to ease past a tired Sock.

Best Bet
2 points win Nishikori to beat Del Potro at 1.90