The championship match of the first Masters 1000 tournament is set for Sunday, with Novak Djokovic taking on Roger Federer at the BNP Paribas Open.
And Federer landed our only wager of Saturday when the Swiss maestro eased past the -2.5 games handicap in a straight sets semi final win over Milos Raonic.
That was after Djokovic had faced very little opposition from Andy Murray in the first semi final, with the Scot very much out of sorts in a tame performance against his old rival.
Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer
This superstar pair meet for the second time in three weeks at around 20:00 UK time at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in what should be a different match to their Dubai clash.
I said before the Dubai final that Federer had the edge in the fast conditions there and we landed a nice winner by going with the Swiss on the handicap that day.
Conditions here are quite different though and this repeat of the Indian Wells final a year ago is likely to end in a similar result – a tight win for the Serb.
A final set tie break separated the pair that day and the slower conditions will make it harder for Federer to dominate as he did in Dubai.
Federer and Djokovic have met on 37 prior occasions, with the Swiss leading 20-17 right now, but for me, Djokovic has the edge on a slower hard court and that is backed up by their recent meetings.
The last 13 times they’ve met on a hard court have resulted in nine wins for Djokovic and four for Federer, with Feds successes coming in Dubai (twice), Shanghai and Cincy – all of which are played in quick conditions.
This surface is much grittier and aids the defenders a bit more than the aforementioned trio of venues, which allows Novak to get a few more balls back in play and makes Federer have to finish the points more than once on many occasions.
It’s not all bad for Federer though, as the surface here does help his defensive slice and the gusty wind prevalent at Indian Wells makes it tough for his opponents against probably the best wind player in the world.
As ever, Federer has managed his schedule very well, with no appearances in Davis Cup or Miami before and after this tournament and he looks in peak form and fitness again as a result.
Djokovic should also be in fine fettle, having played one match fewer than his opponent today and neither man has dropped a set here this week, but in all probability both will on Sunday.
The over 2.5 sets at 2.32 looks decent here, as does the over 110.5 total minutes at 2.10.
Last year’s final here went 132 minutes and I expect it to be a similarly close affair, with preference at the prices going to Djokovic in these conditions.
It’s a tight one though and if I were backing Federer today I’d go with the -2.5 games on the Swiss at 3.55, with Fed’s last 10 wins over Djokovic in best-of-three play coming by a margin of four games or more.
Value bet: Back over 2.5 sets at 2.32