Thursday is quarter finals day in Sydney and Auckland as the action hots up in week two of the 2017 ATP World Tour.
And the heat caused a fair few problems in Sydney on Wednesday, with the temperatures soaring and the players struggling, while in Auckland five of the seven matches played went the full three sets.
Those on the set one unders in John Isner’s ASB Classic match against Malek Jaziri collected successfully, but Mischa Zverev let a one set lead slip against Pablo Carreno Busta.
Steve Johnson vs John Isner
There are numerous very tight-looking matches on the card in Sydney and Melbourne on Thursday, not least this 01:30 (approx.) UK time clash between the two big-serving Americans.
And there may be a hint of value on Johnson in this one after two good performances in Auckland thus far and having stayed focused to beat Isner in two tense tie breaks in their most recent clash.
That match took place in Washington DC on outdoor hard last summer and despite winning six fewer points on the day Johnson was able to nick it 9-7 and 17-15 in the breakers.
Isner had to save a match point against Jaziri in a less than impressive showing and I don’t fancy backing him in a serving contest that he could easily lose at a price like 1.56 – roughly the same odds as that Washington DC match.
In all the pair have played 10 sets against each other on outdoor hard and seven of them have gone to tie breaks, which will surprise no-one, and their head-to-head stats show that the pair have held serve against each other 94.1% (Johnson) and 95.3% (Isner) of the time.
Isner has won four of the seven breakers they’ve contested on outdoor hard, but Isner had a poor year in tie breaks in 2016 by his standards, with only 52% won, compared with 69%, 68% and 66% in the years 2012-2014.
Johnson has managed to win 60% of his breakers in the last year and another factor is that Isner has won just four of his last 15 matches against top-35 ranked opposition.
Isner may well win the serving contest, but he looks no value to do so, and the streaky Johnson looks worth taking a chance on now that his confidence is on the rise.
Robin Haase vs Joao Sousa
If Wednesday’s results in Auckland in particular showed anything it’s that these players are in no rush to get this week over with and head to Melbourne for the Australian Open.
The likes of Haase (who has a dismal record in Melbourne) would surely prefer a tour level title and they know they have little chance of making the second week at the Open, so I’m expecting some committed performances on Thursday.
Last year’s quarter finals in Sydney and Auckland saw six of the seven completed matches go to at least 22 games and with the temperature set to drop to a more comfortable 25C in Sydney on Thursday this one should be another competitive encounter.
Sousa’s record in the 18 matches he’s played in Australia at all levels shows that only Andy Murray and Florian Mayer (and even Murray didn’t manage it in 2016 at the Open) have beaten Sousa in straight sets in Oz.
When Sousa gets to this quarter final stage at main level he goes into full scrapper mode and in his last 13 matches at this stage of tournaments 11 have gone past today’s total games mark of 22.5.
Five of his last six quarter finals on hard courts have gone past that mark and Haase should be no pushover either, having beaten David Ferrer from 2-6 in a final set tie break in the last round.
Haase’s often fragile confidence should be high after that result and on the service hold/break stats they’re closely matched too, with Haase holding 77% of the time compared with 73.2% of Sousa and breaking 19.7% of the time (Sousa 26.8%).
In total Sousa has a slight advantage due to his better break of serve mark which shows in the pricing, but both times the pair clashed last year saw very different results, with a dominant win for Haase in Marseille and a straight sets win for Sousa at the Olympics.
The 2-1 to Sousa is tempting here at 4.30, with the Portuguese winning 53% of his matches at main level on hard courts that went to deciders, compared with the 43% of Haase.
Other ones that are really close on the service hold/break stats are Jiri Vesely vs Marcos Baghdatis (102.1 vs 100.9); Gilles Muller vs Pablo Cuevas (100.6 vs 99.2); Pablo Carreno Busta vs Andrey Kuznetsov (103.7 vs 103); and Phillip Kohlschreiber vs Viktor Troicki (100 vs 97.8).
Those numbers are all based on main level outdoor hard court matches played over the past year and they suggest a few tight ones could be witnessed today and another value for money day for the spectators.
1 point win Johnson to beat Isner at 2.43
1 point win over 22.5 games in Haase/Sousa at 1.89