Britain’s number three Dan Evans’s amazing transformation from a potentially wasted talent into a top professional continues and his latest triumph came in the shape of knocking out top seed and top 10 star Dominic Thiem in yesterday’s quarter-finals at the Sydney International. Evans lost his first two matches of the year at the Hopman Cup against Next Gen star Zverev and Gasquet, which was no disgrace, and this week fought hard to beat top 100 ranked Montiero and top 50 ranked veteran Granollers. He continued that fighting spirit against Thiem in their quarter-final showdown and the way he ended the match winning the third set 6-1 was highly impressive and proves he has what it takes to succeed on the ATP Tour for years to come.
Evans, who was unseeded and available at 66/1 this week will face unseeded Russian Kuznetsov in the semi-finals. Kuznetsov was available at 25/1 this week and the two continued the trend of big priced unseeded players doing well at this tournament. The Russian was the clear favourite to win their second encounter this morning (won their previous one at Wimbledon in 2014) but, from a patriotic point of view, I hope Evans can repeat his underdog heroics and hopefully he will soon be celebrating his first ATP final appearance.
The other semi-final features one of my outright selections Troicki (10/1), who received a walkover yesterday due to Kohlschreiber retiring. Prior to this morning’s semi-final match against three times Sydney semi-finalist Muller, Troicki was on a 13 match winning streak at Sydney, having won the title the last two seasons. Hopefully by the time you read this article Troicki will have repeated his 2015 Sydney win against Muller and have made it three finals in a row.
At Auckland my one remaining outright selection fourth seed Sock (11/2) will face compatriot and seventh seed Johnson in this morning’s semi-finals. The pair have met six times previously on the ATP and Challenger tours and the head-to-head stands at 3-3. Hopefully Sock will repeat his 2016 final run but, judging by their previous meetings and form so far this year, it won’t be easy. The other semi-final is between eighth seed Baghdatis and the unseeded Sousa and surprisingly this was the time the two had met even though they’ve been playing on the ATP Tour for many years.
In terms of my analysis on Monday for this week’s two ATP tournaments I was right to avoid the top two seeds at both events as they have all lost or withdrawn from their respective tournaments prior to playing (Bautista Agut bet was void). I highlighted that historically unseeded players perform well at Sydney and that continued as Evans or Kuznetsov will contest Saturday’s final. I highlighted that seeded players have a good record at Auckland (Seeded players, in general, have a strong record at Auckland and a player seeded no higher than eight won 8 of the last ten titles (last 2016 Bautista Agut seeded 8) and they were a losing finalist five times in this period (last time second seed 2013) and that trend continued with three seeded players contesting the semi-finals.
Looking ahead to next week’s Australian Open, which gets underway in the early hours of Monday morning, it’s not easy to look past a Murray and Djokovic final, considering they’ve contested three of the last four and, if you can get 2/1 or above in the ‘Predict the Finalist’ markets when they appear, I would suggest snapping this up. Looking at possible outsiders, I like the look of Dimitrov at 50/1 after his impressive Brisbane win, especially after Raonic reached the semi-finals and went agonisingly close to the final last year after winning Brisbane.
Don’t forget to tune in on Sunday when I will provide my tournament analysis and preview.