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Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Fernando Verdasco has tools to take out Novak Djokovic

Dominic Thiem also appears vulnerable in Paris action

Novak Djokovic could be pushed to the limit in Paris
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Eurosport & ITV4, 10am

Djokovic v Verdasco
Fernando Verdasco caused a shock in terms of ranking when he knocked out Grigor Dimitrov in round three of the French Open and the Spaniard could cause a bigger stir when he takes on old adversary Novak Djokovic for a place in the quarter-finals.

Verdasco is ranked 30 places below Dimitrov but the veteran left-hander played some thrilling tennis to blow away the Bulgarian in straight sets. While bookmakers are right to make Djokovic the favourite in this last-16 clash, Verdasco is an obvious threat to the great Serbian.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion has often got the better of the 34-year-old Madrid native, leading the head-to-head 11-4, but Verdasco leads 3-2 on clay and the signs point to this being a close contest.

Djokovic is steadily returning to prominence but his vulnerabilities were there for all to see in the first week of Roland Garros where he produced workmanlike performances to see off Rogerio Dutra Silva, Jaume Munar and Roberto Bautista-Agut.

He looked flat and unlike that trio, Verdasco possesses the tools to hurt Djokovic if he's at the top of his game.

Clay is statistically the 31-year-old's worst surface and he also tends to struggle against lefties and, while Verdasco hasn't beaten Novak since Rome in 2010, he's playing stellar tennis and ran Djokovic close when they met on a hard court in Doha last year.

Recommendation
F Verdasco
1pt 7-2 general

Thiem v Nishikori
Dominic Thiem is among several pretenders to Rafael Nadal's French Open crown but the dual Roland Garros semi-finalist faces a tough test against Kei Nishikori.

Thiem made the perplexing decision to take in the Lyon Open the week before the French and, while he won the title, there's no telling what that took out of his legs and the Austrian looked vulnerable against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini in the second and third rounds.

While those youngsters have bright futures ahead of them, neither has achieved anything close to what Nishikori has in his career and the resurgent Japanese has the game to take down Thiem

Nishikori comfortably defeated the Austrian on clay at the Rome Masters two years ago in one of their two previous meetings and he's made a strong start in Paris. 

He pushed Djokovic close in Rome recently, a match he arguably should have won, and also reached the final in Monte Carlo before losing out to Rafael Nadal. A jaded Thiem may not be able to live with him.

Recommendation
K Nishikori
2pts 13-10 bet365

Wozniacki v Kasatkina
Caroline Wozniacki has never really taken to clay-court tennis and the Danish world number two is worth opposing with Daria Kasatkina in their round-of-16 match.

Wozniacki has enjoyed a dream first week at Roland Garros, scoring comfortable victories over Danielle Collins, Georgina Garcia-Perez and Pauline Parmentier, but a meeting with Kasatkina is a step up for the Australian Open heroine.

Kasatkina, a great tactical player who grew up idolising Nadal, loves the red dirt and if she's to win a Grand Slam title, it may well be in Paris.

This is a prime opportunity for both players after Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova both tumbled out of the bottom half of the draw in recent days and Dasha, who battled hard to see off Maria Sakkari in round three, looks decent value to add to the two victories she already has over Wozniacki in their first clay meeting.

Recommendation
D Kasatkina
2pts Evs general

Other matches
Alexander Zverev saved match point against Damir Dzumhur on Friday and the brilliant young German may have to work hard again to see off the in-form Karen Khachanov.

David Goffin takes on Marco Cecchinato for a place in the last eight but the Belgian might not have much left after going toe-to-toe with Gael Monfils for more than four hours over two days, where he saved four match points to keep his Roland Garros dream alive.

In the women's draw, Barbora Strycova looks the rightful favourite over Yulia Putintseva while Svitolina's conqueror Mihaela Buzarnescu is looking to add another big scalp when she faces Madison Keys.

Bookmakers are also struggling to split Anett Kontaveit and US Open champion Sloane Stephens.


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Djokovic is steadily returning to prominence but his vulnerabilities were there for all to see in the first week of Roland Garros
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