Nadal joining Thiem in qualifying
There were wins for Andrey Rublev and Rafa Nadal on Thursday, with Rublev's victory over Dominic Thiem largely irrelevant in terms of deciding the outcome of the group - Thiem still came top and Rublev still bottom - but gave a hint of 'what might have been' for Rublev in what eventually ended up like a pretty competitive group. Nadal's match against Tsitsipas was a winner takes all clash, with the Spaniard triumphing via a 6-2 final set victory and coming second in the group.
Second in the group may well not be the worst outcome for Nadal, assuming that the standings in Group Tokyo 1970 remain the same. Daniil Medvedev tops the group currently, with Novak Djokovic second and needing to beat Alexander Zverev in another winner takes all clash in order to qualify. For all Medvedev's talents, Nadal will surely prefer to face the Russian compared to Djokovic, the world number one and a player he has a pretty negative head-to-head record against, away from clay.
Djokovic facing must-win clash against Zverev
This Djokovic versus Zverev meeting is the 1400 UK time match on the schedule today, so essentially, the order of the group is likely to be decided before the final group match tonight between Medvedev and Schwartzman.
It's Djokovic, rather unsurprisingly, who is the 1.392/5 favourite to be celebrating a semi-final berth today, and my model made this broadly correct, pricing him up at 1.402/5. This was largely due to better surface return data, with the duo having reasonably similar surface data.
Interestingly, the duo met at this tournament twice in 2018 (both in the group stages and the final) and in those match-ups, Djokovic was much shorter in the market, priced at around 1.201/5 on both occasions. After his loss to Lorenzo Sonego in Vienna and versus Medvedev here, there's perhaps not quite the feeling that the world number one is unbeatable right now, and the market odds (and data) suggest that too, giving Zverev more of a chance than in those meetings several years ago. It will be fascinating to see how this match plays out, with the pre-tournament favourite still vulnerable for an early exit.
Medvedev a strong favourite to go three from three
Following this, there's something of a dead rubber in store with Daniil Medvedev a 1.3130/100 favourite to go three from three in the group stages with a win over the already-eliminated Diego Schwartzman.
The Argentine, Schwartzman, was the pre-tournament outsider and he's done little to dispute the market in being correct there. A win against Medvedev would at least end his season on a positive note, although this is unlikely due to that market pricing, and also by my model, which was also pretty similar to the current market line.
Schwartzman has held serve just 64% in his two matches this week, and this is a figure which is almost identical to his projected hold percentage today according to my model (65.1%) and he's done little to dispel the suspicion that his serve struggles against the top players on tour. In head-to-head matches against Medvedev (Schwartzman has lost four from four) he's held marginally less than this figure as well.
This all points to thinking that unless Medvedev - who is now unbeaten in seven indoor matches - eases up tonight having already qualified, it would be a surprise if Schwartzman did get his first win in this tournament.
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