Thursday at the BB&T Open in Atlanta was a mixed one, despite being agonisingly close to a perfect double. My preview of the Jack Sock versus Steve Johnson match proved to be correct, with both the overs and the Sock victory turning out to be winners.
That was after James Blake’s defeat, which was particularly galling, as he had won the first set and was then ahead 4-2 and serving in the final set before injury struck. Blake collapsed to his knees and was flat out at the side of the court with the medical team and trainer in attendance before Matthew Ebden served the match out against a hobbling Blake. In-play backers would have profited from Blake’s starting price of 2.20 after he won that opening set on the breaker, but it was a very frustrating loss for outright backers.
The day got worse for American tennis fans when Mardy Fish was forced to retire injured when a set and 3-2 ahead against Gilles Muller. Bizarrely, Fish collided with a net post, which caused an ankle injury. This has been a year to forget for Fish so far and yesterday musy have been a painful loss for Mardy backers. Thankfully, I wasn’t one of them.
It’s quarter-finals day in Atlanta and it’s not quite the line-up that the tournament organisers would have hoped for, with Ebden and Muller kicking things off at 6pm UK time. Both players can consider themselves fortunate to still be in the tournament after coming through as a result of their respective opponents’ injuries and both will fancy their chances tonight.
Muller is slight favourite at 1.74, presumably based on his 1-0 head-to-head record over Ebden and perhaps the fact that he had a much quicker match than the Aussie yesterday, but there are several other pointers to Muller in this one.
Ebden has a very poor record against tall players: his record against players of height 6’2 and over is 10 wins and 24 losses, with just one win in his entire career against a top-100 ranked player over 6’2 in height. That was against Marcel Granollers at the beginning of this year and his return of serve, particularly on the backhand side, is a worry against the bigger guys.
Another reason that Muller is favourite is that Ebden has a poor record against left handers, having lost seven of his last nine, with one win over a top-100 ranked leftie (Jurgen Melzer) lifetime. The stats point pretty clearly to Muller in this one and if he can serve somewhere close to his best he should win this.
Of the other quarter-finals, Roddick is too short at 1.14 against Michael Russell, who’s coming off a great win over Kevin Anderson. Although you would expect Roddick to prevail, that price isn’t appealing.
The all-Japanese clash between Go Soeda and Kei Nishikori should be interesting, with Nishikori never having faced a Japanese opponent at tour level and only once at Challenger level. Generally speaking it’s tougher to play against your countrymen with all the associated pressure that goes with it, but this doesn’t always follow, as Greg Rusedksi - who was 0-6 against Tim Henman - would confirm.
Soeda is 1-20 lifetime against top-20 ranked opposition and I would expect Kei to win this match, but at 1.33 he won’t make you rich. Soeda should have enough about him with the way he’s performed so far this week to make this a competitive match and I’ll back him to ensure that it goes over the 21.5 games mark as Nishikori continues to feel his way back to form after injury.
And the final match of the day between Sock and John Isner could be a bit closer than the odds suggest too and looks likes one for the overs.
Back Muller at 1.74 to beat Ebden
Back over 21.5 games in Nishikori v Soeda at 1.80