Nadal the only favourite to progress on Sunday
Sunday's selection in Melbourne ended in a final set decider, and after getting back on terms going into set five, Marin Cilic had the momentum against Roberto Bautista-Agut. However, the Spaniard nicked a late break to improve his record against top 10 opponents to a still dire 6-40 since he broke into the top 30 himself.
On a day of surprises, only Rafa Nadal of the favourites made it through to the quarter-finals. The King of Clay became the King of Hard Court for two sets, as he took the first two sets for the loss of just one game against an opponent who he has routinely beaten in the past as well.
However, there were defeats for Grigor Dimitrov, at the hands of Frances Tiafoe, and Roger Federer, who was edged in four tight sets by the Greek youngster, Stefanos Tsitsipas. I have mentioned numerous times that Tsitsipas seems to have a gift for winning tight sets and matches, and he proved it again here, although my suspicion is that this 'gift' is very difficult to sustain in the long-term.
Zverev with strong return edge over Raonic
Another player who has shown a little more 'clutch' ability than others in recent years - and I'll clarify again, this mean-reverts for the majority of players - is Alexander Zverev, and the German gets matters underway on Monday morning against Milos Raonic.
Zverev is 1.834/5 to get the win here, and while I rarely make him value, often due to the factors above, I do consider him some value here. Zverev opened at not far off even money, and it is unsurprising that he has received a little market support.
Quite simply, Zverev's deficiency on serve compared to Raonic's (3.9% hold percentage) is far outweighed by his edge on return (11.0% break percentage) on hard court in the last year, so this looks a pretty straightforward value play in what I expect to be a serve-orientated match.
Coric with a solid statistical edge over Pouille
Following this match, Borna Coric faces Lucas Pouille, and the Croat looks accurately priced at 1.341/3 to make the quarter-finals in several days time. Pouille has endured a miserable few months and Coric enjoys a decent statistical edge - mostly on return. If quicker conditions were anticipated, I'd expect Pouille to be more competive, as the Frenchman has a superb record on the quickest venues on tour, but here in Melbourne tomorrow, Coric's price reflects his chances.
Carreno-Busta can keep matters competitive
Kei Nishikori's match with Pablo Carreno-Busta is interesting, with the Japanese man priced at 1.232/9. Carreno-Busta's hard court data is actually much better than probably many anticipate, but is perhaps worth noting that he's a bit of a 'flat-track bully', with his record against top 10 opponents on hard court reading 1-9 throughout his career. He has been competitive in the last few though, particularly since 2018, where he's taken at least a set off the top 10 players in three of five matches, and in the two straight-set losses, he took them to a first set tie-break.
It wouldn't surprise me at all if Carreno-Busta was able to keep this pretty close tomorrow, although I do prefer Zverev against Raonic as opposed to the Spaniard on the game handicap line, as our recommendation.
Djokovic a heavy favourite over Medvedev
Finally, in the night match, Novak Djokovic is a heavy 1.152/13 favourite to end the Australian Open of the rapidly improving Daniil Medvedev, and while this looks a touch short to me, it's not particularly noteworthy. Medvedev is on a solid upward curve, but facing Djokovic as we get towards the business end of a Grand Slam is the biggest test in men's professional tennis right now, and it would be a major shock if the world number one was defeated tomorrow.
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