Round two of the Apia International in Sydney and the ASB Classic in Auckland is the order of the day on Wednesday in week two of the 2017 ATP World Tour.
All 16 of the second round matches are scheduled for Wednesday after Tuesday’s wagers yielded a slight profit following one winner and one that failed from match points up.
I mentioned Karen Khachanov’s choke against Damir Dzumhur in Tuesday’s preview and he only went and wasted another great situation in his Auckland clash with Yen-Hsun Lu.
Marcos Baghdatis made no mistake though in a straight sets win over Adrian Mannarino, also in Auckland, despite once again producing a very poor first serve percentage.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs Mischa Zverev
This 02:00 (approx.) UK time start on Court 3 in Sydney looks a decent opportunity for the resurgent Zverev to advance to the quarter finals in what appears a tough season-opener for Carreno Busta.
PCB improved considerably on hard courts in 2016, but his numbers are still not as impressive as those of the German and a lack of competitive match practice may also count against the Spaniard here.
Carreno Busta has played a doubles match here in Sydney, but that is his lot since losing to Roberto Carballes Baena in the Spanish National Championships back in December.
And he was also beaten by Zverev in the pair’s only career meeting, which came on indoor hard courts in Metz in 2015 when the German was down at number 291 in the world rankings.
I don’t think that match means a great deal, although it’s hardly a positive for PCB, and more relevant are the stats and the apparent great frame of mind that Zverev the elder is in right now.
The 29-year-old German had an easier than expected win over Nico Almagro on Monday, with much of that margin of victory down to an injury to the Spaniard, but importantly he’s enjoying the grind of the tour.
“I’m enjoying what I do,” Zverev said. “I’m enjoying travelling and playing tournaments and being on big stages. I’m feeling good about my game and about myself, and I think the key is also that I’m travelling with my family and my brother.”
His numbers lately show that, with 83.8% service holds and 25.2% breaks of serve on outdoor hard courts at main level in the past year and those are some very good stats for a player ranked 50 in the world.
PCB can’t match that, with fewer holds (78.2%) and almost the same amount of breaks (25.4%) and his record in this part of the world isn’t good, with zero wins in Australia at main level from three matches (all in Melbourne).
He did win a couple at the Kooyong exhibition last year, but the fact that he’s played so few times in Australia and is playing his first match of the year adds to my feeling that Zverev should be winning this one.
Malek Jaziri vs John Isner
Isner has an excellent 16-3 record in Auckland and he looks to be all set for a pretty comfortable opening round at this year’s ASB Classic, facing an opponent who has a dire record against big servers.
The American’s only losses in Auckland have been against David Nalbandian, Robin Soderling and Roberto Bautista-Agut and he doesn’t have the kind of game that requires a great deal of fine-tuning and getting into a rhythm.
Jaziri has a big problem against big servers and in his 14 matches against the ones currently on my list he’s won only two – a Challenger against Sam Groth in 2012 and a three tie break win over Reilly Opelka in Washington DC last season.
What’s even more telling is that in his last five matches against Isner, Milos Raonic, Gilles Muller and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga he hasn’t even made it to a tie break in any of the sets.
Indeed, that Opelka match apart, Jaziri hasn’t made it past 4-6 in any of his last eight opening sets against my big servers, which isn’t too surprising given the Tunisian’s paltry 15.3% break of serve mark on outdoor hard at main level in the past year.
The pressure of serving to stay in sets against these guys clearly tells and his last four sets against Isner have ended 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 and 6-4 to the American, with even Ivo Karlovic breaking Jaziri in their last encounter.
Isner hasn’t been playing as many breakers as in the past either, with nine of his last 14 opening sets ending in 10 games or fewer, so as odd as it sounds I like going with under 10.5 games in set one here at 1.89 or Isner -3.5 games at 2.25.
It’ll probably go 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 now that I’ve said all that, but I like the idea of going against the seemingly obvious in this 01:30 (approx.) UK time start.
Elsewhere, on a busy day, surely there will be tie breaks in the Sydney clash between Muller and Matthew Barton, with the latter having now played at least 13 games in 13 of his last 14 sets at main level (one set went to 14-12 at a major).
And the other one I quite like is for my outright tip in Auckland, Jack Sock, to be tested by Ryan Harrison in what looks like a trickier opening match for Sock than I would have ideally liked.
Sock will do well to have this all-American clash done and dusted in fewer than 22.5 games, with their service hold/break stats over the past year on outdoor hard at main level being virtually identical, so the overs is tempting in that one.
1 point win Zverev to beat Carreno Busta at 1.90
1 point win under 10.5 games in set one of Isner/Jaziri at 1.89