The quarter finals of the first major of the 2016 season get underway on Tuesday, as the Australian Open nears the business end.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are both looking to book their places in the semi finals and each have potentially dangerous opponents to overcome in order to achieve that goal.
It was a good day of tennis betting for us on Monday, with both of my odds-against picks winning, as Gael Monfils defeated Andrey Kuznetsov by three sets to one and David Ferrer comfortably covered the -1.5 sets handicap against John Isner.
Novak Djokovic vs Kei Nishikori
The world number one was less than pleased with his 100 unforced errors in what was a match low on quality against Gilles Simon on Sunday and he’ll be very keen indeed to put things right here against Nishikori.
It could certainly be argued that Nishikori has played the more impressive tennis of the two men coming into this eighth career meeting between the pair and on that basis the Japanese star is in with half a chance of the upset.
But as ever with Nishikori it’s very hard to trust his feeble body to see a match of any more than three or four sets through to the end and surely Djokovic won’t play as poorly again as he did against Simon.
And it wasn’t just Simon that posed problems for Djokovic, with Andreas Seppi giving the world number one a severe test from the baseline and if Nishikori plays his best tennis he’ll have his chances – whether he can take them where Seppi and Simon didn’t is another matter.
I don’t think many punters would have been on either a five setter between Djokovic and Simon or a comfortable straight sets win for Nishikori over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and again this isn’t straightforward to bet on.
There has been a definite pattern in their matches of very short sets, with their seven opening sets against each other all going under 9.5 games, with three 6-1s, two 6-2s, a 6-3 and a 6-4.
Purely on that basis the under 9.5 games in set one at 2.12 has to be of interest and looking at their rivalry as a whole only two of their 20 sets against each other have gone to 10 games or more.
Some of that is down to Nishikori’s relatively weak serve and Djokovic’s excellent returning, but after failing miserably with the slow serves of Simon the Japanese star might fancy his chances if he serves well on Tuesday.
Djokovic outright backers, while still having the most likely winner on their side, must be a tad concerned about the Serb’s level from the baseline and his touch was atrocious in many failed drop shots against Simon.
In short, he’ll need a far better level to avoid a possible shock, and he’ll probably raise his game and produce when he needs to, but I’m not prepared to bet on it at 1.14.
Perhaps there’s an underlying and as yet undisclosed reason why he’s not been at the races thus far, with an ongoing arm issue a possible cause, but either way I’d rather take a bit of a chance in this one.
Nishikori has dropped sets to Djokovic very heavily pretty much every time they’ve met, with at least one set getting away from him either 6-1 or 6-2 in each of their seven prior meetings.
So, the games handicap doesn’t interest me on Nishikori, and as I don’t trust him to go the distance either the reality is likely to be that Kei takes a set, but no more.
The timing of this match at not before 19:15 local time (08:15 UK) should mean that it’ll be slower out there, which will surely make it easier for Djokovic to defend.
Under 13.5 aces also appeals in this one at 1.87, with neither player likely to hit many and especially in slow conditions and with their propensity for quick sets.
But the 3.55 about Djokovic winning it by three sets to one looks the call.
Long shot: Back Djokovic to beat Nishikori 3-1 at 3.55