Thursday’s ATP Daily Hitter: Malek or Mischa in Marrakech?
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Split the day Wednesday, still managing to stack a quarter-unit. I will say, that Roberto Carballes Baena loss was a rather strange one. The Spaniard had game points for a 5-1 lead in the first set before it all fell apart. I’m not sure what happened there, since the match was on one of the nonbroadcast courts in Marrakech (come on, tournament directors!). However, a French article I read made no mention of any injury for RCB. Strange, but we move on.
Not the most appetizing card Thursday. I think Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock will both advance in Houston, but not much value at -150. I also gave an extended look at Taylor Fritz against Ryan Harrison, but want to dig a little deeper before pulling the trigger. Nothing else worth looking at in Houston.
In Marrakech, perhaps a punt on crowd favorite Lamine Ouahab could be a fun wager. If you aren’t familiar with the name, it’s a wild story. The Algerian who represents Morocco after getting a passport only plays intermittent stretches of tennis. He’s also not the most fit player you will ever see, but he still managed to upset a top-40 player in the world Wednesday.
Given how poorly Nikoloz Basilashvili has played this year, another victory by Ouahab wouldn’t shock me, but I can’t recommend a wager at a price of only +164. However, I do have my eyes on another match in Morocco on Thursday.
Without any further ado, let’s dive into today’s hitter.
Match: Mischa Zverev (-130) vs. Malek Jaziri (+110)
Where: Marrakech, Morocco
When: Not before 10:30 a.m. ET
I’ll be riding the Marrakech Express with Malek “Maori” Jaziri (pictured above) at plus money against Mischa “elder” Zverev. Jaziri is one of my favorite players to back because oddsmakers repeatedly overlook (and underprice) him. Thursday seems to be another one of those cases, with the Tunisian being priced as an underdog against elder Zverev on clay.
Oddsmakers seem to have forgotten about Zverev’s abysmal start to the season. The German did scrape together a win against Paulo Lorenzi in the opening round, but something about that matchup wasn’t kosher from the start when Lorenzi closed at just -133. (I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if he was -250.) Not to speculate too much, but I suspect something wasn’t right with Lorenzi (physically or otherwise), so I don’t put too much weight on the victory.
Jaziri’s first-round win, on the other hand, was far more impressive. The Tunisian came through Marton Fucsovics as a +200 underdog. After starting slowly — and dropping the first set 6-1 — Jaziri found his pocket and took the next two sets comprehensively (6-4, 6-2). Before this tournament, Jaziri has been riding some great form, winning the Challenger in Quijing and making the semifinal in Dubai (at the Tour level).
This is a plus matchup for Jaziri, especially considering Zverev’s form of late — he has won just four of his past 15 matches. Jaziri is an underrated returner and shotmaker who likes to hit with a lot of topspin out wide, which should frustrate Zverev in any extended rallies. While Zverev will surely look to move up in the court to serve and volley, Jaziri also has the ability to clean up points at the net, which adds another wrinkle to his attack.
The two have played four times over the years, including twice at the Challenger level. Zverev won both of the Tour level bouts in Stuttgart and Melbourne, while Jaziri, for what it’s worth, won both Challenger matches, which were played quite some time ago. I don’t put much stock into those results, especially since they have never met on clay. I simply have to side with the value in Jaziri as an underdog given the current form disparity.
THE PICK: Malek Jaziri +110