Scott Ferguson picks out a couple of well-fancied odds-on shots from the matches featuring Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday evening.
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Novak Djokovic v Stan Wawrinka
Injury concerns over the world no.1 were dispelled with a comfortable win over American Denis Kudla on Friday night. But were they? That was a match most would still expect him to win even if he had to serve underarm so you wonder if he was truly tested. Tonight's contest will be far more challenging. While the overall h2h might be 22-5 in favour of Novak Djokovic, it's only 2-2 in their last four meetings (but none since the 2016 US Open final). Of their seven best-of-five set clashes, four of them have gone to the decider.
It has been almost three years since this pair last met on court, and much has changed in that time. Djokovic had his injury blip but has returned with a vengeance, winning four of the last five Grand Slam events. Stan Wawrinka had more serious surgery and since being runner-up in the 2017 French Open, has only one major QF to his name - so how much value that previous form has is difficult to quantify. Wawrinka's form so far has been enough to overcome three players outside the top 70, but he will no doubt have a fire lit under him facing the world no.1.
Wawrinka at 100 per cent is the player type that Djokovic does not want to face with a left shoulder issue. He hits with heavy topspin, serves 8-10mph faster than any of Djokovic's opponents so far, and can mix his play between aggressive and patient.
If there is any pain left in that shoulder, Wawrinka will find it and hone in on it. Yet I am prepared to trust Djokovic's physio and expect a match closer to the current rankings. Wawrinka isn't quite there at the moment and he's had enough time to gather that form which propelled him to no.3 in the rankings.
The angle I think we can find value in is in the tiebreaks. In 27 previous clashes, they've played just 10 breakers. With reasons to suspect neither player will be at their absolute peak, breaks of serve might be more common than usual, thus reducing the likelihood of a decider.
Grigor Dimitrov v Alex De Minaur
The man once revered as 'Baby Fed' has lost his mojo this year, with a shoulder injury at the Australian Open being the root cause. Rather than going for surgery, Grigor Dimitrov opted for rest but that's caused his ranking to sink like a stone, falling from #19 on New Year's Day down to #78 now.
During the clay season he was able to pinch a few wins to stop the bleeding but on the more serve-dependent surfaces of grass and hardcourt, it hasn't worked. Since finishing up at Roland Garros, his record stands at 3-6 and two of those wins have been here this week against weaker opponents (R2 vs Borna Coric was via walkover). Andreas Seppi was resuming off a hip injury and Kamil Majchrzak was exhausted after fighting his way through qualifying followed by successive five-setters in the main draw.
Alex De Minaur was in peak form dismissing Kei Nishikori in the previous round, following from wins over two other top 50 players - all considerably higher-ranked than Dimitrov's scalps. The Australian's court coverage is his best asset and will frustrate his opponent greatly - fewer free points on serve and more balls which were expected to be winners coming back over the net, kryptonite for the aggressive shotmaker.
De Minaur has been promising to crack the top 20 since emerging into senior ranks, and this is a big chance for him. If he maintains his form from the last round, Dimitrov will need his best performance of the season to beat him, and I simply don't think he's in that condition right now.
Preview posted at 0917BST on 01/09/2019