Friday is quarter finals day at the 2017 Monte-Carlo Masters, with Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal among those seeking semi final berths in the principality.
We finally managed to get back in the payout queue on Thursday at the Monte-Carlo Masters when Diego Schwartzman cruised past Jan-Lennard Struff for what was in the end an easy win for the 2-0 set betting wager.
If only I’d gone bigger on that one, as the much-discussed second set bagel was delivered by Schwartzman in that match.
But when you’re on a bad run the seemingly straightforward becomes impossible and misfortune lurks around every corner, and again in Monte-Carlo we found a loser from the brink of victory when Marin Cilic served for a comfortable straight sets win over Tomas Berdych at *5-4 in set two, having only faced one break point all match – and got broken.
Not only that, but Cilic served the next game out with three aces and ran through the resulting tie break 7-0 just for good measure.
We got what we wanted from an outright perspective when Andy Murray lost (from 4-0 up final set and 1.02 in-running), but Berdych and Stan Wawrinka went out.
All of that means the top half of the draw sees Albert Ramos face Cilic and Lucas Pouille take on Pablo Cuevas for semi final spots.
In the opening match of the day at 10:00 UK time Cilic brings an excellent record against left-handers into his clash with Ramos, who the Croat has beaten the last three times they’ve met.
Cilic has a 15-6 main level career record on clay versus lefties and on all surfaces he’s slightly better percentage-wise with a 60-22 mark and discounting matches against Rafa Nadal he’s won 32 of his last 34 versus left-handers.
He has marginally better service hold/break stats on clay than Albert Ramos over his last 10 matches and if he continues to hit his forehand as well as he did against Berdych Cilic should progress.
I’d just give the edge to Pablo Cuevas in the second match of the day when the Uruguayan takes on Lucas Pouille for the first time in his career, but his price isn’t great value after that performance against Wawrinka.
Cuevas holds serve 11.6% more often than Pouille on clay at main level over the past year, but I’d have to rate the Frenchman as a better big match player than Cuevas, who often shrinks at majors and Masters level.
He showed no sign of mental frailty against Wawrinka though and was a worthy winner on the day against Stan, who Cuevas made look very ordinary on the day.
Pouille had a day off, more or less, after Adrian Mannarino couldn’t compete after a recurrence of his hip injury in his previous match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, so Pouille played only three games on Thursday and should be fresh.
David Goffin vs Novak Djokovic
The third match of the day looks the one where there might be a bit of value, as Goffin takes on Djokovic for the first time on clay since the first round of the 2013 French Open.
Djokovic was a 1.01 chance that day, but Goffin pushed him and lost out by only five games over three sets, and in the Belgian’s clashes with the Serb in the last 20 months or so Goffin has acquitted himself well.
We can forget his drubbing at the hands of Djokovic when Goffin came in as a very late alternate at the World Tour Finals, as he’d had no preparation and can’t have had much motivation (other than money) in that one.
Goffin won just the one point fewer than the Serb in Cincy in August 2015 and only seven points fewer in Miami last season and that was back when Novak was at his best, which we can’t really say about him right now.
Gilles Simon should have beaten Djokovic, while Pablo Carreno Busta was also not too far away, so purely on those form lines you’d have to give Goffin a chance.
He showed some determination to come from behind in the final set to take down Dominic Thiem on Thursday and in the 2017 season on all surfaces it’s actually Goffin who narrowly leads the service hold/break numbers.
Goffin weighs in with 112 (81.4% holds/30.6% breaks), while Djokovic is on 111.4 (83.3% holds/28.1% breaks) and the Serb has been broken nine times already this week.
At this moment in time there isn’t much between them and this looks Goffin’s best chance to beat the Serb, but the sensible wager would be to side with the Belgian +3.5 games at 2.04.
The final match of the day sees Nadal take on Schwartzman and as classy an operator on the red dirt as the Argentine is I can’t see him having quite enough to stun the Spaniard.
I expect he’ll keep it closer than Alexander Zverev did on Thursday though, but I don’t really fancy taking Nadal on with a player of the height of Schwartzman.
The only player under 5’10” to beat Rafa in a completed match in the last 11 years is David Ferrer and on clay Rafa has lost only one match to a player in that height bracket (Ferrer) since a loss to Gaston Gaudio in the 2005 Buenos Aires event.
1 point win Goffin +3.5 games to beat Djokovic at 2.04