Wimbledon Mens Singles: Istomin to be competitive against Kyrgios

Uzbek Tennis Player Denis Istomin
Denis Istomin can cover the game handicap against Nick Kyrgios today...
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First round action at Wimbledon 2018 concludes today, and with a further 32 men's singles matches on the card, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns to preview the action...

"When priced sub 1.20 on grass, Kyrgios has won just 7 of 24 sets by a 6-3 margin or bigger in the last three years, so it is evident that even when the market expects him to be virtually guaranteed to win the match, he's not particularly schooled his opponent frequently."

Albot in great shape to give us an underdog winner

Our men's preview success for yesterday's matches at SW19 is still rather up in the air, with Dusan Lajovic failing to cover the game handicap against Roger Federer, but Radu Albot, the Moldovan heavy underdog, predictably giving the winless on grass Pablo Carreno-Busta a tough encounter. Albot stands 3-1 up in the final set when the match was paused last night, to continue today.

Cilic among winners on day one

As well as Federer, we saw an easy win for our outright hope, Marin Cilic, and there were also wins for Daniil Medvedev, who ousted Borna Coric in straight sets, as well as Milos Raonic over home wild-card Liam Broady, and Stan Wawrinka, who fought back from a disastrous opening set to shock Grigor Dimitrov. The all-French clash between Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet went to the former, rather surprisingly in straight sets.

Thiem vulnerable if Baghdatis is fit

With those matches out of the way, we get round one done and dusted after today's action, and we see a plethora of big names on the card. Dominic Thiem is a heavy [1.15] favourite against Marcos Baghdatis, but the Cypriot has much more grass court pedigree. The problem for the veteran, Baghdatis, is that he's been injured of late and is on the wane as the years catch up with him.

Novak Djokovic should be a shoo-in against Tennys Sandgren, and likewise Alexander Zverev against James Duckworth. As for Rafa, I made him a little bigger than [1.04] against Dudi Sela, who is no mug on grass, but it would still be a huge shock for the King of Clay to be eliminated.

Kyrgios' mediocre return game can help Istomin cover

So - who do I like today? There are a few favourites who look short and can potentially be opposed on the game handicap. Nick Kyrgios has woeful return data on grass - he's broken opponents less than 12% on grass in the last two years - yet is [1.15] to get past Denis Istomin, who doesn't have a bad record himself in quick conditions.

When priced sub [1.20] on grass, Kyrgios has won just 7 of 24 sets by a 6-3 margin or bigger in the last three years, so it is evident that even when the market expects him to be virtually guaranteed to win the match, he's not particularly schooled his opponent.

This year on grass so far, he's played a ton of tight matches, with all his wins either coming in a deciding set or via two tiebreaks. In fact, this year on grass so far, he's played 9 tiebreaks in 19 sets, which again illustrates the close nature of his sets in general.

Despite this, we can get [1.81] on Istomin +6.5 games on the Exchange, and I like this line a lot.

Peter Gojowczyk was in a similar spot as well against Juan Martin Del Potro, but I want to focus on a favourite for today's second recommendation.

De Minaur can ease past clay-courter Cecchinato

Alex De Minaur is a player of rich potential, with the 19-year-old Australian having a breakthrough year on tour right now, and he's been chalked up as a [1.55] favourite against the 29th seed, Marco Cecchinato.

An unseeded 19-year-old as a solid favourite doesn't sound like much of a recipe to extract value, but this is a rare spot - Cecchinato is only seeded due to his freak run to the semi-finals of the French Open and has an utterly dire record on grass.

Don't be fooled by another random run, this time to the semi-finals on grass last week in Eastbourne either - he converted 60% of his break point chances (from 31.8% of return points won) so for anyone suggesting he's somehow found a magic formula for grass as well needs to have a reality check. Quite simply, this is a guy benefiting from insane positive variance right now.

De Minaur has an excellent record on grass, getting to the final of the Surbiton Challenger and beating good opponents on the way in Taylor Fritz, Yuki Bhambri and Matt Ebden (who is also adept on grass) before succumbing to Jeremy Chardy in three sets in the final, but went one better in Nottingham the week after, beating Dan Evans in the final. He comes into the event in good touch and is much more accomplished on the surface, and taking the [1.55] on De Minaur looks a solid play.

Verdasco and Sock among others who look value

In other action, I quite like Fernando Verdasco, who has plenty of decent performances on grass in recent years, as a slight favourite against Frances Tiafoe, while favourite backers can find joy with Bernard Tomic, who loves grass and quick conditions in general. The Australian has had a tough last 12 months but it would still be a major shock if he was knocked out by Hubert Hurkacz.

Taylor Fritz has a mediocre grass record and may not have it all his own way against Lorenzo Sonego, and I also like Jack Sock as a slight favourite against Matteo Berrettini, despite the fact that the young Italian big-server has some upside on grass.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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