French Open

French Open Day 9 Tips: Argentine to lay a glove on Djokovic

Djokovic greatness
Marathon man: Djokovic defeating Musetti at 3am in the third round

On day 9 our in-form tennis tipster Gavin Mair expects Francisco Cerundolo to make Novak Djokovic work for the win...

  • Moment of reckoning for 25/126.00 Cerundolo

  • Djokovic too short to win

  • Argentine can keep it competitive

Before the start of the tournament I toyed with the idea of backing Francisco Cerundolo to win this quarter at 25/126.00. The reason why I didn't back it and for the high odds is today's opponent Novak Djokovic.

The legendary Serbian is in the home stretch of the most successful career of any men's tennis player and although I am high on the ability of Cerundolo, I have a tough time picturing his up and down tendencies stopping Djokovic.

I have however seen enough from both players this tournament and over a longer stretch to advise my favourite type of bet.

Djokovic in survival mode

On Saturday night Djokovic entered court well after 10pm for his match with Lorenzo Musetti. I had highlighted in my pre-tournament preview that the Italian would seriously test the defending champion and that is exactly what happened.

Musetti is an explosive attacking player and for the first three sets he was edging the battle. Despite that he only bagged two of the first three sets.

Outplaying Djokovic for five sets is a whole other story.

With his back against the wall and with the midnight hour well and truly gone Djokovic entered survival mode.

One of my friends has a great expression from the endurance beatdown typically associated with the godly tennis duo of Rafa Nadal and Djokovic throughout their careers - they can make trees appear where there were no trees before. That sounds like what Musetti saw come 3am in Paris.

Djokovic does that. He lures his opponent's into a trap and breaks them. Musetti won three games across the final two sets and was bagelled in the fifth. Even if the scoreboard suggests you're winning, are you really winning?

Djokovic is now 37 years old and that is a relevant factor for how he is approaching his matches. I think of him these days as a manager.

He is constantly managing his opponents and his own energy levels. Djokovic doesn't mind conceding a round here or there, using his intelligence and experience to eventually come out on top.

The Musetti match is a similar and relevant form guide for what to expect in this match.

Heavyweight puncher

There's no doubting that Cerundolo packs a punch. His forehand is a sizeable weapon as Tommy Paul discovered in the previous round.

In that match Cerundolo was poor in the early stages but once he sparked into life he blew his American opponent away.

I think Cerundolo will be able to land some blows against Djokovic. Over the past 12 months the Argentine has scored a series of impressive wins.

On clay he has beaten Jannik Sinner, Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz and Alexander Zverev - all of whom are contenders to win this tournament.

He should be written off at your peril. 1/101.10 on a Djokovic victory is far too short.

I think the days of Djokovic being able to easily topple talented opponents are over. A three set victory would require a constant mental and physical freshness that doesn't feel likely these days for the great Serbian.

He is more likely to pick his moments and manage his opponents towards their demise.

Cerundolo also plays in fits and starts, peaking and dipping over the course of the match. That simply is not tidy enough to get the job done against Djokovic. The Serbian can afford these lulls but a player like Cerundolo can not.

My favourite type of bet is to side with an expected short priced favourite to win but to drop a set in the process and that is again what I'm choosing to do in this match.

Now read more of our French Open tips here!

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