It’s semi final Saturday in our ATP 500 grass court tournaments and there’s plenty to play for today in Halle and London.
Friday began in the best possible fashion for those who took a chance on the 6.0 about Ivo Karlovic defeating Tomas Berdych in three sets.
I said yesterday that Ivo had a good chance if he served at his best and he certainly did that, firing down a record 45 aces in the three set win over a shell-shocked Berdych.
That was followed up much later in the day by the required 2-0 win for Roger Federer in two contrasting sets against Flo Mayer – one a bagel and the other a tie break – to secure the ‘sure thing’ of the day.
And the clean sweep on the day was completed in the evening match at Queen’s when Viktor Troicki and John Isner went over 10.5 games in set one of their quarter final.
Last year’s semi finals at the Gerry Weber Open and AEGON Championships saw two favourites and two underdogs winning – one at each venue – with Alejandro Falla’s 3.95 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber being the pick.
Andy Murray vs Viktor Troicki
I said yesterday that Murray may be a risky bet to win in straight sets against Gilles Muller and so it proved, with a fine serving display from the leftie forcing Murray to go the distance to get the win.
It didn’t really have the feel of an upset about it to me, even when Murray was a tie break away from a straight sets loss, and once he’d won that second set breaker the result was in little doubt.
And at around 15:00 UK time today, weather permitting, Murray faces an opponent in Troicki who should be less of an awkward proposition than Muller.
Troicki has been enjoying an excellent grass season so far and he was decent again last night against Isner, but he almost always comes up short against top-10 opposition and he’s yet to beat Murray in six tries.
Murray will be pleased with his grass court play this week and he should have too much grass court craft and that extra quality for the Serbian to be able to deal with.
Troicki is currently 2-30 against top-five opposition and it would be a big shock if he were to improve on that today against Murray on the Scot’s favourite surface.
Murray can doubled with Roger Federer, who faces Karlovic today, to make a 1.35 ‘sure thing’ wager today.
Federer brings a 12-1 record into his 12:00 UK time match with Karlovic and it’s hard to see Ivo serving as well again as he did yesterday when he landed those 45 aces for a record.
Interestingly, the pair have only met twice on grass and never away from Wimbledon, and conditions in Halle tend to be a bit slicker than at the All England Club, which gives Karlovic half a chance.
But Federer is a master at seizing his chance against big servers and even if he goes to three tie breaks I’d still bank on the Swiss to have the edge.
Kevin Anderson vs Gilles Simon
My outright on Anderson has rolled on to the semi finals and he’s favourite to make the final at the expense of Simon in the first match of the day at Queen’s.
The weather may play a part in this one, with rain forecast for this afternoon in London, but assuming it’s not too affected by rain this one looks really tight and I’m not sure I’d be backing Anderson at odds-on here.
Both players have survived match points to make it to this stage of the tournament and Simon, as is his wont, had to go the distance again yesterday in a tough clash with Milos Raonic.
The Frenchman toughed it out, but he had the Canadian to thank after a very nervy attempt at serving it out and he must have been delighted to see Raonic finding the net with very makeable shots in that game.
Simon has a typically patchy record against big servers, with more or less a 50/50 mark against the ones on my list and a 3-3 mark on grass, but his record as slight underdog is poor.
The Frenchman has won only three of his last 16 as a 2.30 to 2.50 underdog, which would put me off backing him today, while Anderson has won nine of his last 15 as a 1.70 to 1.90 favourite.
It has the feel of a tense affair, this one and either the 2-1 to Anderson or the over 2.5 sets at 2.25 look the bets of interest here.
Kei Nishikori vs Andreas Seppi
I mentioned yesterday that I wouldn’t fancy Gael Monfils at a short price to beat Seppi and in a typically ridiculous performance from the Frenchman he injured himself yet again after sliding into the advertising hoardings.
He also did that against Tomas Berdych in Miami and I’m not sure the crazy Frenchman will ever learn.
At the time he was being comfortably beaten by Seppi, who has grown into this grass court swing well after a poor loss in Stuttgart, and he looks the most viable of the underdogs today.
The Italian toughed out a five set win over Nishikori on grass at Wimbledon in 2013 and has provided a decent test for the Japanese in all three of their career meetings.
I also said yesterday that Nishikori could easily drop a set against the dangerous Jerzy Janowicz and it worked out that way, with the fiery Pole grabbing the second set in a decent quality match.
Nishikori has played some nice grass court tennis this week and I think he’ll just have a bit too much for Seppi, who has a 7-69 (nine percent) win ratio against top-10 opposition.
That falls to 3-38 (seven percent) against the top-five and I expect Kei to get through, but I like the 2-1 win again here at 3.90, with Nishikori rarely doing things the easy way in semi finals.
Of his last 15 semi finals since the start of 2014 Nishikori has won only three in straight sets and many times he’s had to rely on his superb deciding set record.
Sure thing: Back Federer and Murray in a double at 1.35
Value bet: Back over 2.5 sets in Anderson/Simon at 2.25
Long shot: Back Nishikori to beat Seppi 2-1 at 3.90