Round two of the National Bank Open concludes on Wednesday, with the remaining 12 matches set to be completed at the Aviva Centre in Toronto.
Tuesday was another decent day for the betting underdogs in Toronto, with a further four winning in round one to add to the four on day one, so the dogs went eight from 16 to keep up the tradition of plenty of dog winners in round one of this event.
We had one of them in Benoit Paire, who was comfortable over a predictably tired Mackenzie McDonald and anyone who risked Nikoloz Basilashvili would also have enjoyed a nice-priced winner.
Unfortunately, Miomir Kecmanovic fell just short in a final set loss to Kei Nishikori, while Yoshihito Nishioka was poor against Frances Tiafoe, who I still think was way too short in price at 1.40 for that match.
On the outright front, Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament due to a foot injury and is replaced by lucky loser Feli Lopez, who’ll now play Lloyd Harris in what could be an interesting clash.
Lopez beat Harris in Cincy qualies in 2019 and Harris does have a tendency to play tie breaks against lefties on hard courts, playing at least one breaker in seven of his last 11 matches on hard courts against left-handers.
He’s improved a lot since he last played Lopez, but he’s been preparing for Nadal and struggled against Lopez last time, so I like the idea of either a tie break played (around evens) or for Harris to win and over 21.5 games in the match at 2.30 (Bet 365) in this one.
Fabio Fognini and Andrey Rublev meet for what will be the ninth time and we were a little unlucky in their last meeting at Wimbledon when the +1.5 sets bet that we had on Fogna fell short.
That day Fognini, as he often does, didn’t take his chances when they came against a higher-ranked opponent and rather let Rublev off the hook in the early stages of that match when the Russian was really starting to lose his cool.
Had Fognini kept the pressure on in those moments he would probably have covered that handicap, but we’ve got the option of backing him on the set handicap again on Wednesday.
Fog is a shade over evens to win a set and that’s certainly one option, given that Rublev is playing his first match here this week while Fabio had three sets the other day against Jan-Lennard Struff.
And Rublev isn’t exactly coming here in great form (although he did win the mixed doubles at the Olympics), with a straight sets loss as a 1.31 chance to Kei Nishikori in Tokyo and a defeat as a 1.20 shot against Marton Fucsovics at Wimbledon his most recent singles matches.
So, he’s not coming here in overly confident mood and perhaps the 2-1 win to Rublev at around 4.0 is another decent option in what should be a well-contested affair (although you never can be sure with Fabio).
James Duckworth can consider himself a little fortunate to have been able to ease past a stricken Taylor Fritz quite comfortably in round one, with the American in a bad way on court due to some sort of heart problem.
Fritz was clearly quite unwell during that match and said afterwards: “Hey guys…I’m okay…probably one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced… heart was going absolutely crazy for no reason, I only continued ‘cause it was so odd I thought it maybe would go away and I really hate quitting even if it was probably the smart thing to do.”
Now, maybe Duckworth might lucky again if Washington DC champion Jannik Sinner hasn’t fully recovered from what was a physically and emotionally draining week at the Citi Open when he became the first teen to win an ATP500 event.
Other than his obvious delight at winning the title Sinner should be pleased that he managed it despite struggling with his first serve percentage all week in DC.
In his opening match against Emil Ruusuvuori he only made 40% of them, and then he went 51%, 56%, 52% and 50% for an average of only 50% on the week.
In truth, he might not need to be any better than that to beat Duckworth, who Sinner defeated one and two in Cologne 10 months ago on slow indoor hard and unless Sinner is tired after DC it’s hard to see Duckworth causing an upset.
Our 40-1 outright in the bottom half of the draw, Roberto Bautista Agut, gets his Toronto campaign underway on Wednesday and instead of facing Vasek Pospisil he’ll take on Tommy Paul, who took down Pospisil in round one on Monday night.
Once again, Pospisil’s fitness was under question after that match, with the Canadian cramping after taking the opening set on a tie break and that allowed Paul to ease through in the end in three.
It’ll be the third time that RBA has faced Paul, with the two priors coming on clay (Rome and Monte-Carlo, both this spring) and the Spaniard has had little trouble against the American so far.
Back on hard courts I’d expect (hope) that RBA can continue that dominance over Paul, who’s an opponent that doesn’t really have the weaponry to take down RBA if the latter plays somewhere reasonably close to his best.
Anyone that took Nikoloz Basilashvili yesterday would have been pleased with his resilience to come back from a set down against rising American youngster Jenson Brooksby and I wonder if he’ll be able to repeat the trick against Alex De Minaur today.
De Minaur can definitely be overpowered on quickish courts, as we’ve seen lately with his losses to Seb Korda and Steve Johnson, both of whom De Minaur struggled to defend against on a regular basis.
He also was unable to cope with the backhand slice of Johnson, which meant that he had to create his own pace on the ball, rather than redirecting the pace of others, and this match-up against Basil should suit him more – if he’s on form.
If Basil is on his best form he could win this handily, but more likely is an up and down affair and three sets is a distinct possibility here at 2.37 (Bet 365/Sky Bet).
Basil looks a bit short to be much value, given that he was a 5.34 chance the last time they met in Antalya in January when Basil was on one of his winless runs and ADM went on to win the title that week.
I talked about the weak record of Frances Tiafoe against lefties yesterday and in typically annoying style the guy we backed last week in DC duly produced one of his best performances in recent weeks to beat Yoshihito Nishioka.
Now he faces our man – another lefty – in Denis Shapovalov and Shapo has beaten Tiafoe four times in a row now, on hard courts and grass, since losing to the American in their first clash in Delray Beach in 2018.
The stats tell us that Shapo has a combined service hold/break total of 110 against Tiafoe in their five matches, while Tiafoe is down at 90, but perhaps the stat that stands out the most here is on Tiafoe’s serve.
He’s only won 67% of his first serve points against Shapovalov, but 58% on second serve, which is actually five percent more than the Canadian, so his first serve is doing nothing for him so far in this match-up.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this went three sets, but I expect Shapo to get this done sooner or later tonight.
I’ve taken Kei Nishikori on a couple of times lately, but he’s been a tough one to get beaten and again today he looks vulnerable against Hubert Hurkacz, who’s already beaten Nishi in both of their career clashes.
Both were tight three-setters and Hurkacz was a big underdog on both occasions and Hurkacz hasn’t played since losing as heavy favourite against Liam Broady at the Olympics.
Nishi is much more match tight, but has he played too much? He had the physio out for some work on his left wrist in the final set against Kecmanovic and this might be an opportunity for Hurkacz.
What concerns me with the Pole though is that when he won Miami he went on to lose his next six matches and after a similarly eye-catching run at Wimbledon he lost to Liam Broady in his next event, so will it take him time to get back up to top form again?
I was keen on three or four of the underdogs yesterday, but today I’m not so enamoured with their chances and perhaps Benoit Paire is actually the best value of them today against Diego Schwartzman.
He still needs to do something about that first serve percentage (it was again less than 50% last night) but if he makes 60% of them that would give him a shot against Schwartzman, who’s coming in a bit cold after only three matches in five weeks and none in North America.
Dusan Lajovic could also do something against Felix Auger-Aliassime, while Cristian Garin beat John Isner in Montreal in 2019 and in Paris on indoor hard in 2019 as a 3.25 chance and a 2.84 shot, so he has his chances today, but perhaps not fabulous value at a shorter 3.05 and with no hard court matches under his belt since March.
So, I’ll just take a couple of bets today: Rublev to come through 2-1 against Fognini at 4.20 (BoyleSports) and for Harris to win against Lopez and over 21.5 games at 2.30 (Bet 365).
1 point win Harris to beat Lopez and over 21.5 games at 2.30 (Bet 365)
0.5 points win Rublev to beat Fognini 2-1 at 4.20 (BoyleSports)