Australian Open Men's Singles Day Five: Improving Paul underdog value against Fucsovics

The third round at the Australian Open begins on Friday, and with eight matches on the schedule Dan Weston returns to preview the action...

Bedene unable to take chances on frustrating day

It was a frustrating day for our Thursday pick, Aljaz Bedene, at Melbourne Park as he failed to convert any of his eight break points against Ernests Gulbis in a straight-set loss. It was a strange match with Bedene actually have more games on return with break points than Gulbis after two sets, yet the Slovenian found himself 2-0 down.
As has been the case for much of the tournament so far, heavy favourites dominated although Dominic Thiem was pushed to five sets by Alex Bolt, while Andreas Seppi took Stan Wawrinka to five before the Swiss man progressed. David Goffin and Karen Khachanov were fellow five-set winners, with Khachanov edging the improving Mikael Ymer in 10-8 in a final set tiebreak.

Djokovic and Federer heavy favourites to progress

Yesterday's schedule saw the end of the second round so Friday's action sees the commencement of round three featuring the remaining players in the bottom half of the draw, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who are extremely strong favourites to get past Yoshihito Nishioka and John Millman, respectively.

Tsitsipas could struggle against Raonic

Also in action among the top ten players tomorrow is Stefanos Tsitsipas, who regular readers may remember is a player who I consider over-rated by the markets compared to his stats. Tsitsipas is running at around the 103% combined service/return points won mark across the last 12 months on hard court, and those numbers are certainly not the level of a top ten player or the fifth favourite to win the tournament.
He will need to get past Milos Raonic in order to make round four and interestingly, the Canadian has better long-term and short-term numbers than Tsitsipas, although Raonic comes with the obvious concern surrounding his fitness, which seems to be frequently an issue. However, he's reached this stage without dropping a set - albeit against limited opposition on the surface - and if Raonic can play something close to his best, the 1.41 about Tsitsipas will look very short indeed.

Improving Paul with better data than Fucsovics

The other player my model liked tomorrow was Tommy Paul, who is a 2.38 underdog for his meeting with Marton Fucsovics. My main concern over Paul is the marathon five-setter he played on Wednesday against Grigor Dimitrov, but it is clear that the young American is a player on the rise and in any case, Fucsovics hasn't been without fitness issues himself already this season, retiring against Andrea Vavassori last week at the Bendigo Challenger.
Certainly, it's a surprise to see Fucsovics bounce back from that retirement to go back to back for underdog wins here in Melbourne, but my numbers have Paul as a slight favourite here - he's simply the better hard courter over short-term and medium-term data, as well as possessing that potential for improvement.

Schwartzman should have too much for Lajovic

In other matches, even at a short price Diego Schwartzman looks slight value at 1.39 to get past Dusan Lajovic - his hard court numbers suggest around the 1.25 mark would be more appropriate, while it will be interesting to see how Marin Cilic fares after his arduous five-setter against Benoit Paire. The extremely solid Roberto Bautista-Agut should have too much for the Croat here unless Cilic can somehow regain peak form - which he hasn't for most of the last year.

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