The semi finals of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy are in-play on Saturday as week 16 of the tour reaches its closing stages.
Friday’s play brought the 10th straight winning bet in the ‘sure thing’ category, as Kei Nishikori overcame a second set stumble to defeat Roberto Bautista-Agut in the Barcelona Open quarter finals.
And there was disappointment again elsewhere when Ivo Karlovic fell one hold short of the set one overs against Jiri Vesely and Philipp Kohlschreiber was frustrating once more in a hit and miss performance versus David Ferrer.
David Ferrer vs Pablo Andujar
Only one place to look today for our ‘sure thing’ and that is to side with Ferrer to record a straight sets win over Andujar in the 15:00 UK time start in Barcelona.
I said yesterday that it would be fairly typical of Fabio Fognini to flop against Andujar after beating Rafa Nadal on Thursday and he did so with ease, winning only four games against the Spaniard, who he had previously never dropped a set to in five matches.
It’s been a good tournament and welcome return to form for Andujar – if a couple of weeks too late for my liking after I had him at 34.0 to win Casablanca, but I digress.
This is surely where the renaissance ends though, with a fourth career meeting with Ferrer likely to go the way of the first three, which all ended in comfortable straight sets wins for the elder Spaniard.
Kohlschreiber certainly had his chances against Ferrer yesterday and broke him four times, but couldn’t hold on to his leads when they came, but the German has more about his game than Andujar and it’s hard to see the latter challenging here.
In 19 matches against top-10 opposition Andujar has won only three, and one of those was by way of retirement, while another was against a tanking Tomas Berdych, who had just won a tournament a couple of days prior.
In only five of those 19 matches has Andujar won a set and as a 5.50 to 6.0 underdog he’s won one set in six matches, while Ferrer is 59-5 as a 1.10 to 1.20 favourite on clay.
In best-of-three set matches on clay he’s 46-3 in that price range and I don’t see Andujar bucking any trends on Saturday.
Kei Nishikori vs Martin Klizan
Ferrer looks much more likely of the two Barcelona favourites on Saturday to have a comfortable passage to the final, with Nishikori facing the man who dumped him out of last year’s French Open.
It’s always hard to call a Klizan match, as he does tend to play when he fancies it and not when he doesn’t, but his record against the top-10 can’t be sniffed at.
The Slovak has taken at least a set from top-10 ranked opponents in six of his last seven matches going back to almost this time last year and that includes Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and of course Nishikori.
That shows that his level is good enough for at least a while against the very best and he can make life tough for the Japanese star again in this 12:30 UK time clash.
Indeed, Klizan defeated Nishikori in their only other career meeting way back in 2007, so his confidence will be high today, but there is a concern over a lower arm/wrist issue, which required the trainer on Friday.
The fact that he didn’t withdraw from the doubles would suggest that’s okay and I fancy him to make a match of this, but ultimately fall just short, with the 2-1 to Nishikori appealing here at 4.0 as today’s long shot.
Nishikori rarely loses in deciding sets of best-of-three set matches and defending his title this week in Barcelona he’ll be even more determined in a final set.
Over in Bucharest my outright bet this week was the 15.0 shot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, so I’m hoping he’ll prevail against Gael Monfils, but in all honesty I’m not that hopeful.
Lamonf looked very much up for the scrap against Simone Bolelli yesterday and the Frenchman will need to have one of his off days today to lose to GGL, who Monfils beat comfortably at the French Open last year.
Overall, Monfils has a mediocre record in semi finals, with 22-21 in total and 5-6 on clay, but I’m not sure that GGL has quite the weapons to win this if both play their best tennis.
The second semi final looks a real lottery, with Gimeno-Traver perhaps a bit of value to repeat his Casablanca semi final win over Jiri Vesely, but really that one could go either way and it doesn’t appeal to me at all.
Sure thing: Back Ferrer to beat Andujar 2-0 at 1.40
Long shot: Back Nishikori to beat Klizan 2-1 at 4.0