Maybe the greatest day of the tennis season takes place on Monday. Eight Grand Slam fourth round matches (plus eight WTA fourth round matches!) featuring six of the top twenty players and a full slate of players in the top hundred.
The issue this year would be that there is just no even match-up, from a betting perspective. All eight matches contain huge favorites with unbettable moneylines. And every favorite continues to take money; RBA opened -333 and is now -500, Goffin opened -225 and is now -300, Querrey opened -500 and ran up to -625 before coming back to -500, Nadal opened -3000 and is now -5000, Nishikori opened -800 and is now -1000, Raonic opened -600 and floated up to -700 before coming back to -600, Novak opened -10000 and has come up to -15000, finally Federer opened -900 and is up to -1000.
All futures other than Tiafoe remain. Raonic and Querrey are both amoung the smallest favorites on a board littered with outrageously big favorites. So, I’m about as nervous as it could get. I would love to see them both make at least the quarter-finals to see if there are options available there.
In 2018 there were no upsets on Manic Monday. In 2017 there was a minor upset (Querrey over Anderson at +115) and a shocker (Muller over Nadal at +600). In 2016 there was a decent sized upset when Pouille beat Tomic (+250) and another small Querrey upset (+125).
So, there should be at least one upset this Monday. Let’s all hope it’s Nadal and not one of the Querrey, Raonic, Fed or Novak.
Novak should destroy Ugo, based on the moneyline. But, once again the spread has been set at -9.5. Novak has only covered that once so far at Wimbledon this year. He has only covered it three times in his eleven 4th round matches at Wimbledon and in all his success in London he has only covered this spread two other times past the 4th round. He wins a lot, he wins titles, he wins comfortably but, he doesn’t blow people out. I don’t think parlaying the 3-0 at -600 is advisable considering both Novak and Fed have dropped sets unexpectedly this fortnight and I obviously don’t think parlaying the moneyline is of any help. The 9.5 is probably borderline, given what I just outlined, and the o/u is lined pretty sharply at 27.5. A 63,63,63 type win would cash the under but, not the spread. Taking Ugo might be the move, because given that scoreline Ugo could still cover while the under clears. Ugo is getting better as he goes here, playing five sets in round one, then three tight sets in round two before running away from FAA in round three. Ugo also has a habit of ‘losing close’. In all his main draw losses in 2019 I can only find two matches where Ugo dropped sets before getting to four games and those matches took place in early April and late March. He’s been playing good tennis this spring and summer. Statistically, there is obviously no argument to be made in Ugo’s favor; Djoker has the best grass stats of all time. But, based on both players histories, I’m really tempted by the +9.5 here.
I haven’t been able to get a good read on Goffin all year. The last two seasons on grass Verdasco has easily outplayed Goffin on grass, putting up far greater stats. Verdasco has consistently been right around 100% with his combined hold/break numbers on the green surface. Conversely, in the 2017 and 2018 Goffin really struggled, only to turn it around in 2019, where he is putting up elite level hold/break numbers. Both these guys have kind of had two easy matches where they rolled over inferior opponents and one match where they played a true grass test and were pushed to five sets. These two have also played six times, splitting the series evenly three and three. I don’t see an edge here but, I do think the price is a little steep on Goffin. Both these guys have breakable serves and I suspect if you put some money on Verdasco, you’ll probably be able to come back on Goffin at some point for an all-green trade.
Oh, fuck, am I nervous about this. Raonic, on his best surface, serving like a star, with a wide-open quarter and the table being set with him as a huge favorite… playing a giant killer. I’m sure this will be sweat free.
Poor Benoit Paire, having a blessed run in a tournament he hates, has to face off against a guy he has had literally zero success against. RBA is 8-0 against Paire. Funnily enough, their most competitive match came here at Wimbledon, in 2015, when they went five sets. Paire is through to round four not without difficulty this year. He dropped the first set to Londero and Vesely and almost dropped the first to Kecmanovic but, was likely saved by injury (Kec retired). Meanwhile, RBA is cruising. The Spaniard has yet to drop a set and has played the least amount of games amoung the players left in the draw (a decent feat given the names left). It’s just a continuation of RBA’s year too. He is 23-11 and most of the losses have been to top talent (only Berrettini, Fritz, Ferrer and Nishioka were outside the top 20; Ferrer being a Hall of Famer, Berrettini joining the top 20 a few weeks later, and Fritz on his way there now; the Nishioka loss at Indian Wells remains his only weird result). RBA is a sneaky good grass player too. He made the fourth round here last year and his combined hold/break stats on grass are epic the past two years. I have a feeling he pounds Paire again. RBA has won all but two of the first sets these guys have played and Paire is struggling to win those here. RBA to win 3-0 pays +110. I like that. I also like RBA -5.5, -120. RBA to win the first set and the match is still lined at -250, so that prop is out. And RBA to win the first set in isolation is -334, so that is also out. But RBA to win the first set 63 is +375 and RBA to win the first set 64 is +350. Those props are both probably worth the price of a six pack of Pepsi.
I’m not quite sure how Sandgren is succeeding on grass all of a sudden. Maybe he is a true beneficiary of the potentially slower courts. I’m not sure I totally but the slower speed but everyone seems to be talking about it. The amount of tiebreaks that are being played is commiserate with previous years so, again, I’m not sure what to think. Sandgren does his best work on outdoor hards and clay though, so, he would enjoy any speed reduction. I’m not sure it will matter though. Sandgren has been gifted three clay players in three matches and now runs into someone who actually specializes in grass. The combined hold/break stats on grass are not in the same zip code and neither is the history on grass or at Wimbledon. I think Querrey will continue his serve fest; he’ll win, most likely cover, and probably need a tiebreak.
I’m not sure what to make of Sousa being in the fourth round. He’s maybe the most shocking participant. With the way Rafa is blowing through guys, he may easily cover the -8.5. There is just no way to compare this match-up to previous years or to their own head-to-head. Somebody is getting upset on Monday, and I’ll just pray the Sousa magic somehow continues.
Nishikori owns Kukushkin. And Nishikori is quietly having the best run at Wimbledon. He has played fewer games than anyone but RBA and RBA benefitted from a retirement. Kei is 9-0 agains the Kazak and hasn’t dropped a set since 2012. Nishikori has covered the -6.5 in his last two matches and I suspect he’ll do so again. He has been broken four times already this tournament but has managed to not drop a set because he is breaking serve at an amazing rate on grass (37%, which is, like, a clay percentage). Kei, hammer down.
Fed has dropped a set and been pushed to a tiebreak in both his other matches. His form does not look at dominant as I expected. Berrettini should be a huge challenge and I am surprised a tad by this line. I have quite a bit invested in Fed, so, I’ll just be looking for Fed to get through this any way possible and also, I’ll be looking to back Berrettini at a juicy +2.5 in whatever close out set Fed has, be it three, four or five.
Humbert +9.5, +100
RBA 3-0, +110
RBA -5.5, -120
RBA set one 63, +375, x0.5
RBA set one 64, +350, x0.5
Querrey -4.5, -125
Querrey 3-0, +110
Nishikori -6.5, -125