The final of the second Masters 1000 of the 2016 is set for Sunday when Novak Djokovic takes on Kei Nishikori at the Miami Open.
We were unlucky with our wager in the semi final between Djokovic and David Goffin when the Belgian underdog had his chances to take the opening set when a break up at *4-3 and he should have done better in the subsequent tie break.
But it was watch from behind the sofa stuff at 4-4 in that breaker when Goffin had a sitter of a smash to put away for a 5-4 lead but somehow shanked it right back to his opponent and ended up losing the point.
A stint at a volleying school might be in order for Goffin, who was shocking at net, and despite scoring the same amount of points in that opening set it was lost on the big points and Djokovic went on to grind out a hard fought win.
Novak Djokovic vs Kei Nishikori
Whatever happens on Sunday it’s been a profitable week overall at the Miami Open and the question now is whether or not we take a chance on Nishikori in the final.
Nishikori was my outright pick for this tournament, but like Milos Raonic before him at Indian Wells, the task facing the underdog in the final is an unenviable one.
Djokovic is trying to equal Andre Agassi’s record of six Miami Masters titles tonight and he’s a 1.17 chance to equal ‘The Punisher’s haul of Crandon Park crowns.
The Serbian has never lost to any other player than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in a Masters 1000 final, so it’s a tall order indeed for world number six in his second championship match at this level.
Nishikori’s first Masters 1000 final ended in disappointment when he had to retire having led Nadal in Madrid a couple of years ago and hopefully we won’t see a retirement on Sunday.
It is a possibility though, with both players looking at the end of their energy levels, having each played around 30 sets in Davis Cup, Indian Wells and Miami since March 4.
Djokovic looks jaded and I wouldn’t be as confident about him in this final as I was when he faced Milos Raonic at Indian Wells, and the timing of this one won’t really help either man.
Nishikori was excellent against Nick Kyrgios and Roberto Bautista-Agut in the night session, but less so in the heat of the day against Gael Monfils and his stated preference is for night matches at Crandon Park.
Similarly, Djokovic toiled in the heat against Goffin, and this might end up as a survival of the fittest, with a start time of 13:00 local (18:00 UK) when we’re expecting another hot and humid day.
It doesn’t seem to be quite as hot as it has been though at 27C (in the shade) and 60 percent humidity, which is still testing, but not quite as brutal as other days in Key Biscayne this fortnight.
Nishikori won’t be able to afford a poor day on serve and an errant day on his forehand, as he had in his last day session against Monfils, and that will be one key to the match.
It should be closer than their last few meetings all things considered and a few bets appeal here, including the 2-1 to Djokovic in set betting for ‘long shot’ backers; the Djokovic win for ‘sure thing’ bettors and also one I fancy for the ‘value bet’.
In all of the last six meetings between Djokovic and Nishikori the second set has been done and dusted in fewer than 9.5 games and 1.93 about that happening again looks decent.
The US Open clash that Kei won in 2014; the Paris Masters and World Tour Finals clash the same year; Rome and the Tour Finals of 2015; and this year’s Australian Open match all finished 6-1, 6-2 or 6-3 to one or the other and on this slow Miami surface breaks look likely again, with two fine returners of serve clashing.
Likely fatigue in both men, combined with steaming heat, could lead to the odd quick set and the price on set two unders looks value on the trends.
Value bet: Back under 9.5 games in set two at 1.93