Finals day in week 43 of the 2015 ATP World Tour sees a rare clash between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in Basel, while Joao Sousa faces Roberto Bautista-Agut in Valencia.
Federer landed us our ‘sure thing’ wager on Saturday with the expected straightforward win over Jack Sock at the Swiss Indoors, while Nadal had a little more trouble seeing off Richard Gasquet.
In Valencia Sousa got the better of Vasek Pospisil, who I said was a shaky bet at 1.60 against the Portuguese scrapper, but there was really tough luck for my ‘value bet’.
Stevie Johnson had six, yes six, match points to beat Bautista-Agut, including three at 6-3 up in the final set tie break, but as he has done on numerous occasions in the past the American couldn’t put the match away.
Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal
It’s been a while since I’ve written about a Federer vs Nadal clash – not since January 2014 – and much has changed for both men after Nadal emerged the winner of that match in Melbourne.
Federer was coming off the back of a poor season, where he had been written off by many, and now the boot is more or less on the other foot, with Nadal having endured his own annus horribilis in 2015.
The head-to-head is more or less irrelevant here, with Nadal not playing the kind of tennis that led to him winning 23 of his 33 matches against Federer and although we’ve seen encouraging signs from the Spaniard this week this match looks to have come too soon.
The famous Nadal determination seems to be back, but I’m not sure how long his creaking body will be able to keep up the pressures of the tennis tour, and yesterday it was the other knee that started to let him down.
In a sense yesterday’s match-up with Richard Gasquet is quite a similar one to the Federer clash, with both the Frenchman and the Swiss trying to combat Nadal with a one-handed backhand.
Gasquet, as he’s done far too many times, was unable to produce when it mattered and two double faults when serving for set two were sadly predictable.
The Gasman also had a 6-4 lead in the ensuing set two tie break, but you never thought he’d take any of the set points and Nadal was able to sneak through a tight one for the fourth time this week.
Lukas Rosol should have beaten Nadal, as should Marin Cilic, and possibly Grigor Dimitrov, while Gasquet was a break up in set one as well as set two.
He’s still making many more unforced errors (20 against Gasquet; 26 against Cilic; 28 against Dimitrov; 27 against Rosol) than he used to and he leaves the ball there to be hit much more often than in the past.
Federer hasn’t been great by the standards of some of the tennis we’ve seen from him in 2015, but indoors, where Nadal’s topspin is less effective, and in front of his home fans it’s hard to see Fed losing.
Their clashes indoors have been few, with Federer winning two of the three they have played, all of which were at the World Tour Finals, and I think the value today lies with under 0.5 tie breaks at 1.82.
Fed is a little short – the shortest he’s been against Nadal since the semi finals of the 2007 Tennis Masters Cup on carpet in Shanghai – and although I expect him to win I prefer the no tie breaks.
In their last 15 sets against each other there has been only one breaker and zero in their three clashes on indoor hard, which makes the 1.82 a decent price.
Joao Sousa vs Roberto Bautista-Agut
This Valencia final at around 14:00 UK time will finally see one of this pair of grinders land a title in 2015 after four losing finals between them in 2015.
Sousa has lost in three finals so far this season (St. Petersburg, Umag and Geneva), while RBA lost in the Moscow final last week and in five semi finals this season.
So, it’ll be a well-deserved title for whoever wins it and the head-to-head would have you believe that the champion will be Bautista-Agut, who has won four of his five against Sousa.
Two of those were at Challenger level and two at Futures though and their only meet at senior level went the way of Sousa on the clay in Umag this summer when RBA was a 1.37 favourite.
Both players will be feeling it physically and especially RBA after that marathon against Johnson on top of a run to the Moscow final last week and again the under 0.5 tie breaks is of interest here at 1.61.
They’ve never played one against each other in 11 sets and RBA has played only two in his 18 sets here and in Moscow in the last fortnight, while Sousa has played only one this week – and that was against big-serving Gilles Muller.
The 2.75 about a Sousa win looks decent too, as does the +1.5 sets on Sousa at 1.64, but I won’t be betting in this one.
Value bet: Back under 0.5 tie breaks in Federer/Nadal at 1.82