Yesterday’s article was not one of our best, as two of the matches were void, and the other one was an underdog pick in Jaume Munar, which lost. However, the bonus tip of Rafael Nadal outright at 8/5 is still alive after he received a walkover into the Semi Finals. He is now odds on favourite at 4/6, so looking promising!
We are now really in the business end of the week, entering the Semi Finals of the ATP Cup and the ATP250s in Melbourne and Adelaide.
Denis Shapovalov (CAN) to beat Roman Safiullin (RUS) at 1/3 (ATP Cup):
Denis Shapovalov has had a bit of an underwhelming start to his season, opting out of Canada’s first match, then losing to an in-form Evans 6-4 6-4, but he then had a decent three set win over Struff, which helped Canada to advance to the Semi Finals. Roman Safiullin, world number 167 and unknown to many a week ago, was called up to be Russia’s number 2 due to Rublev and Karatsev testing positive for Covid-19, and Khachanov electing to play in Adelaide. So far, he has risen to the occasion, beating a very erratic Rinderknech first up, and Australia’s Duckworth. He really pushed Sinner, having set points in the first set and having many chances to break in the second, but did eventually lose in straights. Sinner however was not playing to the best of his ability.
On this occasion, as was the case when he played Sinner, I think Shapovalov will have too much class for Safiullin. The Canadian really impressed in the doubles, securing a great win over two great doubles players in Joe Salisbury and Jamie Murray, alongside Felix Auger-Aliassime. It was the quality of their returns and ground strokes that the British pair just couldn’t live with. Shapovalov has a better serve than Sinner, so should be able to get through the majority of his service games without any trouble, which Sinner wasn’t able to do but still got the win. Shapovalov’s ability at the net will also be key here, and should be able to finish points quickly, and his quality of ground strokes will allow him to dictate rallies.
Karen Khachanov (RUS) to beat Marin Cilic (CRO) at 6/5 (Adelaide):
Charlie’s outright pick of Karen Khachanov has progressed nicely through the tournament, beating Johnson and Gerasimov. He was in great form during the second half of last year, and looked to be back to the levels of performances that saw him break the top 10 a few years ago. Marin Cilic, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen at his peak level for many years now, and given his age it is unlikely he will get back there. He is still a challenging player to face though, and his serve is still very hard to break. However, Khachanov also has a great serve, so break chances will be few and far between in the match. I give Khachanov the edge as the quality of ground strokes is far superior to Cilic, especially on the backhand side, and his movement is also marginally better. At 6/5, this for me is a great value pick.
Gael Monfils (FRA) to beat Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) at 2/5 (Adelaide):
My outright pick of Gael Monfils has also progressed nicely through the draw, thrashing Juan-Manuel Cerundolo and Tommy Paul. As I mentioned on the podcast, his form at the back end of last year looked promising, and this looks to have continued. Kokkinakis is ranked at 171, but his best is much better than that, and a run to the Semi Finals here defeating the likes of Millman, Tiafoe and Mikael Ymer, is a testament of this. I think he will come unstuck here though, due to Monfils’ incredible ability to retrieve. Monfils is one of the best athletes to ever play the game, possessing incredible sprint speed and agility. Monfils also has great weapons of his own, which Kokkinakis will struggle to defend against. If Kokkinakis is going to win this, he is really going to have to earn it, and I think he will have too much to do against a Monfils that is showing signs of being near to his best.
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) to beat Maxime Cressy (USA) at 2/5 (Melbourne):
Everyone knows the talent that Grigor Dimitrov possesses, and he should thrive in these relatively fast conditions. A run to the Semi Finals is evidence of this, and he secured a nice comeback win over US Open Quarter Finalist Van De Zandschulp, breaking his huge serve 6 times in the match. He should have similar success against Maxime Cressy, and Cressy has worse ground strokes behind his serve that Van De Zandschulp. Dimitrov’s great hands and feel will allow him to put the returns at Cressy’s feet as he serve-volleys, making life awkward for him. Furthermore, Dimitrov is very good at passing off both sides, meaning that the quality of serve or shot for Cressy to come in off is going to have to be very high, or he will get killed. Dimitrov has a good serve of his own, so holding shouldn’t be a problem for him most of the time, especially as Cressy is a relatively poor returner. If Dimitrov plays anywhere near his best, then he should advance to the Final with ease.