Britain’s number three Dan Evans amazing transformation from a potentially wasted talent in to a top-pro continues, and his latest triumph came in the shape of knocking out top-seed and top-10 star Dominic Thiem in yesterday’s quarter-finals at the Sydney International. Evans lost his first two matches of the year at the Hopman Cup against Next Gen star Zverev and Gasquet, which was no disgrace, and this week fought hard to beat top-100 ranked Montiero and top-50 ranked veteran Granollers. He continued that fighting spirit against Thiem in their quarter-final showdown, and the way he ended the match winning the third set 6-1 was highly impressive and proves he has what it takes to succeed on the ATP Tour for years to come.
Evans, who was unseeded and available at 66/1 this week, was due to face unseeded Russian Kuznetsov in the semi-finals, who was available at 25/1 this week and the two continued the trend of big priced unseeded players doing well at this tournament. The Russian was the clear favourite to win their second encounter this morning (won their previous one at Wimbledon in 2014), but from a patriotic purpose I hope Evans can repeat his underdog heroics again and hopefully he will be celebrating his first ATP final appearance by the time you read this article.
The other semi-final featured one of my outright selections Troicki (10/1), who received a walkover yesterday due to Kohlschreiber retiring. Prior to this morning’s semi-final match against three times Sydney semi-finalist Muller, Troicki was on a 13 match winning streak at Sydney, having won the title the last two seasons. Hopefully by the time you read this article Troicki will have repeated his 2015 Sydney win against Muller and have made it three finals in a row.
At Auckland my one remaining outright selection fourth seed Sock (11/2) was due to face compatriot and seventh seed Johnson in this morning’s semi-finals. The pair have met six times previously on the ATP and Challenger tours and the head-to-head stood at 3-3. Hopefully Sock will have repeated his 2016 final run by the time you read this article, but judging by their previous meetings and form so far this year it won’t be easy. The other semi-final was between eighth seed Baghdatis and the unseeded Sousa and surprisingly this was the time the two had met even though they’ve been playing on the ATP Tour for many years.
In terms of my analysis on Monday for this week’s two ATP tournaments I was right to avoid the top two seeds at both events as they all lost or withdrew from their respective tournaments prior to playing (Bautista Agut bet was void). I highlighted that historically unseeded players perform well at Sydney and that continued as Evans or Kuznetsov will contest Saturday’s final. I highlighted that seeded players have a good record at Auckland (Seeded players, in general, have a strong record at Auckland and a player seeded no higher than eight won 8 of the last ten titles (last 2016 Bautista Agut seeded 8) and they were a losing finalist five times in this period (last time second seed 2013) and that trend continued with three seeded players contesting the semi-finals.
Looking ahead to next week’s Australian Open, which gets underway in the early hours of Monday morning, it’s not hard to look past a Murray and Djokovic final, considering they’ve contested three of the last four and if you can get 2/1 or above in the ‘Predict the Finalist’ markets when it appears I would suggest snapping this up. From an outsiders perspective I like the look of Dimitrov at 50/1 after his impressive Brisbane win, especially after Raonic reached the semi-finals and went agonisingly close to the final last year after winning Brisbane.
Don’t forget to tune in on Sunday when I will provide my tournament analysis and preview.