The first of the men’s quarter finals in the 2017 Miami Open are on the schedule for day eight at Crandon Park on Wednesday.
We were very unfortunate with our 3.0 wager on a tie break being played between Tomas Berdych and Adrian Mannarino when set two of that encounter came within a point of a breaker.
Mannarino had a second serve to look at on break point, but didn’t make the most of it, and that one goes down as a frustrating loss, as the price was good value.
And a bit of a mediocre display from Roger Federer saw the Swiss fail to cover the handicap against Roberto Bautista Agut, after Fed failed to break from a 0-40 situation in RBA’s opening service game, which would have put a very different complexion on the match.
At least both of our outrights are into the last eight, with Nick Kyrgios seeing off David Goffin in straight sets and it’s the turn of our man Kei Nishikori in the bottom half of the draw on Wednesday.
Fabio Fognini vs Kei Nishikori
To rate this one as ‘hard to call’ is probably an understatement, with one of the most unpredictable of talents in the game taking on a player whose body breaks down at seemingly every opportunity.
Fognini has been a joy to watch in his last couple of matches, with the mercurial Italian coming from a set down to beat Jeremy Chardy and brushing aside Donald Young with consummate ease.
All of that means very little when it comes to Wednesday’s match though, as much will depend on what side of the bed Fogna gets out of this morning.
And hopefully Nishikori will get out of bed without the need for assistance, as the brittle-bodied Japanese star may or may not be suffering with injury again, after having the trainer out for a knee problem in another real struggle of a win on Tuesday.
I said on Tuesday that Kei needs to step up and he didn’t against Federico Delbonis, who blew his chance from a break up in the decider, although it must be noted that Nishikori was running around seemingly unhindered in the last half a dozen games of that set.
So, is he injured or not?
Well, who knows? All he’d say after the match was: “It's always tough. Sometimes you have to fight with yourself, with your physical condition.”
The knee injury would perhaps explain his performances this week so far and for those not with me on the Nishikori outright he can’t possibly be backed today at a price like 1.31.
The pair have met twice in the past, with Nishikori winning both, but while the clear statistic is that Fognini has only held serve 65.2% of the time against Nishikori, who holds 85.5% of the time versus Fognini, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The break point chances per game are more or less the same for both players, with Fognini having 0.78 per game against Nishikori and Japanese having 0.81 against Fognini.
The difference has been Fognini only taking 18.5% of his chances, while Nishikori took 42.9% of his, so the big points were played much better by the Japanese.
There’s been a distinct pattern to the Miami quarter finals over the last six years, where exactly one of the four underdogs has own each year in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and Fognini or Jack Sock could be the one this year.
A case can certainly be made for backing the Italian at a price of around 3.45.
Jack Sock vs Rafael Nadal
I think we can pretty much count Tomas Berdych out as being the one quarter final underdog likely to win (unless Federer has hit the wall physically), so for me it’s either Fognini, Sock or Alexander Zverev that look like they all have lively chances of causing an upset in this round.
Sock is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, but it’s one thing crushing Jared Donaldson and quite another battling past Nadal in humid conditions in the quarter final of a Masters 1000.
Both men love to hit their forehands with a ton of topspin and Sock has performed pretty well in the past against Nadal in their two prior meetings, which were on hard in Beijing in 2015 and at the French Open earlier that same year.
The American took a set each time and it’s fair to say that he’s a better player now than he was 18 months ago when they clashed in Beijing, so on home soil and in the form of his career he can’t be discounted here.
Nadal has hardly impressed this week, with a 0-6 shellacking in the opening set of his 1000th career match from Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Nicolas Mahut gave him a decent test on Tuesday too.
The big serve and forehand of Sam Querrey took Nadal down in Acapulco a few weeks ago and the Spaniard is far from a cert at a tournament where he’s been vulnerable many times in the past.
In all main draw matches this season Nadal has an impressive service hold/break total of 113.8 (88.3% holds/25.5% breaks), but Sock isn’t far away on 106.7 (86.2% holds/20.5% breaks).