Commentator notably on Eurosport during this Australian fortnight, our journalist, with his sharp eye, gives you his impressions on three Friday matches where he sees the favourite in great danger. He explains you why it is possible to see surprises and thus to see beautiful odds inflate your bankrolls...
Denis Shapovalov vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
Will Auger Aliassime (19) finally find the solution to beat Shapovalov (20) on hard? Their last match ended with a real lesson from Shapovalov who had left only 6 games to his friend for a victory in three sets at the 2019 US Open. Since then, Shapovalov has taken a step forward by winning his first ATP tournament in Stockholm and has come very close to the top 10. After a complicated end of the 2020 season with three eliminations in the first round in Cologne, Vienna and Sofia against opponents on paper within his reach (Simon, Albot or Rodianov), the world's 12th player has great ambitions for this season. Beaten by Djokovic and Zverev in the ATP Cup, he suffered to eliminate Jannik Sinner in the first round. A big duel of 3h55 and 5 sets, whereas the Italian was less fresh physically since he had won the Great Ocean Road Open the day before. Then against Tomic, the task was easier with a victory in three sets. He was particularly good on serve with 16 aces and 84% of points behind his first one, he was more pushy in the game and the score does not reflect that. He managed to save all of his 7 conceded break balls and was well inspired to win a second set that could have revived the Australian: "Bernard is a really tough opponent. If I had let him take the second set, I would have been on the court for a while. So I'm really happy to finish with a victory in three sets. ». No time to savour this qualification for the third round, his first in Melbourne: "It's a match like any other that awaits me against Felix. I'm going to prepare myself in the same way as usual. Obviously, it makes sense sooner or later to play against Canadians in a tournament. Even if the Canadiens never want to play other Canadians, in the end it happens. » Auger, for his part, arrives with confidence on this match since he hasn't conceded any set yet. However, the draw was much more favourable to him since Duckworth and Stebe cumulate 10 wins between them out of 45 Grand Slam matches. To start 2021, he reached the final of the Melbourne tournament last week before losing - for the 7th time in 7 finals - to Evans. This week, he was particularly good on serve with more than 75% points on his first serve and 26 aces in two matches. But this time, his opponent will be one of the best turnovers on the circuit. He will therefore have to be very efficient on break balls. At a post-match press conference, the cadet said he was "happy to have won this match" against Duckworth and is looking forward to facing his compatriot: "I think it's good for Canadian sport. It's always fun to play Denis. It's a good opportunity for me to face him again. "There is no doubt that it is one of the matches of this 3rd round that will attract the most crowds. We can expect a tense match, even if Shapovalov is slightly favoured by the bookmakers.
The eye of Alban Lepoivre : In this duel of Canadians, the odds of Felix Auger-Aliassime interest me a lot. Certainly he missed again in the final against Dan Evans last Sunday but his level of play during the week was rather good. Just like his first two rounds against opponents certainly within his reach, but with two serious matches. In any case, I find him interesting, in particular because of the quality of service he has found again. We know that he is dependent on it. Like Zverev, he is capable of serving very well, but when the machine jams it becomes catastrophic. On this point, I have found him to be good for the last 10 days. On the contrary, Shapovalov seems more borrowed to me. He served very badly during the first half of his match against Tomic with a lot of double faults. He was also very close to the exit against Sinner in the first lap, whereas the Italian had the batteries down 24 hours before after his final of the day before. FAA has for me the weapons to finally come and pick up his countryman on hard ground. The key of the match could be the ability of one of the two players to take the best on the diagonal. And in this little game, the FAA forehand seems to me more complete at the moment than Shapovalov's one-handed backhand. Certainly, Shapovalov is better ranked and severely beaten Auger at the US Open but if these are the two arguments that make him the favourite then I think it's not enough. The context is totally different in this match. If Auger Aliassime can finally beat him on this surface, it could be Friday!
Diego Schwartzman vs Aslan Karatsev
The little Argentinian will logically be favourite for this match because of his ranking (9th at the ATP), his experience (Karatsev is playing his first Grand Slam at 27 years old) but also because of his progression since two years on hard court with 65% of victories. Schwartzman notably won the 2019 tournament in Los Cabos, Mexico, and reached the quarter-finals in 2019 at the US Open by dominating Zverev. Last season, it was more mixed, especially on the hard outdoor course. Nevertheless, he is getting used to the surface little by little, he likes to make the exchanges last and likes to prepare his attacks. Since the beginning of the tournament, he has been patient, precise, incisive in forehand and backhand and always holds his ball in the game as well as ever. He hasn't been put too much pressure on his serve, his weak point due to his small size. He managed to have the necessary aggressiveness to get a lot of break balls, 15 in his favour against Alexandre Muller. He is also one of the best restarters in the world - 30% of breaks in his career are on hard outdoor surfaces - and is putting a lot of his opponents to the test. But beware, Karatsev appreciates this surface and he is undefeated at the beginning of the season (5 victories). He comes out of a speedy victory in 1h35 against Gerasimov, leaving him only one game! He has been solid on serve, and well in leg with a very offensive game (17 break balls provided). He arrives in front of Schwartzman without pressure and will have nothing to lose. He can even create a surprise, because his current dynamic is very good. Facing Gerasimov, however a good server, he has returned perfectly with 64% of points gained in return. He won't hesitate to put pressure on Schwartzman who will necessarily have to vary a lot more if he doesn't want to be in constant danger. It's a big test for Schwartzman against a confident player and on this match, anything is possible. Schwartzman will still have some possibilities on the seconds of his opponent. As soon as the rally starts, the Argentinian will try to make his opponent run to counter him, unlike Karatsev who will want to avoid his long rallies. This first meeting between the two players promises to be particularly hard-fought and interesting.
Alban Lepoivre's eye: I like Karatsev which I also commented on during the Saint Petersburg tournament last autumn. He had managed to hook Khachanov and could even have won in a very close match. Since then, he has done a lot of good performances, victories and confidence. Of course, the gap in the classification is huge. But the Russian rider has played a little bit more than 3 hours only in his first two laps. He has notably surprised Gerasimov, who isn't easy to play hard. Djokovic said it after his match against Tiafoe, the surface in Melbourne has never been so fast. And to be honest, Diego Schawartzman didn't impress me at all in his first two matches. Clearly there may be an opening for the Russian who will still have to avoid as much as possible the full backhand of the Argentinian who is able to accelerate the ball on this side. But the speed of the court could be a real asset for the Russian who will inevitably have opportunities to serve his opponent, breaking about 25% of his games on hard court outdoors.
Pedro Martinez vs Dusan Lajovic
More accustomed to playing on clay courts, the two players will face each other for the first time on hard courts. Lajovic leads 2-0 in the confrontations with a 2-1 win in 2018 in Barcelona. More recently in Buenos Aires, he also dominated Martinez in a close match (7-6, 7-6). The cards will be reshuffled, as these matches took place on clay courts. The bookmakers remain cautious and give only a slight advantage to Lajovic, who was left with a catastrophic end to the 2020 season. After his elimination in the 2nd round of Roland Garros, he had suffered 4 defeats in a row, notably on hard courts, a surface he doesn't like (40% of victories) but on which he has already beaten Khachanov and Auger in the ATP Cup in 2020, Nishikori in Miami in 2019 and Mannarino twice in 2018. For his return to competition in 2021 at the ATP cup, he logically lost to Raonic and Struff, two tough specialists and two big servers, a profile of opponents against whom the Serb is in great difficulty (19% of victories). Lajovic reacted well to the beginning of the tournament with a forceps victory against Stakhovsky in 5 sets and nearly 3h30 of play. In the second round, he eliminated Bublik who was favourite because of his quality of service. But Lajovic was very good in the important moments by saving 17 break balls out of 20! He suffered a lot but was able to take the opportunities that presented themselves (5/9 converted break balls). He took 50% of the points on his second, which is quite good against an opponent like Bublik who attacks a lot with his forehand. On this third lap, he will find Martinez who is doing a nice race this week. He has beaten Nishioka with three high level sets after having lost the first round. For his second round, he has been able to take advantage of the irregularity of Ruusuvuori, with whom the status of favourite in some matches isn't justified. He knew how to be aggressive by winning 8 break points out of 14 and reassured himself with his first one. This match should be an open match, as both players love rallies by putting their game down. The difference in rankings will not be seen, as Martinez is so confident about this tournament in his game. Lajovic will want to continue his good performance against Bublik. A very open match to be expected?
The eye of Alban Lepoivre: I'm probably a bit biased in this story because I really love Pedro Martinez. I discovered him last year and I immediately found him very good, very complete. A real earthman with an excellent move, no lightning shots but no real weak point either. And it turns out that he made a perfect transition on hard. He has won his first two laps against excellent players on fast surfaces. His victory over Nishioka is a real reference. In this match on the ground, I can imagine Martinez being able to take the measure of Lajovic because of his quality as a restart rider. He will play the Serb who doesn't necessarily like to take part in long rallies on hard surfaces and can sometimes fish on the way back. Lajovic's play has been well adapted during the first few laps in Stakhovsky and Bublik who play in cadence and take risks. This time the ball will come back more often. And in this little game, I can well imagine the Spaniard coming out the winner.
Editor's note : ⭐️⭐️⭐️--- ⭐️⭐️ Victory Auger ⭐️ Victory Martinez / Victoiry Karatsev
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