Paris Masters Day Three: Sock value for career-defining match
Action at the Paris Masters today focuses on the remaining second round matches, and after a winner yesterday, our tennis columnist Dan Weston returns to preview the schedule...
"While nothing is certain in life, surely if there is one match where Sock will be 100% motivated - with his short to medium-term career on the line - it will be this."
Fucsovics gives us a winner on day two
We picked up a good winner yesterday in Paris with Marton Fucsovics - as an underdog - defeated Benoit Paire in straight sets in one of just a couple of underdog victories during the day.
In another, Damir Dzumhur got the better of Stefanos Tsitsipas, which allows me again to make the point that I don't think the Greek youngster is as good as the market often suggests. I do think he will be an excellent player in time, but that's not necessarily mutually exclusive with being over-rated at this current stage.
Federer with tricky Raonic meeting
Moving on to today, we have a number of big names playing their first matches at the tournament, following first-round byes. Roger Federer, fresh from his Basel title, is in action against Milos Raonic and it will be interesting to see how much he has left in the tank. He's got a relatively poor record in this event, historically, and this might not be his ultimate priority with the Tour Finals still left for the Swiss man in a week and a half's time.
Fitness doubts over Rafa for Verdasco clash
In addition, Rafa Nadal takes to the court for his first competitive match since his retirement at the US Open at the start of September. He takes a dominant head to head lead into his meeting with countryman Fernando Verdasco, but with these fitness doubts in mind, he looks correctly priced at [1.42], at the time of writing.
Sock surely motivated for boom-or-bust match
With the big names priced up similarly to my model, I want to move on to the players who I think are under-rated by the market today, and perhaps a rather surprising name stands out - Jack Sock.
In case you have lived under a rock for the last year, Sock is the defending champion here but due to this, and subsequent Tour Finals success, he is defending the small matter of 1,400 ranking points this week. If he loses to Richard Gasquet today, he'll drop from around the top 30 to about 150 in the world, and forced to pre-qualify for the Australian Open.
This boom-or-bust match for Sock has been due to his awful 2018 season, from a results perspective. He's 7-20 in singles matches for the season, holding 78.8% and breaking 15.0%, and while these hold/break stats are poor, they're also not quite related with such a bad win-loss record.
In addition, he's beaten Gasquet in all three previous main tour meetings, and does possess an excellent indoor record (26-12 in the last three years) in general. While nothing is certain in life, surely if there is one match where Sock will be 100% motivated - with his short to medium-term career on the line - it will be this.
Sock continually losing in deciding sets
A look at Sock's recent results show a further dynamic - he hardly ever loses in straight sets. Last week's loss to Ernests Gulbis in Basel was his first straight-set defeat since he was beaten by Daniel Brands in Eastbourne qualifying in June, and it looks like Sock has an issue in deciding sets - perhaps fitness related. Is this down to extra fatigue from playing doubles regularly too? It's definitely possible.
Regardless, with Sock at [3.90] for the match win, I do feel he is value, and with these recent three set defeats, I do like his chances of taking at least a set here. The Exchange market for this is illiquid, but if you can get around even money on this eventuality (general market prices), I do feel it represents good value.
In other matches, I feel that Diego Schwartzman is a little under-rated at [1.60] against the declining veteran, Feliciano Lopez, who has had a very poor 2018, while Adrian Mannarino might also provide some handicap options for his match-up with Kei Nishikori, but on such a critical day for Jack Sock, it is the American who has our faith on day three.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
Back Jack Sock to win a set (or +1.5 sets) at around 2.00