The first Masters 1000 title of the season will be won on Sunday as Novak Djokovic faces Milos Raonic in the final of the 2016 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
I said yesterday that the semi final between Djokovic and Rafa Nadal would be: “a bit closer than the one-sided affairs we’ve witnessed when these two have met in the last 12 months,” and so it proved.
Unfortunately it was yet another wager that almost certainly lost by a single point, with Nadal holding set point in the opener and going on to lose it in a tie break.
There can’t be much doubt that Djokovic would have prevailed in that one even if he had lost that opening set, so the 2-1 to the Serb wasn’t a bad shout there, but again things didn’t go our way on the big points.
So, it’s Djokovic who reaches his 39th Masters 1000 final (won 26) and at around 20:00 UK time (13:00 local) he’ll take on Raonic who’ll be contesting his third.
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic
The very best players in the men’s game in recent times – Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray – all won Masters 1000 titles in either their first or second final at this level and I doubt Raonic will win in his third such match today.
Having backed Raonic outright at the start at between 25-1 and 33-1 I was hoping that the patchy form (by his standards) that Djokovic had exhibited in the past fortnight or so might lead to a pre-final loss for the Serb, but it wasn’t to be.
Djokovic improved his level in Saturday’s clash with Nadal and another straight sets win over his big rival will have boosted his confidence ahead of a sixth career clash with Raonic.
The Serb was playing very well by the end of the Nadal match and he looks a good favourite to record another win over Raonic and probably a ‘sure thing’ to end the week at around the 1.18 mark.
Djokovic has won 78 of his 86 main level matches on an outdoor hard court at the price range of 1.10 to 1.20 favourite and he hasn’t lost one since losing three in the summer of 2014.
He hasn’t faced Raonic since the start of last season and my outright hopes are now based on the rather flimsy possibility that the improvements in the Canadian’s game will be enough to see him home, but I don’t get the feeling that he will.
Raonic was okay at best against David Goffin yesterday’s semi final and awful in set two of that one, where he lost his way badly, and I just think there’s too much of a gap between Djokovic (and at times Federer/Murray) and the rest of the top-10 at the moment, which should be borne out in tonight’s result.
It’ll need a pretty much perfect match from Raonic and a poor one from Djokovic for an upset to be on the cards and how often does Djokovic have a shocker in a big final?
Well, he’s been a sub-1.30 favourite in Grand Slam and Masters finals 10 times in his career and won nine of them, with the exception being last year’s French Open final loss to Stan Wawrinka.
And that one can be put down to a superb performance from Wawrinka than a bad day at the office from Djokovic and Raonic can realistically only hope for a set today.
He can score with the body serve and the kicker in these conditions against Djokovic and that might allow him to nick a set – probably on a breaker – but Djokovic has won nine of the 14 sets they’ve contested without the need for a tie break.
This guy is probably the best returner the game has ever seen and Raonic won only 32 percent of second serve points against Goffin on Saturday, which makes me wonder what that figure will be against Djokovic today.
The Canadian managed 53 percent on that score against Djokovic in their 2015 Australian Open final, but the Serb created 11 break point chances (of which he took eight) to Raonic’s zero.
Raonic may nick a set on the tie break, but I can see Djokovic winning by enough in the end to cover the -4.5 games at around 2.48, as he did against Nadal on Saturday.
Sure thing: Back Djokovic to beat Raonic at 1.18
Value bet: Back Djokovic -4.5 games at 2.48