There are another 16 men’s singles matches scheduled for Saturday at the 2016 Australian Open, with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka both looking to progress to week two.
Friday was an up and down day for my wagers, but Andreas Seppi’s competitive display against Novak Djokovic provided us with a 3.30 winner when the Italian, after the predicted slow start, made a real match of it and they went over the 30.5 total games mark.
Seppi went toe-to-toe with the world number one for two sets and looked every inch his equal – until it came to crunch time – but by then he’d done enough.
Roberto Bautista-Agut somehow managed to coax another fine performance out of what must be a shattered body to stun ‘sure thing’ backers in a 3-0 win over Marin Cilic and Federico Delbonis was nowhere near a set against Gilles Simon in a match played in totally different conditions indoors to those we were expecting.
Those who took my other suggestions of a 3-1 Kei Nishikori win and tie break played in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Pierre-Hugues Herbert instead would have enjoyed success, but Seppi saved the day really.
It’s set to be much cooler in Melbourne on Saturday, with temperatures around 20C expected and the chance of the odd shower, so heat certainly won’t be an issue, and hopefully we won't need the roof.
Andy Murray vs Joao Sousa
‘Sure thing’ backers will, no doubt, look to Murray and Wawrinka to earn them a small percentage return on their investments on Saturday, with both players tough to oppose.
Murray has faced Sousa six times and won 15 of the 16 sets they’ve contested and all 12 they’ve played against each other on hard courts, with only one set gong further than 10 games.
And in the form that the Brit has shown in his opening two rounds it’s hard to see any other result than a straight sets win for Murray, who is a 1.31 chance to land the 3-0 score line.
Sousa has had the misfortune to face Murray at the Australian Open in 2013, 2015 and now 2016 and it’s unlikely to get any easier for the Portuguese, who will need to be at 110 percent all match to get anything here.
He did take a set from Murray on clay last year at the French Open, but in nine matches on outdoor hard against top-10 ranked opponents Sousa has a 0-21 record in sets played.
I doubt it will be a walk in the park for Murray, as Sousa won’t roll over by any means, but it’s very hard to see the Portuguese redlining his game for long enough to even nick a set unless Murray has an off day.
Bernard Tomic vs John Millman
Tomic seemingly never does things the easy way, as he showed yet again by allowing a half-fit Simone Bolelli to drag him to four sets in round two and this all-Aussie clash could be a similar story.
In Grand Slam play Tomic has only won five of his last 42 matches in 34 games or fewer and in the last time he managed it was a dozen matches ago when he took down Sam Groth here in Melbourne in 2015.
Since then he’s failed to put away Damir Dzumhur, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Jan-Lennard Struff and Luca Vanni to name but a few in 34 games or fewer and Millman will surely be pumped for this match.
The 26-year-old had only won one Grand Slam match before this tournament and after coming out on top against Gilles Muller in five sets this is a massive match for him against a fellow Aussie in the last-32 of the Open.
He was lucky to get past Diego Schwartzman, who hit the wall physically on the verge of victory in round one, but the win over Muller was another gutsy effort and he can be another to take advantage of the wavering concentration of Bernie.
The 23-year-old found himself down in 28th spot in the rankings in the return games won category in 2015 (behind Thomaz Bellucci and Viktor Troicki) and his fitness is too often a big concern for his supporters
Tomic has been a 1.10 to 1.20 favourite in best-of-five play four times in his career and three times he’s gone to either four of five sets, so there’s no value whatsoever on unders here at evens.
The alternative value wager is to side with Andrey Kuznetsov -1.5 sets to beat Dudi Sela, with the Russian in excellent form right now and he should have too many weapons for Sela if he carries on as he has been.
We enjoyed a nice odds-against winner with Kuznetsov the other day against Chardy and the Sela serve is very attackable for a player with the power of the Russian.
David Ferrer vs Steve Johnson
Ferrer silenced the crowd and sent Lleyton Hewitt into retirement on Thursday, but he may find the challenge of Johnson a little tougher to deal with.
After a poor start to the year Johnson has found the sort of form that he ended 2015 with and after two quick wins in Melbourne he can apply some pressure to Ferrer if he delivers from the service line.
Johnson had his chances to beat Ferrer indoors in Vienna at the end of last season, but let the opportunity pass him by, and he should be doubly keen to try and make amends this time.
I’d prefer the weather to be warmer to make the conditions as fast as possible here and that puts me off the outright win on Johnson, but Ferrer has lost nine times on outdoor hard as a 1.10 to 1.20 favourite.
Ferrer can be vulnerable to a big serving/big forehand opponent, as losses to Daniel Brands, Tomas Berdych and Kevin Anderson in recent times show and he’s lost 10 of his 27 against the big servers on my list.
It’s certainly within Johnson’s ability range to take a set and the first one is a tempter at 3.35, but the American +2.5 sets combined with Kuznetsov -1.5 sets makes a viable 3.12 double for Saturday.
I can’t see Lukas Rosol doing a great deal against Stan Wawrinka, but if Viktor Troicki has anything left in the tank he might well make Milos Raonic work very hard for the win.
Sure thing: Back Murray to beat Sousa 3-0 at 1.31
Value bet: Back over 34.5 games in Tomic/Millman at 1.80
Long shot: Back Johnson +1.5 sets and Kuznetsov -1.5 sets at 3.12