Two of the stars of the modern men’s game are in action against each other on Friday, as week nine’s ATP World Tour events reach the closing stages.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer go head-to-head in Dubai, while Andy Murray is also on the schedule in Acapulco on a day of decent tennis action worldwide.
Tomas Berdych got Thursday off to a good start with the predicted comfortable victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and a winner on the handicap, before Albert Ramos and Juan Monaco played out a real stinker of a contest in Sao Paulo.
Ramos should have been serving for the match at 5-4, but blew his break points before capitulating in the next three games and gifting Monaco the match, which the Argentine still did his utmost to lose.
All very disappointing for those who sat through three hours of what was a dreadful match and the poor performance from Marcel Granollers later didn’t help matters either.
Novak Djokovic 1.17 vs Roger Federer 4.70 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 15.05
A first meeting this season between this stellar pair will be their 33rd in all competitions and 32nd on the ATP Tour, with the Swiss holding a narrow 16-15 lead currently.
But those stats aren’t exactly a great guide to this clash, with the Serb having won six of the last eight meetings and the last three straight – all of which have come in Federer’s favoured conditions of indoor hard.
Djokovic has an advantage too in terms of physical conditioning, with the Serb given a walkover by Mikhail Youzhny’s retirement yesterday while Federer was, somewhat oddly, made to play last on Thursday’s schedule.
The world number one produced some fine tennis in his most recent match against Roberto-Bautista Agut, while Federer can count himself a little fortunate to even have made the last eight after losing his way against Radek Stepanek.
The Czech produced a choke of fairly substantial proportions to crumble in that encounter before Federer faced Lukas Rosol in the last eight and enjoyed a far smoother passage past the wayward Rosol.
Novak says he’s been working on coming to the net more often, presumably to shorten some of the long points and brutal battles he often gets embroiled in with Rafa Nadal in particular, and Federer is trying something similar, so this one may be a little different from their previous meetings.
Another feature of note in this one is the declining number of aces that Federer hits now with his new racquet. He used to out-ace Novak pretty much all the time and that stat has turned around now too in the Serb’s favour in their recent encounters.
Djokovic looks far too short at 1.17 for my interest, but the first set overs at 9.5 looks good, with Novak not having won an opener against Federer in fewer than 10 games since the French Open of 2012.
Prior to that, Berdych faces Philipp Kohlschreiber at 1pm UK time and this one should go the way of the Czech on current form and past history, with the Berdman leading 8-1 lifetime in this match-up.
Over in Sao Paulo, they’re still at the quarter final stage and Tommy Haas has never lost a tour level match or even dropped a set on clay to a left hander, although in the interests of balance he’s never played a leftie ranked inside the top-50 on the red dirt. He should have too much for Horacio Zeballos.
The other three ties look like they could all potentially go either way, with Klizan perhaps in with the best chance of the underdogs when he faces Thomaz Bellucci.
Martin Klizan 2.30 vs Thomaz Bellucci 1.58 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 22.35
I have Bellucci to win this event outright and he still has a fine chance of doing just that, but this battle of the lefties will be tough and the home favourite looks to have been priced up a touch short here.
Klizan has won two of their three meetings, which have all come on hard courts, but Belucci won the one played here in Sao Paulo in the Challenger Tour Finals of 2011.
Both players have struggled on the tour since then, but each seems to be recovering something like their old form on this year’s Golden Swing on the red clay and it has the look of a three setter to me.
Rarely does either one get through a match without a mental lapse of one sort or another and over 22.5 games looks good at 1.90, as does Klizan +1.5 sets at 1.53.
Monaco also looks a shaky favourite against Paulo Lorenzi, while over in Acapulco Grigor Dimitrov could well be worth backing to beat Andy Murray with a 1.5 set start at 1.80, although his late night last night won’t have helped him much.
Back over 9.5 games in set one of Federer/Djokovic at 1.73
Back over 22.5 games in Bellucci/Klizan at 1.90