Welcome to the second half of the Australian Open. As always, if you have any questions, please get in touch on Twitter (@Ace_TheProfits)
Djokovic vs Chung
2 years ago I sat glued to my TV as i watched the first round meeting between World Number 1 Novak Djokovic take on 19 year old Hyeon Chung, who had been taking the Challenger Tour by storm throughout 2015. Chung impressively broke his way into the top 100 not long after turning 19 (June 2015), which is seriously impressive in this day and age where it can take a little bit longer to make a name for yourself and reach the big stage.
I remember watching this match and thinking “as soon as everything clicks for Chung, he is going to be seriously difficult to beat in a few years time.”
A few years have passed, and this time they meet in the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open. A little bit has changed since their last meeting. Lets start with Novak Djokovic.
This time 2 years ago Novak Djokovic was almost unbeatable, with the world number 1 having only one slip up (that Gilles Simon 100 unforced error debacle), dropping only 3 sets on the way to the 2016 Australian Open title. His 2016 was one of the best years you will see from a player, but things didn’t quite go the same way in 2017 for the Serbian. The year finished with a 32 win and 8 loss record, great by anyone elses standards, however Novak pulled the pin on his season after retiring down a set to Tomas Berdych in the Quarter Final. The right elbow injury that Djokovic reported he was carrying for up to 18 months had finally taken its toll, and he had decided to take the rest of the year off to get over the injury as best he could without surgery. The new look Djokovic made his eagely awaited return in an exhibition match in Kooyong, where he beat Thiem is straight sets as his lead-in to the Australian Open. A comprehensive victory over Donald Young in round 1 (albeit very poor on break point conversion throughout the match), Djokovic found himself in oppresive heat in the second round, where Novak managed to come from a set down to defeat a labouring Gael Monfils. A third round straight sets win over Ramos was a solid lead-in to the fourth round, however he did have a medical timeout in the second set. Djokovic reports there is no “physical crisis” to worry about, but it is something to have in the back of the mind moving forward. Physically Djokovic looks very similar to a few years ago, however his adjusted service action and performance through the first three rounds isn’t quite as dominant as he was here 2 years ago, and he will need to bring his absolute best on Rod Laver Arena tonight against Chung.
Chung had a bit of a dream run through the first two matches of the Australian Open. He got an injured Mischa Zverev in round 1 (who retired in the first set), then a fatigued Medvedev gave up the fight after a tight first set. Chung then managed to come back from 2 sets to 1 down against Alex Zverev, absolutely dominating to final set, beating Zverev both physically and mentally in the end. Chung has been playing some seriously impressive tennis, where he was completely dominant in the Next Gen Finals held at the end of the year. He credits his improvement more to the mental side of the game of late to his recent work with a mental coach to help deal with the day to day pressures of tennis. You look at the comments from Rublev after the Next Gen Final and you get the feeling that things really are turning for Chung:
“I was playing much better than him. I was dictating the match, and then just because I let my emotion out and everything changed, because Chung, he was always there,” said Rublev.
“He was always focused. He was always in the match.
“No matter if something goes wrong, he was still fighting. And me, from a little thing, I just lose my control and that’s it. I just lost because of my head.
“Mentally he’s really strong.”
Quote from: http://news.abs-cbn.com/sports/11/12/17/cool-chung-wins-inaugural-nextgen-finals
Things are turning, and today will be a great test. Chung doesn’t seem to be too phased by the bigger stage, and played exceptionally well in the tighter moments in his match. He has the shots and power to hit through Djokovic at times, and has the fitness to match it in the best of 5 arena. I am really keen to see how Chung stacks up here. Djokovic doesn’t appear to have that 100% killer instinct of a few years ago, and just appears to be grateful to be back on the court doing what he loves. As a result, the $4.30 available for Chung in this match-up is a pretty nice option in this mouth watering 4th round match.
3.5 units Chung to defeat Djokovic at $4.30 at Pinnacle
Simona Halep vs Naomi Osaka
What a match this promises to be on Margaret Court Arena. The world number 1 came back from the brink on Saturday, saving triple match point on the way to escaping against Lauren Davis 15-13 in the final set. It was a brutal test of fitness and composure from both players, with Halep’s ankle absolutely tested along the way. Halep really lifted her first serve stats in the second and third sets, with first serves in passing 70% after she dropped that first set.
She now finds herself coming up against one of the hardest hitters in the game in Naomi Osaka, and what a week of tennis she has put together to reach this point! Osaka has defeated Kucova 7-5 6-2, Vesnina 7-6 6-2, and then took out home favourite Ash Barty 6-4 6-2, saving all 4 break point opportunities on her serve and an impressive 3/3 break point conversions against the Australian. The impressive part from Osaka was the 12 aces and 79% of points won on her first serve.
This presents a really interesting match up prospect, and there is an element of fatigue fading here, and surely Halep is still feeling the effect of Saturday AND her ankle injury from Tuesday. Now looking at their previous meetings, both have been tight three set matches, with Halep prevailing in Miami (hard) in 2017 and at the French Open in 2016. Both have been tight, and when you consider the form from both players when they previously played, compared to currently, I would have to give the edge to Osaka here. She is the type of player who has all the shots but just hasn’t quite put it together fully on the court, but she appears to have take a massive step forward with her wins over Vesnina and Barty this week.
Consider Osaka a far more rounded player than Destanee Aiava, who absolutely gave the blueprint of how to beat Halep in round 1. Aiava however just didn’t have the fitness or composure to finish off the job from a winning position.
Osaka on the other hand does have what it takes. Her power and confidence should be too much for a tired Halep in my opinion, and as a result, the only logical play in my mind is to go hard at Osaka to win here. Those who have followed me for a while no I have absolutely no issue with taking value, and I feel there is more value in taking Osaka to win as opposed the the match and games handicap here. Osaka won’t be afraid of the occasion, and I also like that this is out of the main spotlight on Margaret Court Arena.
If Halep wins, and goes on from here, it will be one of the best runs to the quarter final in some time, but I simply cannot see it happening here.
5 units Osaka to defeat Halep at $2.62 at Pinnacle