Semi final Saturday in week seven of the 2015 ATP World Tour has thrown up some intriguing matches to consider in Rio, Marseille and Delray Beach today.
It was another weird and wonderful night in Rio on Friday, with first the Fabio Fognini show, which was followed by one of the latest ever finishes in an ATP World Tour match.
Rafa Nadal outlasted my ‘long shot’ tip of Pablo Cuevas in a match that ended at around 03:20 local time and it would have been later had Cuevas not hit the wall in that final set.
The Uruguayan at least made a profit for in-play punters by taking the opening set from Nadal after earlier my +1.5 sets bet on Juan Monaco at odds-against had provided a nice winner in Pico’s clash with David Ferrer.
But it’s been a bizarre week for ‘sure things’, with firstly what I can only conclude was Mona Barthel dressed up as Tommy Robredo in a back fence-peppering show on Wednesday, followed by an absolute shocker from Marinko Matosevic against the powder puff Yoshihto Nishioka.
That was appended to by Ivo Karlovic breaking Steve Johnson, not once, but twice in one set in Delray Beach in what Ivo described as: “might be one of my best sets. Everything that I hit was in”
Might be, Ivo? Might be? Let’s have a quick look…
In 58 matches against the big servers in my database Karlovic has won sets by 6-2 or better only twice in his whole career. One was against Jack Sock at Indian Wells in 2013 and the other vs Gilles Muller in Binghampton in 2003, so there you go.
Today’s ‘sure thing’ in which I’m hoping to not encounter such a freak occurrence takes place in Rio at around 19:00 UK time.
David Ferrer vs Andreas Haider-Maurer
The Austrian has not been good to me in the last few weeks, firstly when he blew several match points against Gerald Melzer and then when beating Albert Ramos and Robredo here in Rio.
Prior to this week AHM had won one match at Tour level in South America and was 0-7 in completed matches against Spaniards, but that’s all changed.
The Austrian, with the help of a questionable MTO and a collapse from Joao Souza, overcame the crowd and his opponent to make the semis and it was quite something to watch him rolling around on the floor in delight to total silence from the crowd.
It’s his first Tour level semi final outside of Austria and his first on clay, but surely Ferrer will be far too solid for him today.
Ferrer was shaky in the earlier rounds and complained of not feeling well, but he seemed fine yesterday against a spirited Monaco and I can’t see AHM having the weapons or the consistency to hurt the Spaniard.
Previous meetings have been very comfortable for Ferrer, with four of their five sets against each other ending in a 6-1 score line, and the 2-0 to him looks highly likely today.
Gilles Simon vs Sergiy Stakhovsky
Regular followers will know that my outright bet in Marseille this week was the big-priced Stakhovsky and after beating Stan Wawrinka in a fine serve and volley display on Friday he now faces the human backboard of Simon.
The head-to-head is a little misleading here, with Simon’s 3-0 record over Stakho being achieved by results from many years ago and the Frenchman has struggled against serve and volley players on a regular basis.
Famously, Simon lost every single match he played against Michael Llodra, with Gillou taking only one of 11 sets against his compatriot, and he was also beaten by the net-rushing Pole Lukasz Kubot on quick clay in Madrid last season.
The Ukrainian has started his last six matches very quickly and won all six opening sets against the likes of Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Dominic Thiem and Marcel Granollers and I like the 2.40 about him winning the opener here.
Simon often has to grind his way into matches and he does get very nervy in big matches at home in France, with a 3-8 record in semi finals at home.
He’s lost five of his last six such matches and four of those five were in straight stets, while at Tour level Stakho has won four of his five career semi finals.
As for ‘long shots’ today, I can’t get involved in Fognini or Gael Monfils matches unless there’s a clear angle and tonight’s Fogna vs Nadal clash will surely be dictated by fatigue levels.
By rights Rafa should be exhausted after his late finish, but so will Fognini and I get the feeling that Rafa will be much more likely to battle through it than the Italian, who has folded too often against the Spaniard.
So, instead I like the idea of siding with Bernard Tomic and Ivo Karlovic as a handicap double in Delray Beach.
Tomic came out on the wrong side of a tight loss to Donald Young last week in Memphis, but outdoors in the windy Florida venue the Aussie has the kind of variety in his game to turn the tables.
It’s a little slower here in Delray Beach and that will favour Tomic, whose movement isn’t brilliant, and Young has struggled with the conditions more than Tomic, who has only dropped one set this week.
Karlovic, as mentioned earlier, has found his groove on serve in tough conditions for serving and he can continue Mannarino’s misery against big servers.
The Frenchman has a 5-14 record on outdoor hard against my big servers and he’s lost five of his last six, sometimes getting frustrated and dropping sets by bigger margins than one would expect.
I like the -1.5 games on Tomic and Karlovic here at 3.29 as a double, with the 2-1 to Tomic at 4.10 another option.
Sure thing: Back Ferrer to beat Haider-Maurer 2-0 at 1.42
Value bet: Back Stakhovsky to win set one vs Simon at 2.40
Long shot: Back Karlovic -1.5 games and Tomic -1.5 games at 3.29