The remaining places in the 2015 French Open men’s singles quarter finals are up for grabs on Monday, with a stellar line-up on day nine in Paris.
The expected rain delays did materialise to hamper proceedings in the French capital on Sunday and boy did something put a stop to the Tomas Berdych show, with a terrible performance from the Czech against an in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Berdych awoke after two awful sets in which he appeared to be struggling with his movement and two large strips of kinesio tape that appeared beneath his shirt may have had an effect on what was a dismal display.
Gael Monfils and Roger Federer were made to wait to finish their fourth round match, with the score at a set apiece when play was called on Sunday night, and they restart on Monday not before 11:30 UK time.
Novak Djokovic vs Richard Gasquet
Unless something untoward happens to our French Open favourite it’s very hard to see the world number one having any real problems disposing of Gasquet and moving on to a likely last eight clash with Rafa Nadal.
The Serb probably had a tougher match with Thanasi Kokkinakis than he’ll encounter today with Gasquet, whose game doesn’t have the goods to do more than minor damage to the Djokovic defences.
Seven of their last eight clashes have ended in straight sets wins for Djokovic and interestingly the second set has never gone past 10 games in the 11 completed matches they’ve played against each other.
Generally that’s been because the Gasman has raised the white flag after one set of frustration in being unable to breach the defences of the Serb and on slow clay in damp conditions it’s tough to see him winning many games.
Gasquet is perhaps the most frustrating of the top male players to watch, with the ability he has seemingly being nullified by his court positioning and a lack of willingness to use his money shot, which is the backhand down the line.
The Frenchman likes to work his points and that sort of approach (Nadal aside) doesn’t tend to have any real success against Djokovic and that can be seen by the type of players that Novak has dropped sets to lately.
Thomaz Bellucci, Nico Almagro and Kei Nishikori have been the ones in this clay swing to do it and they can all step up and take it the opposition much more readily than Gasquet, who isn’t built that way.
Gasquet has never been to the last eight of his home major and surely that will continue in 2015, with the best bets looking to be the 3-0 to Djokovic at 1.35 or zero tie breaks at 1.33 for ‘sure thing’ backers.
The pair have played one tie break in the last 22 sets contested against each other and excluding matches against John Isner and Ivo Karlovic Djokovic has played only three tie breaks against players ranked outside the top-20 in 56 sets in 2015.
I also like the -8.5 game handicap on Djokovic here and the second set unders could be interesting too, with three of their last four second sets ending 6-2 and Gasquet likely to be feeling it after two tough matches against Kevin Anderson and Carlos Berlocq.
Jack Sock vs Rafael Nadal
This one to me is the most intriguing of Monday’s matches and this is one of those where it’s worth a punt on the outsider in a first career meeting between the nine-times champion and the big-hitting American.
For me Nadal is still some way below his best and I don’t think that impression will leave me until he beats a Djokovic, Murray, Nishikori or Federer, which could happen this week of course.
But he has been starting very tentatively all season and was fortunate that Andrey Kuznetsov was even more nervy than him in the Spaniard’s last match here in Paris on Saturday.
Nadal’s serve was poor and forehand all over the place in set one and for me that indicates that he’s not truly confident in matches until he gets ahead and Sock can take advantage if he plays his best early on.
Sock’s confidence should be at an all-time high right now after the season he’s had so far, which will see him advance into the top-32 when the rankings come out after this tournament, and his win over Borna Coric should increase that still further.
That said, it’s hard to see him getting the better of even a less than top form Nadal on clay over five sets, but I think he’ll have his moments in this match and I like the +2.5 sets on Sock or the set two win to the American at 6.10.
He has the kind of game that can trouble Nadal if he serves well and John Isner has proven over the years that players with big serves and forehands can take sets from the Spaniard.
Damp conditions won’t aid Nadal’s cause, as it nullifies his top spin somewhat, but it will probably take Sock a while to get a level on Rafa’s fairly unique playing style.
Sock isn’t that experienced at playing against lefties, but he has got a good record of 8-2 against them at main level so far in his career, although he’s 1-1 against top-50 ranked left-handers.
The American struggled with another Spanish grinder in Pablo Carreno Busta in round two and had to dig deep in that one, which suggests that Rafa’s defences are likely to come out on top here, but we could have a spell of unplayable stuff from Sock that rewards odds-against punters.
Sure thing: Back Djokovic to beat Gasquet 3-0 at 1.35
Value bet: Back Sock +2.5 sets to beat Nadal at 2.60