Thursday was simply…. Perfect (swats gum).
Well, Fed 18/1 lives. Barely. Talk about about skin of the teeth, hanging by fingernails, threads and needles and eyes. Fed barely got to a third set tiebreak, where he then destroyed Monflls (was leading 6-1 at one point). He faces a stern, stern test on Friday in Dominic Thiem.
Man, this is a lopsided head-to-head and it weighs on the handicap. On the face of it, if you take out the names associated with the match the stats actually look pretty close. In 2017, “player 2” had a better combined hold/break number by a slight margin. In 2018, “player 1” had a better combined hold/break number by a slight margin. A wash. You can probably throw out 2019 clay hold/break numbers because player 1 has played three clay matches and player 2 has played two clay matches. That’s a really small sample size. Player 2 has a positive tiebreak record, which is hard enough to accomplish, especially over a three hundred sized sample. Player 1 has the second greatest tiebreak record in history. What about just isolating this week? Player 1 hasn’t been broken yet this week and subsequently hasn’t dropped a set. Player 2 has struggled through every match, dropping a set each time and gutting out a win in a different way each time. Arguments to be made on both sides. Looking at what’s presented I would be very apt to make a line somewhere in the -350/+250 range and an o/u of 22.5, juiced to the over. What I see is -700/+450 and an o/u of 21.5, juiced to the under. So, time to go looking for why. The history at the event would be one reason - Cilic is one win, one loss here each year and then out. Djokovic has made the semis FIVE times here and won two titles. The head-to-head would be another reason - Djokovic is 17-2 against Cilic. That’s unreal. They have played on clay twice and Ciic has eeked out one tiebreak and been crushed in five sets. My gut instinct is to take Cilic +4.5 and the over. Cilic breaks serve close to 30% of the time on clay, which is way better than Chardy and Fritz, who Djokovic previously faced. I’m going to end up passing just because Cilic has struggled so much and despite surviving, Djoker is a BIG step up from Laslo Djere, Jan Leonard Struff and Martin Klizan. Like 30 ranking spots kind of big. Pass.
I have a future on Fed so, I’m jaded here. Thiem is obviously a top five guy on clay. He showed why yesterday against Fog, who on his ‘best’ day is probably also in that top five conversation. Thiem actually played Fed on clay the last time Fed deigned to play clay. Fun fact, that match was actually Fed’s last on clay til this week. Thiem the vanquisher. There are no stats to compare. Fed WAS one of the best on clay, ever, before taking more than two years away from the surface. Thiem’s clay stats the last three years are right there with Zverev on the level below Djoker and Rafa. I saw this match coming on Sunday and said on the BallBoyz podcast that I would line it somewhere near a pick’em. Well, shit, that’s two quarter-final matches I am way off on. Thiem is a -225 favorite. That makes it damn hard to hedge considering Fed will probably be an even bigger dog against Djoker in the semis and a further bigger dog against Rafa on Sunday. So, I expect Thiem to win, considering Fed’s performance against Monfils (at least in the later stages) and I’ll just sit this out and cheer for the upset and the survival of my Fed future. What would be great is if Fed could somehow break early or steal a first set tiebreak. In that case, I’ll jump all over Thiem. One thing to look at is the over. Three of the head to head matches between these two have gone the distance and the two that didn’t were on an indoor hard court where Fed thrives and on a quick Australian court, again, where Fed thrives. I think the over might be a great look here. Pass.
Have you seen this:
Zverev will be wanting revenge. I think he is hyper aware of his “spot” in the sport and the narratives that are out there. He holds an advantage in every statistical category I look at. Clay is his best surface, he is defending 1000 ranking points this week (even more important now considering he didn’t defend Munich), and I would say that match yesterday may be a game changer. Big serving, big breaks of serve, big comebacks, and real adversity. Tsitsipas, conversely, hasn’t been challenged at all. I think this match plays out more like their first meeting (Zverev stomp) than their second match (tight Tsitty win including an 13-11 tiebreak). Zverev moneyline at plus money. Disregard this week - Tsitsipas played Mannarino, who is horrible on clay, and a 35 year old Verdasco, who was coming off back to back three setters. Zverev’s had the much tougher path. Not to mention Tsitsipas is coming from Estoril. As far as I can tell, Kevin Anderson is the only player in the five years of the Portuguese tournament to make the semis in Madrid after coming from sea-level. I would line Zverev the favorite.
Is it possible to be my age and have a “favorite” player? Well, if it is, it’s probably Stan. His match yesterday is a great reason why. Daring, fit, and with weapons on both wings and a great serve. Here’s the issue, he does not match up well with Rafa. It’s the same issues Fed has struggled with and well, Stan is a lesser version of Fed. These two have played on clay eight times. It has been largely one way traffic. Rafa is 7-1 and all his wins of have been in straight sets (funnily enough, Stan’s one win was also in straight sets, in 2015 - also the year Rafa lost to Djoker at Roland Garros). The stats are overwhelmingly in Rafa’s favour and his performance this week has been clinical, if not dominating. I expect Rafa to cover the -3.5 spread and probably keep this under the total.
Zverev ml, +110
Rafa 2-0, -150
Rafa/Stan u21.5, -120