All sorts of records are being broken at the French Open this week – and most of them are costing me money.
The baffling scorelines in this most unpredictable of grand slams continued on day five, along with some more chronic misfortune.
This time it was Denis Istomin, so often my nemesis, who was the catalyst for a painful day when he somehow contrived to lose six straight points from 5-1 up and serving in the second set tie break against Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Needing just a couple more points to win the overs bet, losing six on the bounce stunned him and he went on to lose the match in that moment. He also had the trainer out in set three, which didn’t help matters.
Carlos Berlocq then served for the first set against Richard Gasquet and choked it away, with the end result being a loss there too, as the Argentine was unable to convert his numerous chances in set two.
It isn’t surprising that backers of the over total games – myself included – have been suffering, as an unprecedented 23 of the 32 second round matches were won in straight sets.
Generally, only around half of the 32 second round matches end in three sets and I’ve gone back all the way to 1995 and not found any years (apart from 2007’s 20) that had so many matches end in three sets. The general average was between 10 and 16.
That said, every match will probably be a grind today now, but I’m not risking it and instead I’ll start with the world number two.
Novak Djokovic 1.03 vs Marin Cilic 14.00
I said a few days ago that Djokovic looked good to cover the games handicap over Jeremy Chardy and he did that with ease. I expect the same sort of result in this match.
Cilic has lost all eight of his meetings with Novak and in this first ever meeting on clay I can’t see the big Croat coming close to improving that record.
Strangely, all of their clashes have come on hard courts, with their most recent at Indian Wells, where I seem to recall tipping Marin to take a set, which he did, but not today.
Marin was in arguably the form of his career at that point, but he’s slipped back since and his clay court swing has been poor, with a 6-4 record coming into this tournament.
The serve will be the key to Marin’s hopes in this match and if he serves below his best Djokovic will surely win this by more than the 8.5 game handicap and I’m struggling to see how Cilic will win points otherwise.
I would expect him to fall away in the latter stages if the first two sets are comfortable for Novak and the 1.91 about the minus 8.5 games looks very achievable for the world number two.
Martin Klizan 1.44 Marcel Granollers 2.70
Both of these players are coming off the back of five set matches in their previous round, but neither were typical five set grinds.
Klizan defeated Robin Haase in a touch over three hours, with only the final set taking much over half an hour, while Granollers won a bizarre match with Alex Dolgopolov, who became injured after taking a two set lead.
That one lasted almost exactly the same time as the Klizan/Haase match and neither should be overly shattered as a consequence today.
What it does tell us is that Granollers was being comprehensively outplayed by Dolgo until the Ukrainian became injured and Klizan’s form is such in conditions that he loves that he looks a good bet to emerge victorious here.
He backed up his comfortable win over Kei Nishikori with that victory over Haase in a peculiar match and he has beaten Granollers, who Klizan describes as an opponent that suits him, in their one prior meeting.
That was in Sao Paulo on the clay this year and I would rate Granollers as arguably more effective in quicker conditions than we’re seeing here.
The Spaniard has only once been past the second round of the French Open and the minus 3.5 games on Klizan at 1.72 looks good here.
Back Djokovic –8.5 games to beat Cilic at 1.91
Back Klizan –3.5 games to beat Granollers at 1.72