Semi final Saturday in week five of the 2016 ATP World Tour sees six matches in Quito, Montpellier and Sofia for us to consider.
We got off to a decent start on Friday with our wagers when the ‘sure thing’ of Michael Berrer +1.5 sets proved successful in a three set battle with Alexander Zverev in Montpellier.
But Dustin Brown did manage to produce back-to-back performances for a change to beat Ruben Bemelmans, although I still think that 1.58 (or a 63 percent chance) about him doing so were desperately short odds, given the German’s wild inconsistency.
Victor Estrella Burgos won in three sets instead of two in Quito, but Marcos Baghdatis wasn’t good enough to take a set from Richard Gasquet in Montpellier, so there was no success for the ‘long shot’ on Friday.
Roberto Bautista-Agut vs Gilles Muller
The big leftie from Luxembourg has certainly enjoyed a bit of fortune in his progression through the Sofia Open, with some alarming choking from Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Ricardas Berankis aiding his passage to the semi finals.
GGL twice failed to serve out their opening set and blew a lead in the tie break on Friday against Muller and by my reckoning the 1.50 on Bautista-Agut here is pretty good value.
RBA has had a heavy schedule so far in 2016, but he’s had a comfortable week in Sofia thus far, with only two sets played against Adrian Mannarino to reach this last four stage, due to the withdrawal of Filip Krajinovic
Muller defeated Bautista-Agut on quick outdoor hard in Melbourne a year ago, but this is much slower and conditions indoors in Sofia seem to be tailored to the game of RBA.
The big serve of Muller could keep him in this long enough for it to be a decent match, but off the ground in slow conditions it’s tough to see Muller winning enough of the points to grab the victory.
I expected RBA to more of a 1.33 chance to win this match and with confidence high in the Bautista-Agut camp after a 10-2 start to the year and wins over big servers John Isner, Jack Sock, Marin Cilic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2016 he looks a good favourite in this 12:00 UK time start.
Bautista-Agut has also won his last six in a row against lefties and I’ve seen little in the level of Muller this week to lead me to believe he’ll cause an upset today.
Martin Klizan vs Viktor Troicki
The second Sofia semi final at 16:00 UK time on Saturday pits erratic leftie Klizan up against the in-form Troicki, who has won nine of his 11 matches in 2016, and it seems to point to a Troicki vs Bautista-Agut final in Sofia.
The Serbian has won four of his five meetings with the Slovak and he has a better winning record (61 percent to 54 percent) against lefties in his career at main level than right-handers.
Troicki’s best side is his backhand and he’s more consistent with that shot than Klizan is with his often wild forehand, so I would expect Viktor to eventually win this one, however a confident Klizan can be very good on his day.
Now that Klizan has found his form after a period in the doldrums I think he can take a set here, with the 3.75 about a 2-1 Troicki victory a viable long shot punt for Saturday.
Troicki has actually lost three of his last four on the ATP World Tour as a sub-1.40 favourite and the last time he beat a top-50 opponent on the Tour (not majors or Davis Cup) as a sub-1.40 favourite in straight sets was Juan Ignacio Chela in 2011.
Paulo Lorenzi vs Thomaz Bellucci
Value-wise there appears to be some on Lorenzi in this 18:00 UK time clash with Bellucci in Quito today.
Lorenzi defeated Bernard Tomic, whose clay court struggles continued on Friday, and the Italian looks a decent underdog against what could well be a fatigued Bellucci here.
The Brazilian had a tough three setter against Pablo Carreno Busta on Friday that ended in controversy, with PCB storming off court after an altercation with the officials over a line call.
Bellucci faces a quick rematch with PCB in the doubles final later today, so he’s certainly expended some energy in Quito this week, which could be a bit of an advantage for Lorenzi.
The Italian has won two of his three meetings with Bellucci and the high altitude in Quito aids his game, with Lorenzi firing down 25 aces against Tomic on Friday.
There has been little between this pair in their career series so far, with four of their eight sets against each other ending in tie breaks and Bellucci’s only win over Lorenzi was a 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 win on clay in similar conditions in Bogota in 2014.
I expect this one to be tight again and Lorenzi +2.5 games looks good value at 1.95 in this first Quito semi final, with Bellucci a tad short at 1.51, given his lack of consistency.
My 33-1 outright tip Victor Estrella Burgos plays in the other semi final and he certainly has a shot against Albert Ramos, who advanced when Feli Lopez retired on Friday.
VEB defeated lefties Bellucci, Klizan and Lopez in Quito last year and in a first meeting with Ramos I’d give the Dominican every chance in this match.
Sure thing: Back Bautista-Agut to beat Muller at 1.50
Value bet: Back Lorenzi +2.5 games to beat Bellucci at 1.95
Long shot: Back Troicki to beat Klizan 2-1 at 3.75