Andy Murray’s stunning victory over Novak Djokovic on Friday was a welcome boost in what has been a difficult Olympic tennis tournament. I said yesterday that I was sticking with my outright tip and those that kept the faith have been rewarded by the knowledge that Murray will fight it out for the gold medal tomorrow.
That’s the bright spot in a competition in which value has been hard to come by, as yesterday again proved. Roger Federer’s slow start, combined with Juan Martin Del Potro's best ever grass court display, led to a losing bet and a match that became the longest three set match in the Open era of tennis.
As I’ve said many times, it’s pointless and unnecessary to continue playing that long in a deciding set. The powers that be should introduce a cut-off point where a champions tie break is played and the players know they’re not going to continue indefinitely.
There were no such problems in the Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka match, which lasted just over an hour in total. I will admit that I called that one wrong and expected better from Azarenka, but the power of Williams is something else at the moment.
The women’s final and bronze medal matches are up today and once again there are two short priced favourites. Serena Williams will surely win the gold medal match; she has beaten Maria Sharapova in eight of their ten meetings, and in the previous seven in a row.
They’ve both displayed some incredible power and skill in reaching the final, Williams without coming vaguely close to dropping a set. As I found out to my cost yesterday, it can prove very dangerous to back against her in this sort of form.
Sharapova loves to dominate her opponents and dish out her power game, but when she gets it back her game can be nullified, as Sabine Lisicki showed in the third round here this week. Maria will need to serve at her absolute best to stand a chance of winning the gold medal.
The Russian’s last win over Williams was eight years ago and it’s hard to see how she can turn that kind of record around, but Del Potro almost did something similar against Federer yesterday at a similar price.
The only value bet that I’m happy to take on in this one is for Sharapova to come out of the blocks fast and take a set before succumbing to the power, so Williams 2-1 at a healthy 4.60 is the call.
Before all of that, Azarenka takes on Maria Kirilenko for the bronze medal. I'm judging this based on who really wants to win this match.
I can’t see Azarenka being happy with a bronze, but Kirilenko will be and there’s no value in backing Vika at odds of 1.22 in a match she may not be that bothered about. They’ve met four times in the past with the score tied at 2-2, but all were played over two years ago and none on grass.
Azarenka may have been rattled by her thrashing at the hands of Williams and she may take time to get into this one, so the over 19.5 games looks the bet here at odds of 1.70
Back Williams to beat Sharapova 2-1 at 4.60
Back over 19.5 games in Azarenka vs. Kirilenko at 1.70