Fourth round action at the French Open continues today, and there's a recurring theme of heavy favourites as the men's tournament progresses. Dan Weston looks at if any of them look vulnerable...
"Opponents have not won more than three games in any set against Djokovic so far, and in their previous meetings, Khachanov has really struggled on serve. He will need to dramatically improve that today to have any chance of testing the world number one."
Thiem pushed to five sets by qualifier Gaston
Yesterday there were three very strong market favourites in the opening batch of fourth round matches at the French Open, and there were wins for all of the trio - Rafa Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Diego Schwartzman. Thiem, however, was pushed much further than almost everyone would have expected by the French qualifier, Hugo Gaston.
Gaston fought back from two sets down to take the Austrian into a fifth set, which may be unfortunate in terms of Thiem's accumulated fatigue, and Gaston actually created more break point chances, 13 to 11, than Thiem managed. It will be fascinating to see how Thiem matches up against Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.
Another batch of heavy favourites in men's action today
Unfortunately for the neutral, we have four further strong favourites of varying degrees today, and having seven sub 1.501/2 favourites out of eight fourth-round matches probably isn't the best advertisement for the men's game. I wonder whether a random draw with no seeds would make men's Grand Slam tournaments much more watchable, and achieve something rather different than the same big names making the latter stages on a regular basis - although I very much doubt this would ever be allowed to happen.
Action in Paris, as usual, starts at 1000 UK time today and the opening match sees Marton Fucsovics face Andrey Rublev. The Russian, Rublev, is a 1.251/4 favourite to get the win here and I don't see this as particularly out of line - he's 9-1 on clay this year and also made the quarter-finals of the US Open, so is evidently playing at a high level following the resumption of the tour. He's running at 112% combined service/points won on clay post-lockdown, and those superb numbers certainly back up that assertion.
Dimitrov versus Tsitsipas the closest-matched on the schedule
Moving through the schedule, there's not much in the way of value to discuss today, unfortunately. Grigor Dimitrov looks slightly generous at 3.65 for his clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas, although not absurdly so - and I actually think this match has the highest potential to be the closest matched. Dimitrov is yet to drop a set in the tournament so far - albeit against 100+ ranked opposition to date - and it will be fascinating to see how he can compete against Tsitsipas this afternoon.
Altmaier needing another huge underdog win to progress
Qualifier Daniel Altmaier has done superbly to make this stage, and also has not dropped a set in the main draw (although did in qualifiers against Rubel Bemelmans). These performances have been a real surprise - particularly as he retired in his last match before Paris earlier in September - but the journey will end unless he can produce another heavy underdog win, this time against US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno-Busta.
Carreno-Busta is 1.251/4 to progress, which does look a little short but I don't see any value on Altmaier to be particularly actionable - small value on a heavy underdog doesn't really enthuse me at all - and whatever the result of this, we will see Altmaier rise to a world ranking considerably better than his career-best of 183. His clay record in Challengers is solid for sure, although not necessarily spectacular, and it will be interesting to see how his career develops from here - he could have the potential to be over-rated in some smaller tournaments in the near future.
Opponents struggling to test Djokovic so far
Finally, Novak Djokovic is an overwhelming favourite yet again, this time against Karen Khachanov. At least this makes a change from him being 1.011/100 or 1.021/50 to win the match, because this time, he's at 1.051/20. Opponents have not won more than three games in any set against Djokovic so far, and in their previous meetings, Khachanov has really struggled on serve. He will need to dramatically improve that today to have any chance of testing the world number one.
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