Round two of the men’s singles in the 2016 Australian Open completes on Thursday, with 32 players battling it out for a place in round three in Melbourne.
I said yesterday that there was little to get excited about for value seekers on Wednesday and that proved quite correct, with all 16 men’s favourites winning on the day.
Consequently, our ‘sure thing’ double was successful, but there was no joy elsewhere as Dominic Thiem raced past Nicolas Almagro with surprising ease, while Daniel Brands led Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, but fell away in the end.
Almagro was very disappointing after showing good signs in his previous match, but he didn’t do anything well enough and, as his tendency, tried to hit his way out of trouble when things went against him.
The weather forecasters are expecting a high of around 28C in Melbourne on Thursday, so conditions are fair, and we have a few more interesting-looking clashes on the card than we did on Wednesday.
Milos Raonic vs Tommy Robredo
‘Sure thing’ backers should get their day off to a good start by siding with Raonic to beat ailing Spanish veteran Robredo in a match-up that has been a nightmare for Tommy.
Raonic has won all five of their meetings so far and he’s barely been remotely troubled in doing so – even winning their three clashes on clay – and on a hard court Robredo is yet to make the Canadian play more than nine games in any of their contested sets.
Add to that the five set marathon that Robredo endured in the opening round against Malek Jaziri that took four hours and 47 minutes and we have a bleak outlook for Tommy on Thursday.
Furthermore, Robredo had treatment for a problem with his right arm and was given pills by the doctor in the Jaziri match, while Raonic has breezed through so far.
The Canadian took only an hour and a half to beat Lucas Pouille and now that he’s adopted a more attacking approach on return of serve Robredo could well find it difficult to be competitive on Thursday.
Raonic seems likely to win this is fewer than 31.5 games and with that option being a 1.90 chance that’s one to consider for the ‘value bet’.
For the ‘sure thing’ though we can add John Isner and Stan Wawrinka to make a 1.30 treble for Thursday.
Isner takes on Marcel Granollers, who holds a 1-10 record on outdoor hard against the big servers in my database and the Spaniard has a 6-18 mark against the top-25 on outdoor hard.
The Spaniard does pop up every now and then with surprising wins, but in these Melbourne conditions he’s never been past this second round stage and providing Isner is fit he should ease past Granollers.
The big American is 21-2 on hard courts (one of the losses was an early retirement) as a 1.10 to 1.20 favourite and with conditions set to be reasonable on Thursday he shouldn’t have too many issues against Granollers.
My outright Wawrinka shouldn’t be losing to veteran Czech net-rusher Radek Stepanek, whose 37-year-old body surely can’t keep up the pressure on Stan for long enough to win over five sets.
Stan has a perfect 19-0 record in Grand Slams when starting as a 1.01 to 1.10 favourite and although Steps may give him a decent workout the Swiss will surely prevail.
Andrey Kuznetsov vs Jeremy Chardy
After Chardy's nigh-on five hour marathon in the previous round against Ernests Gulbis it looks worth taking a chance at 2.48 on Kuznetsov, who has been playing some good tennis so far in 2016
Gulbis served for the match in the fifth set of that match and it must have been hugely demanding physically and mentally on Chardy, who said afterwards: “Physically my legs are ok but there were passages in which I felt the chills, I did not feel well.”
He may have recovered in time for this first career clash with Kuznetsov, but he also may not have and the Russian certainly has the weapons to make this tough if Chardy is below par.
Kuznetsov played well in Doha prior to this tournament and made Rafa Nadal work hard for a three-set win and he should be much the fresher of the pair after a straight sets win in round one here.
It’ll be a battle of flashy winners and numerous errors, no doubt, but there’s enough in this to side with the Russian against Chardy, who has a patchy 9-7 record on hard courts when priced as a 1.50 to 1.60 favourite.
David Ferrer vs Lleyton Hewitt
One match that will be the complete opposite is Ferrer vs Hewitt, which will surely be a war of attrition and the over 167.5 total minutes in this one looks highly likely.
It will surely be the last match of Rusty’s career and it seems fanciful to think that the veteran Aussie will go away easily in these circumstances against a player with a similar type of game.
Both of these warriors have relied on fitness and making few errors to win their matches over the years and with this one starting at around 19:00 local time when conditions are at their slowest this could take a while.
A good book might be required if you’re planning on watching this pair slug it out using every inch of the court over the best of five sets and over minutes can make one leg of a ‘long shot’ double.
The second leg comprises the 2.10 possibility about Steve Johnson beating Thomaz Bellucci with a -1.5 set handicap, making a 3.95 combination for Thursday.
Bellucci may well find conditions too quick for him here against big serving opposition, as Aljaz Bedene did against Johnson in round here when the American won in straight sets.
The Brazilian has played only two five set matches in his last 21 in Grand Slams and on a hard court it’s 14 matches since his last five setter, with Bellucci tending to win or lose quickly.
In his 26 matches in the main draw of hard court majors he’s played a five setter only four times and his record against my big servers on outdoor hard courts is 4-13 – with two of those wins coming against Jiri Vesely.
Johnson, despite a questionable backhand, has a decent record against lefties and conditions seem to be very much in his favour here after a confidence-boosting win in round one.
Other options for ‘long shots’ include Tim Smyczek, who, despite a lack of any real weaponry, may have too much fitness for Viktor Troicki, with the Serb surely feeling it after Sydney and a five set round one here.
On his best form Simone Bolelli could stun Bernard Tomic, but the Italian hasn’t been on top form for some time now, while Feli Lopez has never lost in a major as a 1.10 to 1.20 favourite.
Sure thing: Back Raonic, Isner and Wawrinka at 1.30
Value bet: Back Kuznetsov to beat Chardy at 2.48
Long shot: Back Johnson -1.5 sets to beat Bellucci and over minutes in Hewitt/Ferrer at 3.95