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  • Chris Sobey


Where down to the third-round stage of the men’s French Open and while there’s been plenty of highly entertaining matches, including a host of top twenty players already being pushed to four and five sets, the manner of the straight sets winning performances of ten-time winner Nadal and 2016 winner Djokovic in their opening two matches could spell an ominous sign for the rest of the main contenders.

Barring top-seed Nadal, twentieth seed Djokovic, eleventh seed Schwartzman and eighteenth seed Fognini the remaining top-twenty seeds left standing dropped one or more sets in one or both of their opening two matches. However, this is not a surprise given the strength in depth of the top-100 players at present and of course the many surprises Grand Slams can throw up at any time.

This matter is an important reminder for the next generation of Grand Slam contenders relating to how important it is to conserve energy in the earlier rounds as once they reach the latter stages you need every ounce of energy available to be able to compete against the elite players over the best of five sets, which the likes of multiple Slam winners Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have managed to do so well on so many occasions during their long and illustrious careers.

Top-seed Nadal will next face home hope and twenty seventh seed Gasquet tomorrow and while Gasquet is likely to rise to the occasion on centre court in front of a passionate home crowd and give Nadal a good work out, he’s never beaten Nadal in sixteen previous attempts and last won a set eleven matches ago way back in 2008.

Second seed Sascha Zverev’s (advised 10/1) disappointing results at Grand Slams nearly continued Wednesday when he came close to losing against the dangerous Lajovic, but without playing anywhere near his best he came from two sets to one down to grind out what could prove to be a huge win for him psychologically this fortnight, and for the rest of his career at Slam level. Zverev will hope to be on centre or court one against twenty sixth seed Dzumhur today, as he really struggled to cope with the tight conditions on the outer court he played on against Lajovic.

Third seed Cilic (advised 10/3 to Win Second Quarter) has progressed to the third round and he had to work hard in the latter stages of both matches against players ranked outside the top-100, which is a concern as he’s likely to face a much sterner test against the in-form and more experienced Johnson on Saturday. Barring injury I expect him to come through this test as he leads the head-to-head 4-0, but he may have to do it the hard way in four or five sets as Johnson has been in good form on clay this season and is a real fighter when he’s fit.

Fourth seed Dimitrov was very fortunate to progress to the third round after being pushed to five sets by the unseeded American and potential NextGen star Donaldson, who could have easily caused the upset if he’d not got cramp deep in to the fifth set. Apart from a slow start in his first-round match against Mahut, who won the first set,

Fifth seed Del Potro improved considerably going on to win the next three sets in comfortable fashion and he repeated that against another French veteran, Benneteau yesterday winning comfortably in straight sets.

Barring injury he is starting to look stronger with each match and he will need to be at his best with experienced Spanish veteran Ramos-Vinolas next up, who has looked in good shape winning his first two matches in straight sets. Then he could face ninth seed Isner, who is no pushover on any surface with the best serve in the men’s game, then potentially either sixteenth seed Edmunds or eighteenth seed Fognini and finally, possibly third seed Cilic for a place in the semi-finals and a chance to potentially play Nadal.

Sixth seed Anderson has looked solid reaching the third round and after winning his first-round match against Lorenzi in straight sets, he was understandably made to work harder for his second-round win against the talented and experienced clay court veteran Cuevas in four sets. Seventh seed Thiem was impressive winning his opener against the talented Ivashka in straight sets, but he was given more of a test in the second round against NextGen star Tsitsipas, who pushed him to four sets, and it’s safe to say the match could have been a lot closer if it was not delayed due to bad light on Wednesday night.

Eighth seed Goffin (advised 50/1) survived a potential first round upset coming from two sets to love down to beat veteran Haase and it’s safe to say the match being suspended at two sets to one due to bad light played a big part in the result. Things don’t get any easier for Goffin, who faces thirty second seed and veteran Monfils next up. Monfils form has been poor this year and when he lost the first set 6-3 in his first-round match against compatriot and Wild Card Bencherit, his body language suggested that poor run was going to continue.

However, that incident seemed to be the catalyst Monfils needed to re-discover his mojo and he certainly did, going on to win the next three sets for the loss of only four games and then beating the dangerous Klizan in straight sets in the second round. The head-to-head between Goffin and Monfils stands at 2-2 and whatever the outcome this is surely going to be a highly entertaining encounter, as their three completed three set matches (Monfils retired injured at one set and five one down in their match at the US Open in 2017) all went to three sets.

Ninth seed Isner is through to the third round and it’s no surprise his two wins against compatriot and Wild Card Rubin and veteran Zeballos involved five tiebreaks. He dropped his first set of the tournament against Zeballos, which was the first set on a tiebreak, but stormed back to win the next two sets on tiebreaks and the fourth set more convincingly 6-2.

Tenth seed Carreno-Busta had to work extremely hard to beat qualifier Kovalik and the unseeded Delbonis in four sets and both matches featured three tie-breaks in total. Schwartzman from Argentina, who is seeded eleven this year, has cruised through to the third-round stage without dropping a set. He beat Wild Card Hemery and qualifier Pavlasek easily in straight sets but is likely to face a much tougher test against the unseeded Coric tomorrow as the young Croatian NextGen star leads the head-to-head 2-0, both his wins were in straight sets at Winston Salem back in 2015 and last year at Marrakech on clay, a tournament which he went on to win.

Thirteenth seed Bautista Agut came close to losing in the first round when he went two sets to one down against experienced veteran Istomin, but the Spanish number two had enough guile and experience to come back and win. His second-round match against veteran Giraldo was a much easier affair as he won in straight sets, but his next match against twentieth seed Djokovic today is of course going to be another tough encounter. Djokovic leads the head-to-head 6-1 and he won both their matches at Grand Slams at the US Open in 2015 and French Open in 2016 in four sets.

Fifteenth seed and French number one Pouille survived a potential banana skin against soon to be British number two Cameron Norrie. Pouille looked in total control on Wednesday night when he raced to a two-love lead, but Norrie showed great strength going on to win a tight third set before the match was suspended due to bad light.

When they returned on Thursday to complete the match Norrie went close to sending it to a fifth and deciding set when he had a set point at 4-5, but he failed to take his chance and Pouille held serve, then broke Norrie for a 6-5 lead and chance to serve for the match. The nerves were clearly getting to both players as Norrie broke straight back to take the set to a tiebreak, but his more experienced opponent was in no mood to give Norrie a second chance and he won the tiebreak 7-3 and the match 6-2 6-4 5-7 7-6.

Pouille faces another potentially tough test today against the unseeded Russian Khachanov as the head-to-head currently stands at 1-1. Khachanov beat Pouille on home soil in the final at Marseille earlier this year in three sets and Pouille gained revenge at Dubai, also winning in three sets. This match looks like it could easily go to five sets and the winner is a tough one to call.

Sixteenth seed and British number one Kyle Edmunds has looked impressive so far beating NextGen star De Minaur and Geneva winner Fucsovics in four sets. He did lose the second set against Fucsovics 6-1, which may have been due to blisters on one of his hands that he had to receive treatment for, but he recovered well from that blip to storm through the next to sets to win 6-0 1-6 6-2 6-3. Kyle is likely to face a much stiffer test against eighteenth seed Fognini next-up and the Italian has looked in good from so far, winning his first two matches against Marrakech winner Andujar and qualifier Ymer convincingly in straight sets.

Nineteenth seed Nishikori (advised 50/1) won his opening match against French Wild Card Javier in straight sets, but faced a much sterner test against another Frenchman, Paire in his second-round match, which he had to come from two sets to one down to win. Nishikori faces another Frenchman today, the unseeded veteran Simon, which is a potential Banana skin for the Japanese star as Simon’s been in good form on clay of late winning six of his last seven matches, including this week against Basilashvili in four sets and twelfth seed Querrey in four sets, and the only player to beat him was Thiem in three sets in the final at Lyon recently.

From a match betting perspective there’s two men’s matches today I like that will hopefully return a profit. As fourth seed Dimitrov struggled to beat the unseeded Donaldson last time out and his best result at the French Open is reaching the third round I think he could be upset against Verdasco today. The head-to-head stands at 3-3, four of the six encounters went to three sets and Verdasco won their last encounter, which was they’re only meeting this year, at Indian Wells in three sets. While I think Verdasco will win today it’s still going to be a close four or five set encounter and backing the match double Verdasco to Win & Over 39.5 Games (3/1) should go close to returning a profit.

Finally, as Bautista Agut has won sets against Djokovic and pushed him close in both of their Grand Salm encounters I think backing Over 34.5 Games (68/67) should also go close to returning a profit.

Tennis Match Betting Selections

Verdasco to Win & Over 39.5 Games vs. Dimitrov (3/1)

Bautista Agut vs. Djokovic Over 34.5 Games (68/67)

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