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To be blunt: today’s Australian Open Men’s Quarterfinal matches are either/or type affairs. All four players have advanced relatively comfortably to this stage of the tournament, though none of their performances have particularly stood out in comparison to their quarterfinal opponents.
Neither Nadal nor Rublev have dropped a set in any of their matches, but their toughest opponents thus far have either withdrawn due to injury midway through the match (Rublev) or looked significantly hampered from their previous rounds (Nadal). Additionally, while both Tsitsipas and Medvedev have played one five-set match, that five-set match was the only time that either guy has dropped a set during the tournament.
Nadal is 6-1 in his career against Tsitsipas, defeated him 62 64 60 in the 2019 Australian Open semifinals, and enters his match as a -220 moneyline favorite. The heavy-topspin, lefty based game of Nadal presents a matchup nightmare for the one-handed, righty BH of Tsitsipas. In his seven matches against Tsitsipas, Nadal has averaged win percentages of 77.4% on his 1st serve points and 59.6% on his 2nd serve points (all numbers via Tennis Abstract). Nadal’s ability to find the Tsitsipas’ backhand with his plus-one shot also allows him to control the majority of rallies on his serve, and he has been broken on serve only three total times (67/70, 96%) in his six victories over Tsitsipas (for non-tennis followers, that’s a ridiculous rate of success).
Tsitsipas enters today’s match well rested, as he received a withdrawal prior to the start of his round of 16 match following an injury to his opponent Matteo Berrettini. He will need to make a high percentage of his 1st serves if he is to defeat Nadal, as he has averaged a putrid 42.3% win percentage on 2nd serve points against Nadal in his career. However, he has also won a set in his last two hard court matches against Nadal, and has taken Nadal the distance in four of their seven career matchups.
Given that Nadal continues to nurse multiple injuries, I see little reason to believe Tsitsipas will not snag a set in today’s encounter. Additionally, given that Nadal is truly a nightmare matchup for Tsitsipas, I find it almost impossible to believe Tsitsipas could ever defeat Nadal in three straight sets. -205 odds for a singular Tsitsipas/Nadal over bet aren’t great, but that’s where Medvedev/Rublev make things a bit easier for us.
Born a year apart and having grown up training together in their homeland of Russia, there are zero secrets between the games of Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev. Perhaps that’s why it is so puzzling that in their four professional encounters, Rublev has yet to take a set from Medvedev on any occasion.
Just five months ago, Medvedev defeated Rublev 76 63 76 in the 2020 US Open quarterfinals. Rublev was literally one point away from securing a set in that match, and is 36-8 over in his last 52 weeks of competition. Of course, Medvedev has won 18 consecutive matches dating back to the end of last season, and unlike Rublev, has previously advanced beyond the Quarterfinal round of a Grand Slam event.
Still, both Medvedev and Rublev are playing outstanding tennis right now, and I find it nearly impossible to imagine a scenario in which either player negotiates a straight set victory in this one. When parlayed together, over 3.5 sets in both Nadal/Tsitsipas and Medvedev/Rublev hits +128 odds. Let’s throw 2 units on that, and hope things go the distance down under.
Herein lies the beauty of professional tennis.
Don’t love the lines at the Australian Open, but still want to satisfy your tennis itch? Rest easy, as one can turn to any of the twenty-nine other tournaments happening across the globe and find plenty of enticing action to take advantage of.
The Phillip Island Trophy, a WTA tournament occurring simultaneously in Melbourne this week, is one such event. The tournament’s field features almost exclusively Top 100-ranked players in the world, and has now reached the Quarterfinal round. While only three of the tournament’s Top 8 seeds remain standing, #2 seed Bianca Andreescu and #8 seed Danielle Collins both appear well positioned to advance to the event’s final four.
Currently ranked #9 in the world, 20-year-old Bianca Andreescu continues to improve her level with every match she’s played in Australia.
Due to various lingering injuries and pandemic-related decisions, the 2019 US Open champion did not play a professional match in 2020. Her game suffered accordingly during her two Australian Open matches, as her lack of match play manifested itself in struggles with her footwork, timing, and return of serve. Though her 2nd round loss to Su Wei Hsieh looks better in retrospect (Hsieh ended up reaching the quarterfinals of the AO), in her two AO matches she hit 47 winners against 59 unforced errors (a +/- of -12 would be the NBA-equivalent box score), won less than 45% of her 2nd serve points (she averaged a 49.6% win percentage during her 2019 success), and appeared to wear down physically by the end of her 2nd match.
Thankfully for Canadian tennis fans (and opportunists such as myself), Andreescu has picked up her level this week. She’s continued to find success with her own 1st serve, winning over 70% of her 1st serve points through her first two matches. She’s also won over 50% of her 2nd serve return points in both matches this week, and though non-quantifiable, appears to have regained some of the timing and match rhythms that can disappear after a year spent away from pro tennis.
She’s also been the beneficiary of a bit of luck as well, as her round of 16 opponent retired from injury halfway through her match yesterday. While normally an insignificant development, any additional rest Andreescu can give her body will only improve her chances moving forward.
In Irinia Camelia Begu, Andreescu also faces an ideal opponent tomorrow. Begu carries a career win-percentage of less than .500 in WTA-level hard court matches (102-115 overall, 11-16 in her last two seasons), and plays a style of tennis that Andreescu matches up quite well with.
Begu has averaged only a 45.3% win percentage on her 2nd serve points in hard court matches. She won a seemingly unsustainable 67% and 75% of her 2nd serve points through her first two matches this week, but won only 43% of those points against #5 seed Wang Qiang yesterday. That she almost lost for the first time this week in that Qiang match bodes well for Andreescu, who plays with the sort of aggressiveness and firepower that should significantly disrupt the rhythm of Begu and expose the weakest part of her game, her movement.
-250 moneyline odds aren’t spectacular on their own, but when parlayed with another likely winner, Andreescu becomes too tempting to pass up. Enter Danielle Collins, who’s played about as well as anyone over the past three weeks of action in Australia, and appears well positioned to defeat her opponent Rebecca Peterson tomorrow.
Collins carries a 6-2 overall record in Australia, and has won over 73% of her 1st serve points during her matches. She has also now reached the quarterfinals or further at five of her last seven events in Australia, and just seems to thrive in the Australian summer conditions. Her opponent, Rebecca Peterson, has looked solid this week, but has yet to face a Top 75-ranked player in any of her three matches. Collins and Peterson have also played twice in their careers, with Collins winning their only hard court battle 62 60 back in 2016.
Typically parlaying two favorites such as Collins and Andreescu would carry worse odds, but +105 feels like a bargain considering the significant ranking disparities between Andreescu/Collins and their respective opponents. My only reservation in not increasing my wager would be a continued wariness about the health of Andreescu, but the fact that she played an abbreviated match yesterday helps alleviate those concerns.
Let’s place 3 units to win 3.15 on an Andreescu/Collins parlay, and hope these two favorites deliver the goods for us tomorrow.
Because who doesn’t like to sweat things out a bit?
To hear more about the logic behind these picks, tune into my daily Cracked Racquets GSP: Ace of the Day segment, a series singularly focused on negotiating the many wagering opportunities happening every day in the sport. Also, if you’re interested in hearing recaps of each day’s Australian Open results or feel inspired to start following tennis more closely, tune into our Cracked Racquets “The Mini-Break Podcast” wherever you listen to your podcasts or follow @crackedracquets on social media.
Alex Gruskin is the Editor-In-Chief of Cracked Racquets and host of the “Ace of the Day” segment on the Great Shot Podcast – a Tennis Channel Podcast – which breaks down daily tennis prop bets, picks and parlays.