The semi finals of the AEGON Open in Nottingham is the only show in town as far as top-class tennis is concerned as we get ever nearer to the start of Wimbledon 2015.
Qualifying for Wimbledon is over and it was a really tricky day for punters, with several long odds-on shots losing, and my ‘sure thing’ of the day had to survive a huge scare to prevail.
Luke Saville was struggling against Luca Vanni, but survived match points and eventually came through in five sets, while the likes of Ivan Dodig and Edouard Roger-Vasselin were short-priced losers.
Dan Evans’ chances were lost as soon as he failed from 6-4 up in the set one tie break in Roehampton, while Simone Bolelli was second best to a fine performance from Marcos Baghdatis in Nottingham.
Denis Istomin vs Marcos Baghdatis
My 33-1 outright punt on Istomin rolls on to the semi finals, where the Uzbek faces a tricky challenge against Baghdatis in a match where the Cypriot is favourite at around 1.52.
This 12:00 UK time encounter will be the fourth in the career series between Baghdatis and Istomin, with the former leading 2-1, but their most recent match was won by Istomin.
The pair have similar playing styles and their past clashes have been tight and the state of the court in Nottingham makes the matches today very tricky to call.
The daft decision to play this event at a venue worn out by the WTA event a fortnight ago has, rather predictably, led to the latter stages of the AEGON Open being played on a surface akin to the municipal that I played on as a youth.
Stick the dodgy weather forecast into the mix and the proximity to Wimbledon and you have one of the least appealing betting days of the season in prospect.
I won’t be touching this one, apart from a bet on Baggy as a saver on the outright each-way, as much depends on the serve here.
Baggy hit 67 percent on first serve yesterday and Istomin hit the exact same figure in his narrow win over Leo Mayer and a repeat of those stats will see a match of few breaks today.
The Cypriot isn’t one to rely on with his high ball toss and with wind and rain about today that 67 percent first serve, which he also hit against Alexander Zverev, could well drop in which case there may be some value on Istomin.
Another factor to throw into this complex mix is Baggy's record in semi finals, which has been poor lately, and he's managed only one win in his last eight tour level semis going back to 2011.
Istomin is hardly much better, with a 2-7 record in semi finals, and interestingly seven of those nine matches ended in a deciding third set.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Sam Querrey
Dolgo wasn’t happy about much yesterday, including the court, the umpire and the line calls and I wouldn’t be keen on backing him as an odds-on favourite here.
Neither player particularly impressed on Thursday, with Querrey almost losing to Gilles Simon, but eventually wearing the fatigued Frenchman down in three sets and this is another tricky betting proposition.
Like the previous semi finalists this pair have met three times in the past, with Dolgo leading 2-1, but Querrey won the most recent and they’ve never met on a grass court until today.
Their last clash ended in a final set tie break win for Querrey back in 2012, which was also a week before a major in Winston-Salem and a lot depends on Dolgo’s attitude here.
Rain delays probably won’t help his general mood and I’m leaning towards Querrey in this one, but I prefer the set one over games here.
In that Winston-Salem clash each player broke serve only twice in 17 return games each, so they averaged a break every 8.5 return games, and Querrey is yet to break his opponent’s serve in the first set yet this tournament.
Santi Giraldo, Pablo Cuevas and Simon – hardly the strongest set of servers – have remained unbroken in the opening set against Querrey this week and unless Dolgo throws a shocking game in that seems likely to continue.
The over 10.5 games in set one is a 2.25 shot and that looks the most appealing wager on a very tricky day in Nottingham.
Value bet: Back over 10.5 games in set one at 2.25