We split our two ATP U.S. Open bets Wednesday, but still managed to stack a nickel for the piggy bank, thanks to Fernando Verdasco’s thrilling (yet nervy) four-set victory over Andy “Sir Muzzard” Murray.
Nando needed more than 12 minutes to serve out the match, fending off five break points in the process. And I’m glad he did, because I don’t think anybody in Arthur Ashe Stadium would’ve bet against the Scot if they went to a fifth set.
Anyways, with U.S. Open Day 3 now in the books, it’s time to look ahead to the final 16 second-round matches on Thursday in Flushing Meadows. I’ve got my eyes on two matches that I think hold value — from both a betting and entertainment perspective.
>> Sign up for The Action Network’s daily newsletter to get the smartest conversation delivered into your inbox each morning.
Lucas Pouille (-200) vs. Marcos Baghdatis (+170)
Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
H2H: Pouille leads 1-0 (hard court)
From a style standpoint, I like the way this match lines up for the Cypriot, Baghdatis.
Pouille’s game has been a mess recently — and, frankly, he’s been his own worst enemy.
Although he’s equipped with one of the tour’s more talented skill sets, Pouille has struggled all year to control matches on his own terms. His forehand is a big shot, but he really hasn’t learned how to do much with it. (He seemingly just hits it as hard has he can to the center of the court.)
Opponents who can make the Frenchman play enough balls will eventually be rewarded with an error; Baggy can do just that.
Although his attack has become subdued with age, Baghdatis is still, almost oddly, one of the more capable defenders on tour. He works hard on every point and effectively utilizes his slice to push opponents from the baseline.
And against a poor returner like Pouille — who has only broken opponents at an average clip of 17.9% on hard courts this season — I think Baggy can hold serve at a respectable rate.
At +170, I think it’s worth taking on Pouille — especially considering his last opponent, Yannick Maden (whom I rate lower than Baggy), was priced at just +130 in the first round against Pouille.
The Pick: Marcos Baghdatis +170
Kei Nishikori (-240) vs. Gael Monfils (+200)
Time: 7 p.m. ET
H2H: Nishikori leads 3-1 (2-1 hard court)
Man, one of my favorite matches of all time came last year, during the Rogers Coupe, when Monfils stormed back from a set down against Nishikori. The Frenchman pulled off one of the more stunning comebacks I’ve ever seen on a tennis court.
You’ll have to watch the video here, because — I swear — words don’t really do this brand of shot-making justice. But, I mean, come on. Look at that.
Anyways, the two will meet again Thursday for the first time since that match — and Monfils looks undervalued at 2-1 odds. Let’s be real: Nishikori has looked far from convincing over the past month, and while Monfils hasn’t played much tennis, he can catch fire at a moment’s notice on the biggest stages.
Monfils will certainly have a big stage during the night session on Louis Armstrong Stadium. It’s also important to note the further implications of “night session.” With brutally hot conditions expected in Queens again, Monfils will greatly benefit from playing once the sun sets.
While Monfils is one of the best athletes in the game, his conditioning is, er, not always stellar. I’m not sure I’d fancy La Monf’s chances at upsetting Nishikori under sauna-esque conditions. But on a cool night, I think Gael’s shot-making can last a full five sets (if needed).
Ultimately, for me, this match comes down to Monfils’ offense vs. Nishikori’s defense. If Nishikori were playing at his best, I’d give the nod to the Japanese player.
However, Nishikori is clearly not at his best, which showed a few weeks back in Cincinnati when he was utterly overpowered by Stan Wawrinka. When Monfils is feeling himself, he also has the power to hit through Kei.
This match ticks off two betting criteria for me: Underdog Monfils … and “big match” Monfils. Give me the Frenchman.
The Pick: Gael Monfils +200