ATP Tennis Betting: Zverev to win key backhand battle against Del Potro

It’s last-16 day in China at the Shanghai Masters, with eight matches set for Thursday at the Qi Zhong Tennis Centre.

Punters got shafted somewhat by the rain on Wednesday in Shanghai, as many of the matches were moved indoors into different and unknown playing conditions with no TV coverage.

Fortunately for our wagers (both daily and outright) no major damage was done on what turned out to be a very good day for us all told.

First, Grigor Dimitrov saved three match points against Ryan Harrison in a final set tie break to keep that outright alive, then we found 2.80 and 3.25 winners with Gilles Simon and tie break played in Roger Federer vs Diego Schwartzman.

Then Viktor Troicki and Dominic Thiem were moved onto Stadium after being scheduled first for Union Pay 3 then Indoor Court 3 and the Serb had no problem landing our third success of the day by taking set one over Dominic Thiem at 2.88.

The weather forecast suggests that it could be a very similar day again on Thursday, with rain expected on and off throughout the day, so it’s a bit risky betting on any matches not scheduled on Stadium Court. Those are the matches involving Albert Ramos, Gilles Simon and Viktor Troicki.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Alexander Zverev

This one’s probably the ‘popcorn match’ of the day for the neutral, along with Nadal versus Fognini, and I have to side with Zverev in this 07:00 (approx.) UK time clash on Stadium Court.

It’s a first career meeting between the two stars, but I’d expect the backhand battle to be won by the German and with it the match.

Delpo’s serve isn’t consistent enough and his backhand obviously not the weapon it was years ago, yet every so often he comes up with a match that reminds everyone of how good he was before the wrist injuries took their toll.

These days Del Potro’s hold/break total of 103.9 is nothing special at all and if it wasn’t for his past glories he’s probably be a bigger price than he is for this match, which suggests value on Zverev here.

Delpo had a good day against Andrey Rublev and a poor one first up versus Nikoloz Basilashvili in a match he could easily have lost and it’s hard to tell what sort of tennis he’s going to bring to the court.

Sometimes he only slices the backhand – in which case you’d think his chances against Zverev were slim – and lately he’s been hitting the double-hander a bit more, but not like he used to.

Zverev has maintained a very high level throughout the year and has compiled a 108.9 hold/break total (87.8% holds/21% breaks) and risen up the rankings to world number four.

If he wins this week he’ll be world number three, with Andy Murray dropping 1000 points after winning here a year ago and that would be some achievement after starting the season at number 24.

He’s certainly in with a decent shot of doing that and I fancy he’ll be too good for Delpo in this one, with the backhand battle likely to be key.

It’s going to be difficult for those unlucky ones that were sent indoors to play in the school gymnasium on Wednesday to readjust back to outdoor conditions and one of those is Sam Querrey.

Perhaps Grigor Dimitrov’s luck (and ours) is in this week after he saved those match points against Harrison and the Bulgarian will face Querrey on the same court at more or less the same time of day as the Harrison match.

Querrey had to play indoors and come back from 0-5 down in the second set tie break against Frances Tiafoe and Dimitrov looks the right favourite to me having also beaten Querrey in both of their prior clashes.

Our other outright Marin Cilic also has a good chance to progress against another player sent indoors for the day on Wednesday in Steve Johnson.

Cilic has been too good for the American in three prior career clashes, winning eight of the nine sets they’ve contested, and given Johnson’s weakness on the backhand side that’s perhaps to be expected.

Johnson’s break of serve mark of just 14.3% on outdoor hard at main level over his 27 matches this season is better only than that of John Isner of today’s 16 players in Shanghai and this is a match that our man Cilic should be winning.

He’s 39-10 against Americans at main level in his career and hopefully he can make that 40 on Thursday.

The other bets that I’m tempted by on Thursday include to side with Fabio Fognini to take a set against Rafael Nadal at a price of around 3.0 or the tie break played in that match at a very big-looking 3.85.

Rafa and Fabio have played a tie break in two of their last three clashes and they were on clay, so that price seems daft to me on a surface like this and too much emphasis seems to have been placed on Rafa’s superb form.

Conditions here do not suit him at all and Fognini hits an early ball that can cause Nadal problems on a surface this pacy.

The all-French affair between Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon looks to have been priced up on the head-to-head (6-1 to Gasquet) and I am tempted to back Simon here.

Those seven matches took place between five and 11 years ago and conditions here in Shanghai certainly favour Simon more than Gasquet, but it could well be moved indoors and then it’s anyone’s guess what conditions will be like.

Albert Ramos has a happy knack of getting results in Shanghai and instead of facing Kevin Anderson or Mischa Zverev the Spaniard gets Jan-Lennard Struff, who should have been out of the tournament two days ago.

Zverev became unwell at a set and 5-2 up against Struff and had to retire and then the German got to play Anderson indoors where Struff’s record is much better and Anderson’s isn’t.

If that one gets moved indoors I’d have to fancy Struff to come out on top, but their records are very similar on outdoor hard in terms of hold/breaks and it looks a nasty one to bet on.

Roger Federer is yet to be troubled by Alexandr Dolgopolov, who’s another player that was sent indoors on Wednesday, and their career series has been rather one-sided in Fed’s favour.

Lastly, I would be siding with Viktor Troicki in his clash with John Isner, with Troicki the 2.85 underdog, but the scheduling of this one on Union Pay 3 puts me off with this weather forecast.

Isner has been fortunate to win both matches here in Shanghai so far and Troicki has beaten Isner four times previously, so he’s far from a forlorn hope in that one.

Best Bets
1.5 points win Zverev to beat Del Potro at 1.73
1 point win tie break played in Fognini/Nadal at 3.85