Quarter final and semi final action is the order of the day on Friday in week eight of the ATP World Tour 2016, with eight matches scheduled in Dubai, Acapulco and Sao Paulo.
It was one of those hard to predict days on the tour on Thursday, with favourites wilting all over the world, such as Novak Djokovic, Thomaz Bellucci, Roberto Bautista-Agut, Tomas Berdych and Santi Giraldo in Dubai and Sao Paulo alone.
Amidst losses for that lot we managed to land a ‘sure thing’ winner with the set one unders again coming up trumps in a weird encounter between Berdych and Nick Kyrgios, in which the Aussie won in two despite a bad back that needed on-court treatment.
But there were losses for the value bet when Bautista-Agut was stunned by Marcos Baghdatis and after waiting two days for Inigo Cervantes to land the ‘long shot’ double of a few days ago the Spaniard beat Blaz Rola 7-6, 7-6 to fail by a single game on the handicap.
Thursday’s ‘long shot’ was for Dusan Lajovic to beat Benoit Paire 2-0 in Sao Paulo and of course the Serbian underdog took three sets to get the win after bagelling the Frenchman in set one.
Amusingly, Paire said afterwards: “Honestly I didn't know the tournament was outdoors. When I saw some matches on TV I was surprised.” Benoit Paire, ladies and gentlemen.
Nick Kyrgios vs Stan Wawrinka
I should be getting paid danger money trying to predict what’s likely to happen in a Kyrgios match, with backache and food poisoning supposedly the issues that NK had to deal with ahead of the Berdych match.
There’s always something with this lad and no doubt all the talk ahead of this third career clash with Wawrinka will be about their little spat last time out in Montreal when Kyrgios put his size 11s some way past the mark.
With Djokovic out thanks to an eye infection the tournament suddenly looks wide open and Wawrinka is the obvious pick to take advantage, having no Davis Cup to worry about next week.
Kyrgios spent much of the Berdych match hobbling about, which proved all too much for the Czech’s brain, and the Berdman was unable to put the ball in court for quite some time.
The back injury seemed to free the Aussie up to go for his shots even more than usual and it was all too much for Berdych, but this clash with Wawrinka will be played with the sun going down and it should be a bit slower conditions.
Stan had to dig in early on against Philipp Kohlschreiber on Thursday, but you could just see an implosion coming from the German at the back end of set one as he served to stay in it and that’s exactly what happened.
Kohlschreiber never recovered and went away all too tamely once more against a top-10 opponent and having played both of his matches here so far in the twilight he should be a little more attuned to the playing conditions.
I’m not convinced about NK’s ambitions here with Davis Cup coming up at home in Australia next week and Wawrinka will probably want to put one over the Aussie after the Montreal incident.
The Swiss has a strong 24-7 record on outdoor hard courts against the big servers on my list, but he’ll need to be mindful of producing too many chipped returns with the underdog a keen visitor to the net – and especially if he wants to keep the points short due to injury.
As a 1.70 to 1.80 favourite Wawrinka has an excellent 18-5 record at main level and he’s won 14 of his last 15 on all surfaces in that price range.
I think there’s enough in this to side with the Swiss at that price as Friday’s value bet.
Pablo Cuevas vs Thiago Monteiro
This showpiece quarter final in Sao Paulo between the new young gun of Brazilian tennis and the defending champion might be a bit closer than 1.18 on Cuevas implies.
I’ve been impressed with the attitude of 21-year-old leftie Monteiro in the last couple of weeks and he’s not scared of an upset, having taken down the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Almagro, and he came from a set down to beat Daniel Munoz De La Nava last night.
This pair clashed in Rio last week and on that occasion Monteiro had the lead 4-2 in the opening set tie break but couldn’t quite push on, but he’ll have learned from that and I’d expect this 23:00 UK time start to be close.
Cuevas will likely be a little fatigued after 21 sets of clay court tennis in two weeks in Buenos Aires, Rio and now here in Sao Paulo and his opponent today will be very much up for this one and will be well-supported by the crowd.
The good news for Cuevas backers is that he should be very much used to playing lefties by now, as this will be his seventh straight match against one, but on two of the four occasions that the Uruguayan has started as a 1.20 favourite or shorter he’s dropped sets.
I like doubling the +4.5 games on Monteiro with +1.5 sets on Roberto Carballes Baena against Pablo Carreno Busta to make a 3.27 ‘long shot’ double for Friday.
PCB is another who has played a lot of tennis and he’s down for doubles duty today too in Sao Paulo, having played 25 sets in singles and doubles in a fortnight.
The Spaniard has won only one match at main level in straight sets since last August and that was against Rogerio Dutra Silva in Quito and the layers have gone with the 7-1 head-to-head in PCB’s favour here in their prices.
Six of those matches were at Futures level and RCB has taken a set off PCB in their last three clashes and will be buzzing after taking down local hero Thomaz Bellucci yesterday.
Carreno Busta has won one of his three main level matches as a 1.30 to 1.40 favourite in straight sets and I fancy a battle here.
Value bet: Back Wawrinka to beat Kyrgios at 1.78
Long shot: Back Monteiro +4.5 games and Carballes Baena +1.5 sets at 3.27