Saturday ATP Betting: Can Nick Kyrgios Keep it Rolling Against Top Tier?
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Nick Kyrgios
Despite World Cup fever flying through the air, the tennis calendar chugs along — and we find four Saturday semifinal matchups from Germany (Mercedes Cup) and the Netherlands (Libema Open).
In Stuttgart, Germany, we’ve got the Swiss maestro, Roger Federer, squaring off against Aussie enigma Nick Kyrgios. But before that, Milos Raonic will face Lucas Pouille in the first match of the day.
It’s hard to contemplate opposing Raonic at the moment given his present form. The Missile has been absolutely menacing on his serve thus far in Stuttgart, winning 97% of first serve points against Mirza Basic, 86% against Marton Fucsovics and 80% vs. Tomas Berdych. Throughout his first three matches, he’s faced only two break points — which both came in one service game against Berdych.
Pouille probably holds his serve well enough (at least against a returner as poor as Raonic) to force a tiebreak or maybe even three — but given Pouille’s form over the past few months, Raonic probably takes two of three lotteries over the long run. That means -200 looks just right. Pass.
Over in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, Jeremy Chardy will try his luck against Matty Ebden, who has lost all three career matches against the Frenchman. We’ll also see the resurgent Bernard Tomic (now draped in Lacoste) against Richard “Grass-quet” Gasquet.
I initially thought Chardy held value at a buck and a quarter. After all, he’s never dropped a set against Ebden and has won their three aforementioned bouts pretty handily:
- 2016 Delray: Chardy d. Ebden 6-2, 6-1
- 2014 Acapulco: Chardy d. Ebden 7-5, 6-0
- 2012 U.S. Open: Chardy d. Ebden 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
That said, they’ve never met on grass, which is where Ebden seems to play his best tennis. My main concern here, though, revolves around the legs of Chardy. He’s played a lot of tennis recently, winning the Surbiton Challenger last week and getting pushed to three sets twice so far in this tournament. The same could be said for Ebden, however, who made the semis in Surbiton. If both guys bring their A-games, I favor Chardy — but I’ll stay away.
That leaves only one match — the popcorn match of the day — between Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios. Here, we will find our daily hitter. Let’s dive in.
Roger Federer (-280) vs. Nick Kyrgios (+240)
When: Not before 10 a.m. ET
Where: Stuttgart, Germany
H2H: 1-1 (with a second win for Roger at last year’s Laver Cup)
Amazingly, the two career matches between Fed and Kyrgios featured six tiebreaks. Nick won their first bout in Madrid (2015) 6-7(1), 7-6(5), 7-6(12); while Roger took their second match at Miami last year 7-6(9), 6-7(9), 7-6(5) in dramatic (and controversial) fashion.
On Saturday, the two will play their first match on grass. With the lawn likely aiding the serves of both men, I expect a similarly tight match in Stuttgart.
So far this week, Roger has looked relatively human. In his first match, he dropped the opening set to Mischa Zverev. And in his second match, against Guido Pella, Roger could never pull away. The Argentine, who had just a 2-6 record on grass prior to this tournament, found a way to keep it close throughout.
Fed will face a much bigger challenge against Kyrgios, who seems to play his loosest (and freest) tennis against the biggest names in the game. And that’s what this match comes down to for me. “Big match” Kyrgios is perhaps the only player on Tour who can match Roger’s level on a quicker court. And at +240, it’s hard to ignore the amount of value with Nick.
Kyrgios owns an impressive 5-4 record against the Big 3 (Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic) over the years — with only Nadal boasting a winning record against him, at 3-2. Also, all of Kyrgios’ wins have come as the underdog. In fact, if you backed Kyrgios in each of those nine matches, you would find yourself up a whopping +15.55 units. Kyrgios always seems to raise his level against the game’s best players — and he’ll certainly have a big enough stage to “get up” for this one against Roger.
But he’ll have to continue serving well. The Aussie’s serve was large and in charge in his second match in Stuttgart, as he pumped 20 aces against Feli Lopez and won 86% of his first serves. Free points against Roger Federer are hard to come by — but luckily, Kyrgios has the ability to grab them on his serve.
Additionally, Kyrgios has the talent off the ground to hold his own in rallies with Federer. Nick can create really sharp, linear angles (especially on grass) with his backhand, and his unorthodox style has made Federer uncomfortable in the past. Kyrgios’ backhand came up big for him in some big spots against Lopez, and if his match against Federer comes down to tiebreaks yet again, one or two points could decide this one.
Ultimately, at this price — given his history against the Big 3 and the likelihood of breakers — there’s simply too much value for me to pass on “Big Match” Kyrgios. In a combined 18 sets against the Big 3, Kyrgios has forced 11 tiebreaks. He’s won eight of those, illustrating the slim margins in matches featuring Nick and the game’s elite. As a result, I expect Nick to make this match a lot closer than what the line implies.