The underdogs took a bit of a beating in Shanghai on Wednesday, with none of the 10 even winning a set, so there was nothing in the way of decent priced winners floating around and we got nowhere on day four with our bets.
Mikhail Kukushkin retired sick against David Goffin, so at least the +1.5 sets on that one was void, while Taylor Fritz was taken down by a very good performance from Karen Khachanov on the day.
Only two of 16 underdogs won in round two of the Shanghai Masters this year, which is the fewest since the tournament began in 2009 and round three here since 2011 has produced 33% underdog winners (the most of any of the rounds apart from the semis).
Conditions look like they may well play nice and quick on Thursday, with sunshine forecast all day in Shanghai, where it’ll be 27C in the shade and no more than an average wind speed.
We have our three big-priced outrights all still well in contention at this stage and with their chances of progressing to the quarter finals.
Matteo Berrettini has every chance of getting past Roberto Bautista Agut in these fast conditions if he carries on in the same form that we’ve seen from the Italian so far.
And although Andrey Rublev has lost both of his prior matches against Alexander Zverev, both were a few years ago now and Zverev was a 1.24 to 1.30 favourite in those matches – on Thursday he’s a 1.60 chance to beat the Russian.
Conditions are probably too quick here for both players to be totally comfortable, but on current form Rublev has a real chance of the win against an opponent who’s yet to show that his confidence is fully back after a poor season.
But I think the bet for Thursday has to be to take a chance on our other outright hope, Nikoloz Basilashvili against Dominic Thiem.
On a sunny day, Shanghai will surely play too quick for Thiem’s liking, and Basil has the sort of power that can be a nightmare for someone who likes time on the ball, like Thiem.
The Austrian has been serving very well just lately, with 85.4% holds in his six matches on this Asian swing and that’s been behind a very reliable first serve percentage of 66.3%.
So, he’s been getting a lot of first serves in and winning 78.2% of them, which is impressive, but he’s only winning 49% on his second ball and he was fortunate to escape from losing situations against both Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas last week in Beijing (where he played mainly at night in slower conditions).
I feel that sooner or later someone powerful that has a good day at the office will be able to get the better of Thiem with a bit to spare in these Shanghai conditions and Basil could well be that man – if he’s on a good day.
He’s already beaten Thiem once on a fairly lively indoor hard court in Sofia (in 2017 as a 5.61 underdog) and while it’s true that Thiem was awful that day an on song Basil certainly has the power and the right playing conditions to at least be very competitive.
Basil has been serving well here in China so far as well, holding serve 86% of the time in his four matches this Asian swing (and winning 5% more points than Thiem on his second ball) and the price on Thiem looks short at 1.25 to me.
He’s actually lost six of his last 11 matches not played on clay when priced up shorter than 1.30 and he’s only won three of those 11 matches in straight sets.
I think the bet here is to take the slight odds against on Basilashvili +1.5 sets, as you never quite know what to expect from the racquet of the unpredictable Georgian.
Elsewhere, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hubert Hurkacz were to make Stefanos Tsitsipas work harder than odds of 1.37 about the Greek suggest.
Hurkacz beat Tsitsipas recently in Montreal when Tsitsipas was struggling a bit with a thigh problem and they split two tie break sets in Dubai earlier this season before Tsitsipas ran away with the decider.
The Greek also won in Davis Cup more recently when Hurkacz was going through a bit of a post-Winston-Salem slump, but he’s been good so far this week in Shanghai and the over games and tie break played look good options in this one.
We’ve won with Vasek Pospisil twice this week so far, but I’m not sure his backhand is quite up to the test it’ll probably receive from Daniil Medvedev on Thursday.
The Canadian is in a good groove on serve and it might carry the Canadian to a tie break or even a set if he has another good day, but it’s hard to see him grabbing the win.
John Isner is another big server that’s been enjoying the fast conditions here in Shanghai, but he’ll need the match of his life on serve if he’s to take down the in-form Novak Djokovic.
He has beaten the Serb a couple of times, but the most recent was in 2013, however he’s never faced Djokovic in conditions as fast as this and a set one tie break wouldn’t be out of the question.
The price is too short though at 2.75 and I’ll just be an interested spectator in that one.
Speaking of being a spectator, that’s pretty much what David Goffin was the last time he faced Roger Federer, which was in an embarrassing show at the US Open at the start of September.
Fed won 18 of the last 20 games in that one, as Goffin, not for the first time against an elite opponent, couldn’t get off court fast enough and while the Belgian has the ability on his day to challenge the Swiss I won’t be betting on it happening at the moment.
Finally, the irony of Fabio Fognini beating Karen Khachanov on a much faster court than the one he capitulated on last week in Beijing when we had him outright wouldn’t be lost on me.
Fognini had Khachanov where he wanted him at a set up and in chilly, slowish conditions in Beijing, yet blew it in that quarter final clash, so he’ll probably win today.
It should be too fast for Fognini against the power of Khachanov here in Shanghai and I’ll just take Basil as my bet on Thursday.
1 point win Basilashvili +1.5 sets to beat Thiem at 2.02