What happens when you make a rulebook and then break the rules in that rulebook?
You lose money.
Thursday was an exercise in watching myself not heed my own advice and getting killed for it over and over. I said to take Kohl AFTER the second set… I got greedy, wanted the plus money and took him live in the second set, he lost in two. Exactly what I warned against. I wrote in my weekly preview that Zverev might be looking ahead to Monte Carlo and was a good upset possibility, so I suggested Djere as the outright. Sure enough Zverev got his one win in, decided he was ‘fit’ and packed it in; broken three times in the third set. Impressive. Then I broke one of the cardinal rules…. I bet on someone on The List. Never bet Gilles Simon, Robin Haase, Steve Johnson, Milos Raonic, GGL, Novak Djokovic or Frances Tiafoe; they all lose from statistically dominant position on a decently regular basis.
This run of action, since about the third week of February, has sucked.
I don’t even have an outright left this week to buoy my spirits. Time to start looking ahead to Monte Carlo.
Munar is suddenly 9-4 on clay in 2019. This is his fourth quarter-final already on the young season. He has quickly amassed a combined hold/break number in 2019 that is better than Paire has reached since 2015. I have two concerns. The first is that Munar is coming off easily his biggest win. Ever. By far. It’s always intriguing to see how players react to that. Second, Paire is playing like he cares. This is a rare occurrence, like a unicorn. And it may not last. But, when he does care, Paire can play, especially on clay. Now, Paire hasn’t been past the quarter-finals of a tour event since Sydney in 2018 (over a calendar year) and the draw has cleared out - the only player left ranked above him is Gilles Simon and arguably the only more talented player left is Tsonga. So, maybe Paire wants to gather a second clay title. A third, relatively minor concern is that Munar doesn’t have much history backing up three set wins on tour. He’s only done it twice in his career. I’ll avoid this match.
Tsonga’s ready to go? Seems so. He is serving like the Tsonga of old. And almost doing it like he is on a hard court. He hasn’t been broken in 19 service games, he’s won both tiebreaks he’s played, slammed down 8 aces yesterday against Edmund, and has landed exactly 71% of his first serves in both matches he has played. Despite his many absences from tour in the last two and a half years Tsonga has only lost to someone outside the top 100 twice - once to Rublev, who was only briefly out, he’s back to #92 now, and once to Monteiro who has shown a penchant for big upsets on clay. Sonego is playing lights out, that’s true, and the over may be in play considering the serving we are apt to see. However, I am a little gun shy given what happened with Edmund (Jesus, that one still burns). I’ll parlay Tsonga’s moneyline in case Sonego makes him work for it.
I don’t like to bet Gilles Simon matches. If anything I would take Taro here. There is ZERO reason that Simon should be -275 and Taro Daniel should be +220. That’s crazy considering the stats presented, Taro’s proficiency on clay and Simon’s tendency to lose as a decent sized favorite. I’ll pass just because Simon is like Tiafoe for me, I just never get it right.
Vesely beat a Fognini who is obviously semi-retired now (man, Fog has four total wins on the year in eight starts) and a Londero who was way out of his element. I get that Vesely has a great record here in Marrakech but, so does Andujar. And the Spaniard is playing lights out tennis. Vesely has been on a straight downward trend for over two years now (105% combined hold/break and a top 50 ranking in 2017) to where he is outside the top 100 and struggling to beat tour regulars on a consistent basis. Andujar has won two straight titles, is on a twelve match winning streak and he hasn’t dropped a set this week (only dropped one in total last week). He is saving break points at an insane rate in Marrakech, so that is probably due to regress but he is landing his first serve well (79% yesterday!!) and he is getting into a ton of return games - he broke Delbonis four times and Kohl twice and he got to 30 in six of Kohl’s eleven service games. I like Andujar to keep going.
Houston at lunch (Thursdays matches not complete)
I am in on Galan. He hasn’t had a ton of success yet but at 22 he is showing signs of promise and he went in for the kill last night against Johnson. The only set he has dropped this week, including qualies, was to Roberto Quiroz and that may have simply been familial nervousness - much like Spaniards playing Rafa (Quiroz is a 27 year old from a neighbouring country that Galan may have looked up to). Otherwise he has been trucking people - he defeated Ofner 60,62; he defeated Lorezni 76,64 and generated NINE break points while only facing one; then he defeated Johnson 63,63 converting all three break points he generated and not facing a single one. His serve is pinpoint - zero double faults this week and landing over 65% of his first serves. Very impressive. Clay is obviously his surface of choice and he went 15-7 on the red dirt last year. His hold/break stats (although primarily at the Challenger level) are hovering around 110%, which is also impressive. While this is an ATP event we’re basically down to a Challenger level field, with Thompson the highest ranked player at #67. I’m also down to fade Thompson on clay. I did so, to my detriment on Monday, against Krstin but I’ll try it again here. Clay is his worst surface and he was pushed pretty hard by both Krstin and Giraldo.
I’m not sure what to do with Ruud. He played great in South America and yet that style shouldn’t be so successful here in Houston. I watched his match with Opelka and that win was as much about Opelka imploding than anything Ruud did. Additionally, Granollers sees to be having a bit of a resurgence on clay - his hold/break numbers were super high in 2018 and he is rolling through Houston with winning sets of 62,61,62,62. I’ll avoid this match.
I’ll also avoid Tipsarevic. As I said yesterday, if he is actually healthy AND motivated this could be an interesting little piece of the spring. I’m sure he’ll avoid the Master’s Series clay events but, he could gain entry to Budapest, Istanbul, Estoril and Geneva and do some damage in a bunch of 250 level events. There has been lots of one-sided matches this week and he is included in those, cooking up a breadstick against Tennys Sandgren and upsetting Cameron Norrie. Querrey will be one of the player with the most pedigree he will have faced in 2019. So, it could be a challenge. Tips was blown off the court by Dimitrov at the Aussie and he dropped a tight two sets to RBA in Miami, so that in and of itself should be signs of improvement. I’ll be cheering for him.
I have no read on Laak/Garin. I was initially leaning to Garin based on his incredible ability to survive, via the serve and tiebreak, against Chardy and Cuevas. But, that kind of small margin tennis runs out sooner or later (unless you are John Isner). And Laaksonen has been playing surprisingly well, considering he showed up to Houston on a huge losing streak. I’ll avoid this one.
Tsonga/Andujar ml, +126
Galan ml, +110