The quarter-finals of the 2014 BNP Paribas Open begin at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Thursday at the business end of this Masters Series event.
Marin Cilic was able to ensure that it was a profitable day for this column on Wednesday when he stormed to the opening set 6-1 against Novak Djokovic in the early hours.
The Croatian was a little disappointing in not converting that great start into a win, but we did see patches of the best of Djokovic in the next two sets that the Serbian took quite comfortably to ease into the last eight.
Tommy Haas had his chances in the opener against Roger Federer, but was only able to convert one of his five break point chances in that set, and after falling behind early on was always playing catch-up against the Swiss maestro.
Elsewhere, Andy Murray’s comeback from injury stalled at the hands of Milos Raonic in a pretty awful standard encounter, while as I said yesterday, Kevin Anderson did indeed cause problems for Stan Wawrinka – big problems – as the South African took the Swiss down in three sets.
Wawrinka was struggling with a back injury in that match, but it was still a good win for Anderson, whose reward is a clash with Federer tonight.
Alexandr Dolgopolov 1.96 vs Milos Raonic 1.80 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 20.05
First up on Stadium Court 1 at 20.00 UK time on Thursday are Raonic and Dolgopolov, who are meeting for the very first time and the layers have this one as more or less even, with slight favouritism going to the Canadian.
I actually fancy the Ukrainian in this one, as Dolgo has showed much the better level this week and it’s good to see him back playing excellent tennis again after a poor campaign last year.
Dolgo’s return to form began in Rio on the clay of the Golden Swing, where he defeated Nico Almagro, David Ferrer and Fabio Fognini, who he franked the form with yesterday in beating Fogna in straight sets, and his confidence is high at the moment.
Raonic’s forehand was shockingly bad for most of the match against Murray yesterday and for two sets it would have shamed a decent club player, but he was able to turn the match around in the third set with some good tennis.
It helped that Murray was dollying second serves in at 70mph and today he’ll be facing an opponent whose own serve can be almost as effective as that of Raonic.
Dolgo posted some very good stats on serve against Fognini, winning 82% on first and 61% on second serves and a repeat of that will make things tough for Raonic, whose return game is still very poor.
'The Dog' defeated Rafa Nadal while recording a first serve mark of only 41%, which shows how good his protection of his second ball has been and I think Raonic will struggle to break his opponent today.
Murray should really have beaten Raonic in two yesterday, but the Scot has problems of his own, and Milos was allowed to get away with some less than clutch play, including a choke on serve at 4-4 in the opener.
Raonic surely came here with few expectations after barely practicing beforehand due to injury and he should be pleased with a last eight showing this week. Dolgo is a genuine threat for this title now – or at least a big contender to make the final and I take him to prevail today.
The awkward angles and differing pace and length that Dolgo creates is likely to throw the immobile Canadian off his game and I like the 1.96 about The Dog to have his day here.
Back Dolgopolov to beat Raonic at 1.96