Friday in week one of the 2016 US Open features the start of the men’s singles third round, with eight matches on the schedule in New York today.
We’re not getting much luck with the short prices this tournament and Feliciano Lopez was poor against Joao Sousa, with the Spaniard later admitting: “Physically I have not been very good. I was slow.” It was meant to be the Portuguese that was struggling physically.
Jared Donaldson did get the win against Viktor Troicki, but Fabio Fognini lost in five from 2-1 up against David Ferrer for the ‘long shot’ double, while Nick Kyrgios served his way past Horacio Zeballos.
That was all after a long rain delay and that shouldn’t be an issue on Friday, with the forecast suggesting a fairly sunny day, but a bit of a windy one.
Lucas Pouiile vs Roberto Bautista-Agut
I think there’s a touch of value on the Frenchman here, with Pouille likely to play better as this tournament progresses and he brings a very respectable record versus top-20 opposition into this match.
I wasn’t keen on his price against Marco Chiudinelli in the last round and really he should have been beaten by the Swiss veteran, but Pouille is a fighter, and one who tends to play better against more illustrious opposition.
Against top-20 players this season the Frenchman has won six times, beating David Goffin and David Ferrer twice each, plus Richard Gasquet and Bernard Tomic, so Bautista-Agut will hold no real concerns.
The price today is probably based on the two comfortable wins that RBA has had in the past over Pouille, but both of those were on terribly slow indoor hard courts when Pouille was ranked 70 and 75 in the world.
It should be a lot closer today and fatigue may also be a factor in the pricing, with Pouille having to go five against Chiudinelli, but the last two sets took less than an hour and it was only a shade over three hours in all.
RBA’s match against Federico Delbonis was only 20 minutes shorter and the Spaniard has played 22 sets now in the last 10 days, compared to Pouille’s nine.
The main problem that I have with Pouille’s game is his serve, which he doesn’t make the most of, recording only 53.8 percent of first serves in play on outdoor hard courts in 2016.
RBA gets 63.9 percent of his relatively weak first serves into play and that might end up being key here, but I can’t see this being as easy for the Spaniard as his price suggests and 1.56 on Pouille +2.5 sets looks the best of the short prices today.
Marcos Baghdatis vs Ryan Harrison
I’m going to take a chance on Harrison here, with the American, who is somehow still only 24 years old, but seems to have been around for a very long time, a viable underdog against Baghdatis.
I watched most of his match against Milos Raonic in the last round and while it is the case that the Canadian was crocked in the latter stages and spinning his serve in Harrison was very competitive when Raonic was fully fit earlier in the match.
Indeed, both Harrison and Baghdatis faced lame opponents in the second round, with Baggy taking advantage of another bizarre showing from the unfathomable Benoit Paire, who barely moved for the first two sets.
This time Paire’s reasoning for his performance was thus: “For two sets, I wasn't really into it. I did not put enough intensity in. I woke up a little late. Too bad…”
Similarly to Pouille it’s the first serve percentage of Baghdatis that often lets him down and he’s managed only 48 percent of first serves in play this season on outdoor hard courts.
He was down at 50 percent again versus Paire and I doubt that’ll be good enough against an opponent guaranteed to be more up for the battle than Paire, which admittedly isn’t difficult.
Harrison won the last meeting between the pair, which was on a hard court in Happy Valley last season and both of their opening sets against each other have featured tight opening set tie breaks.
Harrison has a big advantage on service holds this season at main level on outdoor hard, with 86.5 percent (he also has a higher first serve percentage at 59.1) and it’s Baghdatis that leads the way on return, with 26.7 percent breaks to Harrison’s 22.5 percent.
I’d give the slight edge to Harrison then it what could be a long and entertaining encounter, so 2.15 on him seems reasonable value.
The Cypriot has a losing 10-13 record on outdoor hard as a 1.70 to 1.90 favourite and he hasn’t won three straight matches at any Grand Slam since the 2009 Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal vs Andrey Kuznetsov
Nadal’s result against Andreas Seppi seems impressive on paper, but the 6-0 set flatters the Spaniard and in any case the Italian was beaten before he even stepped onto court.
This midnight UK time clash on Ashe will favour Nadal in terms of the slower court and familiar conditions for the Spaniard, who played there against Seppi at night, but it could be tricky at times.
Kuznetsov has played well this season and took a set off Nadal in very similar conditions in Doha back in January and now that he seems to be fit again after an ankle problem I think he has a set in him.
The Russian holds serve more often than Nadal on outdoor hard this season (81.8 percent to 79.7 percent), but it’s Rafa that breaks much more often at 32.3 percent to Kuznetsov’s pretty good 24.9 percent.
Kuznetsov has the power that Seppi lacks and if he can hold himself together (which has often been his problem late in sets) he could make this tough for Nadal, whose forehand is still not what it was.
Nadal will most likely force Kuznetsov into too many errors in the end, so the 3-1 to Rafa seems a viable ‘long shot’ for Friday at 3.65.
Sure thing: Back Pouille +2.5 sets to beat Bautista-Agut at 1.56
Value bet: Back Harrison to beat Baghdatis at 2.15
Long shot: Back Nadal to beat Kuznetsov 3-1 at 3.65