The last-16 of the 2015 BNP Paribas Masters is the order of the day in Bercy on Thursday, with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer among those in action on day four.
David Goffin will also be in action after he got day three in Paris off to a good start for ‘sure thing’ backers, with a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 win over Dusan Lajovic.
And that was complemented later on by a win for the ‘value bet’ in bizarre circumstances in one of the most unfathomable matches of the season – at least on the ATP side of things.
I could dedicate the whole of this article to trying to explain exactly what happened, but it still wouldn’t do the match justice, and let’s just say that at a set and 4-0, 40-0 down I wasn’t expecting Viktor Troicki to beat Feli Lopez.
But win it he did and it goes into the books as a winner, if perhaps one of the most unlikely of the season from the position that the Serbian was in several times in that match.
The ‘long shot’ was nowhere near and other than Troicki and another somewhat fortunate win for Grigor Dimitrov over Marin Cilic all the other nine favourites were winners on a tough day for value seekers.
On to Thursday then and this third round of the tournament last year produced just the one winning underdog from eight matches, with Kevin Anderson’s three set success over Stan Wawrinka at 2.61 the only one.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs Viktor Troicki
Hopefully, Wawrinka won’t be the only losing favourite on Thursday when he takes on Troicki, as Stan is my ‘sure thing’ of the day against the Serbian.
Troicki’s match against Lopez lasted getting on for three hours and would have taken a lot out of him, which is not really ideal when you’re about to take to the court against the French Open champion in Paris.
Wawrinka was rather lucky to emerge from his round two clash with Bernard Tomic in straight sets when Tomic failed to take two set points or capitalise on a *5-2 lead in the tie break in set two of that match.
And it wouldn’t shock me if Stan had to go three sets here, but either in a likely two or possible three Wawrinka surely will take his place in the quarter finals in Bercy.
The Swiss beat the Serb a few weeks ago in Shanghai in much quicker conditions and he has won all three of their prior career meetings in all, which combined with a 6-1 record on indoor hard as a 1.20 to 1.30 favourite makes him the pick of the shorties for me.
There are plenty of other options, with Rafa Nadal against what will surely be a tired Kevin Anderson another likely winner, but I’m still not sure I trust Rafa at these prices just yet.
Anderson was the second player to overturn a 1.01 favourite in-running after Troicki when he came back from a set and 2-5 down to beat Dominic Thiem in a two-and-three-quarter hour late one.
Novak Djokovic should find Gilles Simon a comfortable opponent again, as he has in their last eight meetings dating back to 2008, and this court looks pretty handy for the Serb yet again, as it does for Andy Murray, who beat David Goffin.
John Isner vs Roger Federer
This gritty surface at the Palais Omnisports this year is ideal for the high-bouncing serve of Isner and although he probably won’t beat Federer he certainly has a chance of making it close in these conditions.
Isner made the semi finals here a few years ago and took a set from Djokovic here in 2013, so he’s dangerous in Bercy, and this isn’t a tournament that has featured particularly high on Federer’s seasonal goals throughout his career.
So, the sharpness that opponents need when trying to take the few break points that they see against Isner may not be quite there for Federer, as it definitely was when the pair met at the US Open a few months ago.
Indeed, Federer played a stunning tie break to win set one of that New York match, but his break points converted stats aren’t great, with the Swiss not even in the top-20 in 2015 in that category.
If Isner finds his best groove on serve he has a shot of taking the opening set (probably on a tie break) and the 4.0 about set one Isner is a viable ‘long shot’ on Thursday.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Tomas Berdych
Tsonga is one of the few Frenchmen who seem to really enjoy playing at home and the challenge of rising to the occasion in front of the notoriously fickle French crowd.
The big man loves the big stage and tends to play his best here in Paris, which gives him a good chance against Berdych today, but I’m not too sure he should be a 1.75 chance against the Czech in this (not before) 18:30 UK time clash.
I was hoping that he might be priced up as underdog, as he probably should be, after losing seven of his 10 career meetings with Berdych and five of the last seven.
But perhaps pertinently Tsonga has won the only two to have taken place in France, with the most recent one being here in Paris at the French Open quarter finals earlier this season.
Tsonga was allowed to look good by a fatigued Roberto Bautista-Agut last night, but that easy win won’t have done Jon any harm, while Berdych was made to fight all the way by another Frenchman, Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Berdych has a really good record here in Bercy too, with a 72 percent winning mark at the Paris Masters, and if anything there’s slight value on the Czech here, but I like the over 2.5 sets in this one.
The Berdman was a semi finalist last year at the only Masters tournament that he has won in the past (way back in 2005) and he should put up stern resistance to Tsonga here.
Tsonga to win it 2-1 might be a good long shot, with the Frenchman holding a 64 percent record in deciding sets in his career to Berdych’s 56 percent and the crowd might see him through.
Three of their last four hard court battles have seen each player win at least a set and only once in 10 matches has Tsonga won in straight sets.
Sure thing: Back Wawrinka to beat Troicki at 1.25
Value bet: Back over 2.5 sets in Tsonga/Berdych at 2.20
Long shot: Back Isner to win set one at 4.0