Andy Schooler previews Friday’s final set of group matches at the ATP Finals and he has a bet in the Daniil Medvedev v Diego Schwartzman showdown.
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Daniil Medvedev v Diego Schwartzman (2000 GMT)
Unfortunately, Friday’s night session hands us another dead rubber with Medvedev already through to the last four as group winner and Schwartzman eliminated from semi-final contention.
We successfully backed the already-eliminated player to win yesterday’s ‘meaningless match’ – Andrey Rublev defeating Dominic Thiem in straight sets – but I’m doubtful that will happen again.
Rublev went into that clash having won his last two against Thiem; here Medvedev brings a 4-0 head-to-head record and he’s lost only one set in that series.
With a semi-final to come just 24 hours later, he’ll want a quick night’s work and seems likely to get it.
He was excellent against Novak Djokovic on Wednesday while Schwartzman has predictably struggled in a field of this calibre.
The Argentine really should have lost both matches so far in straight sets and his record during the current indoor swing now stands at a poor 5-5 with just one of those wins coming against a player ranked in the top 50.
The pair’s last meeting came in Paris just a couple of weeks ago with Medvedev winning 6-3 6-1. Schwartzman won just five points on return and only one on the Russian’s first serve.
With Medvedev bringing the bigger weapons, better form and a dominant head-to-head, I don’t see much hope for Schwartzman.
The elephant is the room is clearly how much Medvedev will want to push himself but if he plays as he’s done for the vast majority of his time on court this week, there’s every chance he wraps this up in 70 minutes.
He’s 1/5 to win and only 4/7 for another straight-sets success but you can get odds-against about him winning in under 20.5 games.
That’s occurred in three of their four previous meetings, including both on an indoor hardcourt.
I wouldn’t get heavily involved in a dead rubber but this looks worth a small play.
Novak Djokovic v Alex Zverev (1400 GMT)
It’s winner stays on in this contest with the victor moving through to a semi-final meeting with Dominic Thiem.
I’m still confident my outright pick Djokovic will make it through but I certainly wouldn’t be backing him at 4/11.
The Serb couldn’t figure out Daniil Medvedev’s game on Wednesday night, failing to break serve once.
It took him until well into the second set to create his one and only break point. At one stage it looked like he wouldn’t have any. The last time he failed to create one in an entire match was in May 2017 – against Zverev.
That helps show that on a good serving day, the German is a match for anyone. He proved it again on this very court against Djokovic two years ago, producing a fine display as he caused an upset in the final.
Zverev hasn’t hit such high notes at this year’s event, his overall play perhaps hindered by clear issues which have dogged his second serve and resulted in many double faults.
Like Djokovic, he was well beaten by Medvedev before seeing off Diego Schwartzman in three sets. Zverev really should have won in straights but his slump in the second half of the second set highlighted how his game often lacks consistency and that’s a concern coming into this one.
Djokovic didn’t play badly during his loss to Medvedev and I’d expect focus to be spot on.
He’ll also know that he’s enjoyed plenty of success against Zverev in the past. Yes, he’s suffered those two losses but the three wins of his own have all come in dominant fashion.
He lost just five games here in their 2018 group-stage meeting, only three in Shanghai that same year and nine (in three sets) in their most recent clash at last season’s French Open.
Each of those matches saw Zverev fall away quickly after losing the first set and that’s a pattern I can see repeating in this contest.
A 2-0 win for Djokovic is a shade of odds-against and looks fair enough, while for something bigger 18/5 about set two featuring under 8.5 games has potential.
However, the best bet of the match – perhaps the week - undoubtedly comes in the aces markets.
Zverev to serve the most aces giving up a 2.5 start on the handicap looks a great bet at 10/11.
I always rate the head-to-head stats most important when it comes an aces match bet, as opposed to the number of aces served in the tournament, for example. It’s vital to know the ability of each man in terms of reading the opponent’s serve.
But clearly it’s not simply about unreturned serves – a player who gets a racquet on serves stops aces and that goes some way to explaining why Zverev has won the ace count against Djokovic by heavy margins in the past.
The German stands 6ft 6in – a full four inches above his rival. A greater wing span keeps Djokovic’s ace count down. That’s before we get to the fact that Zverev sends down a much faster serve, cranking things up to 140mph. Djokovic is rarely above 125mph.
It is the ace counts of those previous meetings which make the bet: 10-1, 10-1, 9-1, 2-0, 7-1, all in Zverev’s favour. On this court, it’s been 10-1 and 9-1.
Those are some big margins – well above 2.5 in most cases – and I expect Zverev to cover the handicap with something to spare.
Posted at 2020 GMT on 19/11/20