The third round of the 2016 French Open begins on Friday, with eight matches from the bottom half of the draw on the schedule for today.
‘Sure thing’ backers collected on Thursday, as Borna Coric defeated Bernard Tomic in four sets, but there was a bit of bad luck for ‘value bet’ punters when Stephane Robert won set two instead of set one against Alexander Zverev.
And Victor Estrella Burgos blew a 6-3 lead in the pivotal set two tie break of his match against Feli Lopez and with it any chance he had of landing the ‘long shot’ wager.
In the third round of the French Open in 2015 there were a measly two underdog winners from 15 matches, with Jeremy Chardy’s win over David Goffin at 3.15 and Teimuraz Gabashvili’s success against Lukas Rosol at 2.15 the only ones.
We saw only three five set matches (surprise, surprise two of them involved Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils) in round three in 2015 and 10 were decided in straight sets.
Weather-wise there’s a chance of disruption due to showers and thunderstorms, but the forecast doesn’t look terrible by any means.
Andy Murray vs Ivo Karlovic
Surely, surely Murray won’t go five sets for the third straight time in this French Open and in these conditions it’s hard to see Ivo’s serve keeping him in this one for longer than a maximum of four sets.
Murray was made to pull out all the stops against Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue in battles that may well have harmed his title-winning chances further down the line, but this should be quicker.
He faces a Karlovic who was made to go all the way to 12-10 in the fifth set by Jordan Thompson in round two on Wednesday and that has to be good news for Murray, who could do with a nice three setter here.
That Thompson clash lasted for four-and-a-half hours and it seems unlikely that the veteran Croat will have more than his serve left in his armoury on Friday in his bid to beat Murray for the first time.
Murray has won all six of their clashes, but this will be the first one on clay, and the Scot will have a little extra time on which to line up his returns and passes at net in these conditions.
It should be a pretty good match-up for Murray on clay and I’d expect him to play a lot better than at times against Stepanek and Bourgue, but it must be said that both of those guys played some great tennis at times.
The -1.5 sets on Murray at 1.19 will be the ‘sure thing’ for today, with Murray -6.5 games another, bigger priced option.
John Isner vs Teimuraz Gabashvil
Isner just about scraped home one of our first ‘sure thing’ bets of the week in a narrower than the score suggests 3-1 win over John Millman, but he looks vulnerable here against the Russian.
Kyle Edmund produced a really disappointing display against Isner in round two and perhaps didn’t get to grips with the unique serve of Isner, but Gabashvili shouldn’t have that problem.
Gaba has beaten Isner in two of their three prior meetings and unusually for Isner both defeats to the Russian have come on home soil in the USA.
On clay in Houston last season in straight sets and on outdoor hard in Delray Beach in 2011 were Gabashvili’s wins, while Isner’s one win came in Madrid in a 7-6, 6-4 success at altitude on clay.
Gabashvili has reproduced the sort of form at the French Open in 2016 that we saw from him in 2015 and having seen off Donald Young and Benoit Paire and he’s certainly more than a match for Isner off the ground in this form.
The serve of Gabashvili will be key, as it usually is with him, as he has a tendency to produce Ana Ivanovic-esque performances from the service line on occasions, and he’ll need a good day in that department.
The 47 percent and 51 percent on first serves in that he’s produced so far this week may not be good enough, but Isner is hardly the quality of returner to take advantage.
I like the 2.60 on Gabashvili as a bit of value in this match and I’m happy to take a chance on the Russian at those odds.
Jeremy Chardy vs Stanislas Wawrinka
The Frenchman is one of the few home players that seems to enjoy playing in France in front of his friends and family and his attitude is in stark contrast to that of the likes of Simon and Richard Gasquet.
Gillou and Richie usually wear the countenances of someone on their way to the dentist for root canal surgery when they play the French Open and often talk of how much they feel the pressure in Paris.
Chardy seems to revel in it and if he doesn’t let himself down with a tonne of unforced errors and double faults the Frenchman has at least a set in him in this fifth career clash with Wawrinka.
They haven’t met since 2013, but Chardy has the kind of game to worry the best players in the world – at least for spells in matches – and I like the 3-1 to Wawrinka here at 3.60.
It promises to be a match that should really thrill those in the crowd who bother to turn up, which should be a fair few at around 16:00 UK time unless they’ve had a heavy lunch.
It’s always very tricky indeed attempting to call a Wawrinka match, due to the up and down nature of many of his performances, but with huge points to defend this fortnight he should at least be motivated.
Chardy can make this a tough day for Stan if he plays his best tennis, but the likelihood is that he’ll threaten for a while and then fade.
Sure thing: Back Murray -1.5 sets at 1.19
Value bet: Back Gabashvili to beat Isner at 2.60
Long shot: Back Wawrinka to beat Chardy 3-1 at 3.60