Shapovalov progresses to give us a Friday winner
Our solid campaign in Melbourne continued on Friday as Denis Shapovalov defeated Reilly Opelka in four sets. I have noted several times in previous previews that Opelka will very likely mean-revert in his tiebreak performance and it was pleasing to see Shapovalov nick the only tiebreak they played, which got him started with a 1-0 sets lead.
Again, the big names towards the top of the outright market didn't have an abundance of difficulty making further progress. Alexander Zverev eased to a straight set win over Radu Albot, while Rafa Nadal required a further set to dispose of Karen Khachanov. The match of the day was an epic five-setter between Carlos Alcaraz and Matteo Berrettini. Alcaraz fought back from two sets down to force a decider, but Berrettini progressed in a match lasting over four hours, which might not be the best preparation for his clash with Pablo Carreno-Busta in round four.
Round three continues on Saturday with the final matches in the round on the schedule, and as has been the case this week, there's a number of mismatches in prospect. Jannik Sinner, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and our outright long-shot, Alex de Minaur, are all around or below 1.101/10 to get victories on day six.
Bautista-Agut with better surface data than Fritz
Given this, it's probably worth focusing more on the more competitive matches on the schedule. These include Roberto Bautista-Agut versus Taylor Fritz, Dan Evans against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Maxime Cressy's clash with Chris O'Connell, and I'll discuss these below.
In the first, the market is finding it tricky to separate Bautista-Agut and Fritz, with the Spaniard a very marginal 1.9620/21 favourite at the time of writing. He's had an edge over Fritz in previous meetings, winning five of six but perhaps more importantly, the last three. However, they were away from hard court and Bautista-Agut was a heavier favourite, so there's not a huge amount of relevance to tomorrow's meeting with those.
Fritz has a 1.5% edge on service points won over the last 12 months, with Bautista-Agut enjoying a 4% advantage on return, and this makes me think that Bautista-Agut should be a slightly stronger favourite here.
It's not a huge lean, but Bautista-Agut is today's pick.
Auger-Aliassime could suffer from fatigue after long matches
Another very even-looking encounter is Evans versus Auger-Aliassime, with Auger-Aliassime just about favourite at 1.9110/11. Evans has had a good start to the year, and should be pretty fresh after picking up a walkover in round two. Conversely, Auger-Aliassime has played nine sets here already and needed four tiebreaks to get past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Thursday in a match lasting almost four hours.
Initially, when I looked at the player data, I was surprised Auger-Aliassime wasn't a bit shorter-priced, but the context above makes the market pricing much more justifiable.
Market still not convinced by Cressy
Finally, despite a very strong start to the season (final in Melbourne, quarter-final in Sydney) the market hasn't gone wild on Maxime Cressy yet and the big-serving Frenchman is 1.645/8 to defeat home player Chris O'Connell, who shocked Diego Schwartzman in round two.
I thought Cressy would be shorter here but the price looks about right to me, given his relative deficiency on return but of course, extremely strong serve. He looks a fair favourite to get the job done, but not any value either way for me against the Australian wild card, O'Connell.
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