Well, Hyeon Chung started out hot, taking the opening set 6-3 against Frenchman Richard Gasquet, breaking Gasquet's serve twice — before wilting in the second and third sets. Gasquet didn’t look particularly stellar, but Chung’s backhand was simply too errant late in the match to defeat a player who is as consistent off the ground as Gasquet. I only hope that I veered some of you onto Aljaz Bedene and Vik Troicki, who both won last night at nice underdog prices.
Nevertheless, we dust ourselves off and look ahead to action Tuesday night/Wednesday morning from Shanghai, where we find another full slate of tennis on tap. World No. 1 Rafa Nadal and World No. 2 Roger Federer are both in action later against Jared Donaldson and Diego Schwartzman, respectively (and I’m not expecting any upsets from either of them). As I write this now, around 9:15 p.m. local time in China, the order of play for tonight’s card has not yet been decided — so, bear with me as we dive into the card.
Kevin “Big Ando” Anderson (-357) will square off against JL Struff (+300), who luckily escaped a first round defeat when Mischa Zverev retired with injury; Zverev was up a set and 5-2 at one point against Struff. I could see this match being close with the serving prowess of both players, but I expect the all-around game of the South African to outclass the German in the end. Not sure there’s any value in Ando at nearly -400, though, so that’s a pass. Sascha Zverev is set to play Aljaz Bedene, who looked pretty good last night against the Italian grinder Paolo Lorenzi, yet Sascha Zverev, the World No. 4, should present an entirely different obstacle for the Brit. I doubt there will be an upset here; Bedene simply lacks the brand of weapons — or defensive ability — to bother Zverev.
An interesting match that I have my eyes on will be Belgian David Goffin (-225), fresh off back-to-back titles in Shenzhen and Tokyo, against rapidly declining Gillou Simon (+190). Simon’s service numbers are waaaaay down this year. He's holding just 67.2 percent of service games in 2017 (an ugly stat), and it’s clear that he’s lost a step on the defensive side of things as well. But, I don’t know, I’m sort of feeling the upset here — especially with fatigue concerns for the Belgian. Neither of these two players is an offensive juggernaut, so this match will come down to a lot of 50-50 long rallies, which will certainly play into the hands of Simon (with Goffin’s legs surely a question mark). However, I will say — if you do feel so inclined to test your luck with Simon — just keep in mind how dreadful he’s been for the better portion of the past two seasons. This is a pure “feel” fade of Goffin rather than a Simon bet based on any real confidence.
In the match between Ryan Harrison and Grigor Dimitrov, I fancy the Bulgarian, and I like Stevie Johnson to continue his run here in Shanghai against local favorite Di Wu — but something tells me two Americans look a bit vulnerable against young players: John Isner (-233) against Stefanos Tsitsipas (+200) and Sam Querrey (-255) against compatriot Frances Tiafoe (+215). The “Tsitsi” Fly has been serving well all week (in quallies), and if he continues that tonight, he will surely give Isner something to think about on the return side in a match that could ultimately be decided by a few tiebreaks. As for Querrey, I just feel that he plays his best tennis on slow-hard courts as opposed to the fast-hard courts we’ve seen in Shanghai. Tiafoe hits a really heavy ball (specifically off the forehand wing) — and can handle the pace, too, on the defensive side — so I expect that match to be a bloodbath with longer rallies than Querrey probably would fancy.
Finally, and I write this with great dismay, Domi Thiem — yet again — appears to be way overpriced on a hard court, let alone one that plays as quickly as Shanghai (which is one of the fastest courts on tour). As I’ve written repeatedly in the past, I’m simply not sold on Thiem’s ability to gather himself and hit his big groundstrokes on quicker surfaces. I think Thiem SHOULD probably get through Troicki, especially if he gets some help from the Serb — be it loose service games or forehand errors — but, at nearly -350, there’s undoubtedly some value again with Vik tonight.
Feli Lopez looked super in control Monday morning, getting his first serve down 71 percent of the time and winning 92 percent of his first serves (and 70 percent of seconds). Granted, his opponent was Ivo Karlovic, who surely isn’t the nimblest returner on tour, but I watched his match against Feli — and the Spaniard looked quite crisp on serve the entire match, not facing one break point.
Lopez will have a nice test tonight (or tomorrow morning), when he squares off against the Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, who — after match fixing accusations back in August — has reeled off a month or so of consistently good results. Mind you, the Dog does have a condition (Gilbert’s Syndrome) which affects his fatigue, and — after three straight tournaments in Shenzhen, Tokyo and now Shanghai — I wonder if fitness will play a factor in this match.
Outside of that, I really do fancy the low-risk style of Feli Lopez — predicated on the serve and volley — against the high-risk, attack-heavy baseline tactics of Dolgopolov. Feli's defense is underrated, as he uses the backhand slice from defensive positions to set up his forehand late in rallies. If Dolgopolov isn’t playing super sharp, it’s very possible that the extra balls Lopez plays with that sliced backhand could bait the Ukrainian into making unforced errors. These conditions are perfect for Lopez, who - on his own serve — isn’t going to look for long rallies, instead utilizing his big serve and forehand to keep the Dog at bay.
If you remember back to last week, in Tokyo, Dolgopolov sucked down a clean L against Stevie Johnson, who plays a very similar game to Lopez (first serve, forehand). At +120, there’s more than enough reason for me to side with the Spaniard tonight.