The third round of matches in the men’s singles at the 2015 Australian Open gets underway at Melbourne Park on Friday, with eight matches from the bottom half of the draw in play.
Thursday was the first time in 2015 that I managed to draw a blank after a decent start to the season and nothing went my way, with Nishikori dropping the opening set against Ivan Dodig a sign of things to come.
On the bright side, at least I wasn’t on Adrian Mannarino, who led Feli Lopez by two sets and 4-0 and ended up retiring early in the fourth through some sort of ‘heat-related’ abdominal issue.
Friday’s play features Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer on its cast list, but there are doubts about both with ailments affecting the superstar pair.
So, for today’s ‘sure thing’ I prefer either one of Bernard Tomic or Nick Kyrgios, with the former getting the nod.
Bernard Tomic vs Sam Groth
Kyrgios should beat a hobbled Malek Jaziri with something to spare, but more on that later, and in match odds I prefer the bigger price about Tomic, who should have too much quality for the limited Groth.
Other than a monster serve there’s not a huge amount to like about Groth’s game and his record of 1-17 against top-50 ranked opponents tells its own tale, with that sole victory coming way back in 2008 on grass against Janko Tipsarevic.
Tomic took care of Groth in their only previous career meeting, which was almost four years ago in a Challenger and while that result offers little in the way of insight for today’s encounter I would expect Tomic to emerge victorious again.
There might be a tie break or two, but Tomic possesses a better ground game and a calmer temperament, with the combustible Groth often struggling to control his emotions on court.
Groth also played the first ever five set match of his career in round two against a Thanasi Kokkinakis who was coming off a marathon of his own in round one and Groth outlasted Kokky in the end, but a different story is expected today against Tomic, who plays his best tennis at home.
Malek Jaziri vs Nick Kyrgios
With huge questions marks over the fitness of Jaziri after his five sets against Edouard Roger-Vasselin and a bit of a doubt over Kyrgios, who has been struggling with a back problem the safest course of action here is a handicap wager.
Jaziri looked less than fit in the latter stages of that ERV clash and had both the trainer and the doctor in attendance as the heat and humidity took its toll on the Tunisian, who to be brutally frank wouldn’t top any lists of fittest-looking players on tour.
He had much to thank ERV for in winning that match after coming off second best in terms of the tennis, but the Frenchman was unable to get over the winning line, which is something one suspects won’t be an issue for the cocksure Kyrgios.
Jaziri likes to play a fairly patient game and for me on this surface Kyrgios can rush him and Jaziri won’t enjoy the big serve of the Aussie either if his 3-12 record against the big servers on my list is anything to go by.
The Aussie was a winner when the pair met in New York qualies in 2013 and the improvement in Kyrgios has been substantial since then, all of which makes the –6.5 games on Kyrgios my bet here at 1.78.
Kevin Anderson vs Richard Gasquet
Friday’s long shot is a double involving Anderson to defeat Gasquet and Viktor Troicki to take a set from Tomas Berdych, which will pay 4.67 if successful.
Anderson struggled for form at the start of this season, but seemed to have found his way again with a decent win over what may or may not have been a fatigued Ricardas Berankis in round two.
The big South African hasn’t had the best of this match-up with the Frenchman in the past, hence the Gasman’s price of around 1.42, but Gasquet tends to struggle in Melbourne, with only one win over a top-20 ranked opponent here in his career.
Gasquet never looks like he enjoys heat too much and that may have a part to play in his poor results over the years at the Open, where he’s never made it past the round of 16.
We know that Anderson can beat top-10 players on his day on hard courts and 2.75 looks very tempting against a flaky opponent, who has failed to produce here in Melbourne many times.
As for Troicki, well, his record against Berdych is also poor, but the Czech should have dropped a set against Jurgen Melzer in round two and looked far from impressive early on in that one.
Troicki is on a mission after coming back from his doping ban and he’s playing with great confidence right now after winning Sydney.
Sure thing: Back Tomic to beat Groth at 1.28
Value bet: Back Kyrgios –6.5 games to beat Jaziri at 1.78
Long shot: Back Anderson to beat Gasquet and Troicki +2.5 sets to beat Berdych at 4.67