There’s quarter final action on Friday in week six of the 2016 ATP World Tour in Buenos Aires, Rotterdam and Memphis.
We got off to an unfortunate start on Thursday when Hyeon Chung wasted a break lead and a 5-3 lead in the ensuing tie break of his opening set against Viktor Troicki in Rotterdam.
The ‘sure thing’ was a winner though when Roberto Bautista Agut withstood an opening salvo of real quality from Jiri Vesely to edge his way past the Czech in three sets, while alternative ‘sure thing’ Pablo Cuevas a was a rather more comfortable victor
Ricardas Berankis -2.5 games was also successful over in Memphis, but Rafa Nadal’s failure to serve out set one at *5-3 against Juan Monaco eventually meant that leg two of the ‘long shot’ double failed by one game.
Nicolas Almagro vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
I was prepared to take Tsonga on in his first match in Buenos Aires to some extent against Leonardo Mayer, but a fine performance from Big Jo combined with a poor one from the Argentine led to a thumping win for the Frenchman.
Today he faces an old foe in Almagro, who Tsonga defeated six times from six in their half dozen career clashes dating from 2010 to 2012, including three on clay.
Almagro was at the peak of his powers in some of those meetings, ranked numbers 9, 10 and 13 in the world and yet he was still unable to get the better of the Frenchman on his own favoured red dirt surface.
Now down at 72 in the rankings and with no top 10 wins since the spring of 2014 Almagro’s chances of beating a clearly in-form Tsonga seem slim and indeed the Spaniard is fortunate to even be here after being 1-4 down in the final set against Federico Delbonis in round two.
Indeed, Almagro is 5-12 against the top-50 in the last 52 weeks since his comeback from injury and we’ve seen only brief glimpses of the former Almagro in that time.
He’ll probably have his moments in this seventh career clash with Tsonga, but I would certainly expect the Frenchman to progress and he’s today’s ‘sure thing’ at around the 1.34 mark.
There are plenty of other options for ‘sure thing’ backers on Friday, with Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils and Rafa Nadal all likely winners, as well as Sam Querrey and Viktor Troicki, who look strong at slightly bigger prices.
Roberto Bautista-Agut vs Martin Klizan
A really tempting ‘long shot’ for Friday is to take the 2-0 to underdog Klizan in this rematch of the recent Australian Open clash between the Spaniard and the Slovak.
RBA led that Melbourne battle by two sets to love before the Slovak levelled and took us to a fifth set and the way that Klizan is playing at the moment, combined with physical doubts about Bautista Agut suggest that Klizan has a sniff here.
RBA was laboured and below par for much of his match against Vesely yesterday and had the trainer out for what looked to be a neck or shoulder issue, which wouldn’t be surprising given how much he’s played already in 2016.
Klizan isn’t short on confidence at the moment and after dismissing Marcos Baghdatis on Thursday he said: “I believe that tomorrow will be a revenge for Australia that I'll manage to get through to the semi finals, which would be great if we succeeded. I'm excited, I believe it would work and keep your fingers crossed.”
It’s hard to see Klizan winning if it becomes a battle of wills in a third set, but if he starts well he could blast his way through a jaded RBA. There again his radar could be off and he could lose two and one.
RBA has had much the better of this career series, but their last two have been settled in a decider in conditions quicker than Klizan would like, but here in Rotterdam and other slow indoor venues he won’t be rushed on the ball and he has time to tee off with that big lefty forehand.
Vesely was successful in hitting through RBA yesterday until his level went and Klizan’s chances here lie in a two set blitz.
Another possible long shot could be to take a chance on Pablo Cuevas against Davd Ferrer, who has only had one match on clay for some time, and Cuevas might be able to catch the veteran Spaniard a little below top form.
Benjamin Becker vs Taylor Harry Fritz
We saw the best of the 18-year-old against his practice partner Stevie Johnson in Memphis on Thursday night, but I wouldn’t have put him in as a 1.57 shot today against the vastly experienced Becker.
The veteran German put paid to my 28-1 outright shot John Millman last night in a section of the draw that’s opened up, as I thought it might, and Becker played some very good tennis against the Aussie.
Fritz edged past Johnson in two tie breaks and the older American said: "He played an insane match. It's the best he's played at this level by far.”
Even Fritz himself added: “I played just about as well as I could play on the big points,” and I think it’s asking a lot for him to back this up and ease past Becker the next day.
It could be tight with two guys that can bang down the serves facing each other and I like the +2.5 games on Becker at 1.77 here.
Becker has already beaten one US prospect in Tommy Paul this week and he looks a good underdog in this 21:00 UK time start in Memphis, with Fritz surely not holding a 64 percent chance of winning this match as the odds suggest.
Ricardas Berankis also looks a touch of value against Donald Young, while Philipp Kohlschreiber also might be half decent value against Marin Cilic given the respective form of the two players in Rotterdam this week so far.
Sure thing: Back Tsonga to beat Almagro at 1.34
Value bet: Back Becker +2.5 games to beat Fritz at 1.77
Long shot: Back Klizan to beat Bautista Agut 2-0 at 5.50