Friday’s ATP Play: An All-American Battle on Home Soil
Our hitter yesterday, Malek Jaziri, came through in straight sets against Mischa Zverev in a match that took just 1:20 to complete. Friday’s card looks pretty unappetizing overall, as I think we might see a lot of chalk advance.
In Marrakech at the Grand Prix Hassan II, I suppose Gilles Simon, who has strung together a few consecutive wins, holds some value as an underdog. Richard Gasquet simply hasn’t looked like himself for quite some time now, as he continues to deal with fitness issues. However, I would need the line to creep a little higher before hitting Simon in that match.
I do fancy a play in an all-American clash on the dirt in Houston. Let’s get into Friday’s ATP best bet.
Match: John Isner (-170) vs. Steve Johnson (+145)
When: 7 p.m. ET
I think there’s enough value at this price to roll the dice on Steve Johnson against Big John Isner. I’m approaching this more of an Isner (pictured above) fade than a Stevie play.
After winning the title at the Miami Masters, Isner took a trip to Nashville for a Davis Cup match — he has played a lot of tennis lately. Over the past few weeks, Big John has played eight matches. Although that may not sound like a ton, consider this: Before Miami, Isner played only nine matches over the course of almost three months in 2018. He has never had strong fitness to boot.
Players can be a touch vulnerable after the Davis Cup, specifically due to the high emotions involved. Considering Isner also secured the biggest win of his career a week and a half ago, I get the feeling an emotional letdown is imminent.
Style-wise, Stevie matches up well against Big John. He has won the last three matches between the two (4-4 overall). And even though Isner took their only two clay meetings (Nice and Monte Carlo in 2015), I wouldn’t say he has a game better suited for the clay than Stevie, who actually won this tournament last year. He should have extra motivation to defend his points from that title. Isner also won this tournament in 2013, but has gone only 3-4 in Houston since.
Stevie seems to have turned things around, at least for the time being, after a horrible start to the season. He’s won two straight in Houston against respectable opponents. Johnson defeated fellow American Ernesto Escobedo in the first round and then notched a comprehensive victory over a tough defender in another American, Frances Tiafoe.
In that match against Tiafoe, Johnson effectively used the backhand slice (the only backhand he really hits) and moved comfortably on the surface. If he continues his efficient serving (he’s won over 70% of first-serve points in his two matches in Houston), he should at least get to a few coin-flip tiebreakers against Isner.
At a price of +145, I’m willing to side with Johnson in a match that could very well come down to one or two shots in a tiebreaker.
THE PICK: Steve Johnson +145
Photo via Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports