It’s semi finals day at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open on Saturday when Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal clash for the 48th time in their careers.
We’ve had a tough few days at the BNP Paribas Open and seemingly ever since Steve Johnson choked away all those set points away against Kei Nishikori our fortunes have been on the wane.
And Nishikori was again responsible for a loss on Friday when he somehow allowed a creaking Rafael Nadal back into the match after an impressive start saw him on the brink of a double break in set one.
With break points for a *4-1 lead I was concerned that Nishikori was going to stroll it and win too quickly for my 2-1 set betting wager, but after wasting the opportunity to go a double break up Nishikori wilted in the desert heat.
It really was a poor collapse from Nishikori and Nadal goes forward to face Novak Djokovic in today’s semi final.
Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal
The world number one edged into the lead in this head-to-head series by 24 wins to 23 with a one-sided victory on outdoor hard in Doha in January of this year and surely that lead will increase today.
Djokovic has won nine of the last 10 meetings between this pair and Nadal hasn’t won one away from clay since the 2013 US Open final.
Indeed, Nadal hasn’t done better than 4-6 in any set on a hard court against Djokovic since that US Open victory two-and-a-half years ago and I see no reason why that pattern will change on Saturday.
There is some hope for Nadal fans, with Djokovic not quite playing at the same level he was earlier this year and last, and he was shaky against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last night, eventually coming through in two tie breaks.
The other side of the coin is that Nadal hasn’t played his best tennis for a very long time now and he’s won only three of his last dozen matches against top-five ranked opponents.
And of those nine defeats to the top-five he’s managed to take a set only once, which was against Roger Federer in the Basel final last autumn, but I think he can take a set today.
For me the belief isn’t quite 100 percent there in Djokovic’s game at the moment and he showed it when producing a very nervy game when trying to serve out the opener against Tsonga last night.
The Serb has dropped sets to Mikhail Kukushkin and Bjorn Fratangelo in the last fortnight and needed two breakers to beat Tsonga, who was a break up in the second set last night.
Djokovic’s price of around 1.14 for this 20:00 approx. UK time start is roughly the same as it was at the China Open last year, yet he’s not quite at that level just now, so it looks questionable value to me.
I don’t have a huge amount of faith in Nadal these days though and I can’t see him winning here, but he has a better chance today in conditions that suit him better than those he encountered Djokovic in at Doha, Beijing or London.
He has more time on the ball here at Indian Wells and it takes his spin better, so it’ll just take one good set from Rafa to give the 3.95 about the Djokovic 2-1 win a decent run.
That was the score the last time this pair clashed at Indian Wells and I think this one will be a bit closer than the one-sided affairs we’ve witnessed when these two have met in the last 12 months.
Long shot: Back Djokovic to beat Nadal 2-1 at 3.95