It’s finals day on Sunday in our two opening grass court events of the summer, with titles up for grabs at Queen’s and Halle.
One of my two odds-against gambles found the mark on Saturday when Grigor Dimitrov made it look fairly easy against Stan Wawrinka, as the Bulgarian prevailed 6-2, 6-4 to make his first final on grass since Wimbledon juniors six years ago.
Unfortunately, Kei Nishikori was unable to make it a bumper day, as he let a 4-2 lead slip in the second set tie break of his Halle semi final with Roger Federer.
The Japanese star lost five straight points to the Swiss, whose maths was a little off, as he failed to realise he’d won the match for quite some time.
Roger Federer vs Alejandro Falla
Those writing the Colombian off in this one will do well to recall the second to last meeting on a grass court between these two that Federer eventually won in five sets, having been two sets down.
And that match was back in Fed’s pomp in 2010 and indeed Falla tested the Swiss again two years later, also on grass, in the London Olympics at Wimbledon, so he may well not be a pushover on Sunday.
Granted, the conditions are quicker here in Halle than both of those meetings that took place on slower grass at Wimbledon and Federer was a 6-1, 6-2 winner on yet another grass clash here in Halle in 2010 – just a fortnight before that famous five setter.
Indeed, four of their six career meetings have been played on grass and of course Federer should win this – I just don’t see him as great value at a price of 1.07.
The Swiss doesn’t break his opponents’ serve often enough to be backed at short prices to cover handicaps these days and he sits just 12th in the return games won category for 2014 so far.
He did take both of his break point chances against Kei yesterday, but that’s rare and the Colombian should have enough to take this match over 20.5 games at 1.92.
Fed has never played a leftie other than Rafa Nadal in a grass court final, so this should make a nice change for him, but I doubt it will be easy.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Feliciano Lopez
Both of these finalists have been very impressive this week and while Dimitrov is into his first senior final on grass, his opponent Lopez has surprisingly only played one before.
Renowned for a long time as a very good exponent of grass court tennis, Lopez’s victory over Gilles Simon at Eastbourne last year was his only prior championship match on the green stuff.
Indeed, it was Feli’s poor record at Queen’s, where he’d only been past the last-16 once before this week, that put me off an outright bet on the Spaniard and his bottle could be what lets him down today.
Usually the epitome of style over substance, the elegant leftie with easy power in his serve, is a graceful mover on grass, but his backhand is the thing that most opponents look to break down.
Surely Dimitrov will try that today after being comfortably beaten by Lopez on grass back in 2010 when ranked 360, but it may not be that easy and this could be tight.
Lopez’s career haul of just three tour level titles since turning pro way back in 1997 doesn’t do his ability much justice, but it says a lot about his lack of determination and a tendency to fade away when the going gets tough or he doesn’t fancy the job.
A 3-6 record in finals is another pointer, but the thing that I’ve always found odd about Lopez is that he very rarely uses his topspin backhand, which he does have in the locker, and that would undoubtedly make him a more dangerous opponent.
He’s been using it much more this week than usual, but does he trust it in the pressurised atmosphere of a final?
We’ll find out this afternoon, but Dimitrov’s excellent record against lefties is another factor here, with the Bulgarian having won 65% of his matches against southpaws in his pro career.
He’s won nine of his last 14, with four of the five losses coming to Rafa Nadal and the other to Fernando Verdasco and I’m leaning towards Grigor here, but he is a touch short.
Finals here tend to be long affairs, with very few being straightforward, but over 24.5 games doesn’t appeal, so I like the over 10.5 games in set one at 2.33 here.
Opening sets in Queen’s finals tend to be tight, with only one of the last six first sets going back to 2008 having been decided in fewer than 10.5 games, so the 2.33 appeals more than the straight Dimi win.
Back over 20.5 total games in Federer/Falla at 1.92
Back over 10.5 games in set one of Dimitrov/Lopez at 2.33