The winning run for this column came to an end on Friday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia when Benoit Paire perhaps finally arrived on the big stage.
Paire, who just a couple of weeks ago was moodily shuffling around in Oeiras in a hoodie during at least one of his matches in the Portugal Open, produced another fine performance to crush Marcel Granollers. Due to his penchant for Big Macs and pizza, Paire has never really fitted the bill as a top-20 player, but he was top-10 on Friday.
On all previous knowledge of Paire I still think he was too short in the betting, but a combination of some superb stuff from Paire and a pretty shoddy effort from Granollers led to an embarrassing defeat for both the Spaniard and my wager.
Rather annoyingly, Tomas Berdych wasn’t able to hold serve often enough to get us over the 9.5 total games mark in the opening set. In fairness, it was superb stuff from the world number one and no-one could have lived with the standards he began the match at.
What followed was bizarre though, as from 6-2, 5-2 ahead Nole’s concentration wavered and the Serbian allowed the Czech back into it and incredibly he went on to land the win.
Today’s semi-finals then are Roger Federer vs Benoit Paire and Rafa Nadal vs Tomas Berdych. It’s hard to see Paire getting the better of Federer even in the form he’s exhibited this week.
They have met on two previous occasions, with the Swiss winning comfortably each time. The most recent encounter was in Melbourne earlier on this season, but this match is all about which Paire turns up.
As good as Paire was yesterday, Granollers was poor and Federer will be nicely tuned up for this after having to withstand a barrage from Jerzy Janowicz last night.
It was only a mistake from Janowicz that allowed Federer back in and the Swiss made no mistake in the ensuing tie break. I think he’ll be much too resilient, experienced, motivated and classy for Paire tonight.
Paire on a good day can be very dangerous as we’ve seen, but to trust him to have three good days in a row is surely folly. He has no kind of mental resilience when things aren’t going well and he’s not hitting winners.
Despite all that we’ve seen from the Frenchman in the last few days, he’s still a bit of a basket case. I can see him fading away pretty tamely at some stage tonight.
I’m quite tempted by the under 8.5 games in set two at 3.30 here, but the Federer -4.5 games looks the solid call at 1.80.
Best Bet: Back Federer -4.5 games to beat Paire at 1.80
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