It’s semi finals day at the AEGON Open in Nottingham on Friday, as we draw closer to the start of Wimbledon 2016.
We didn’t get any joy with Alexandr Dolgopolov on Thursday in a very mediocre performance that allowed one of the poorest returners around in Gilles Muller to break him three times in nine service games.
But pretty much everything else went as expected, with no tie breaks in the Dudi Sela vs Andreas Seppi match landing (despite a tight opening set) and those who declined to back Marcos Baghdatis at 1.27 would have breathed a sigh of relief at avoiding that short-priced loser.
Kevin Anderson was another I flagged up as too short and he was locked in a tight three-set battle with Steve Johnson when play was called for bad light at around 20:45 on Thursday.
So, we’ve only got the one match that’s priced up for Friday in Nottingham and we can look at it in a bit of detail.
Gilles Muller vs Pablo Cuevas
This first semi final of the day in Nottingham is a first-time meeting between the big leftie from Luxembourg and the clay specialist from Uruguay and the odds, as you would expect, heavily favour Muller.
The number eight seed is rated as a 1.30 chance to get past the number two seed and reach another final this grass swing after making the championship match at Rosmalen a few weeks ago.
Few would begrudge Muller that elusive title and with his huge advantage in experience on this surface he should be able to beat Cuevas, who looked like he was on his way out in two of his three matches in Nottingham this week.
Both Dan Evans and Baghdatis should have seen him off, with the latter giving up a 4-0 (should have been 5-0) lead in the final set tie break, but Cuevas has played well, fought hard and shouldn’t be written off here.
Cuevas has served well all week racking up 44 aces and winning 89.1 percent of his service games, compared to Muller’s 46 aces and 92 percent service holds.
Indeed, Cuevas averages just under an ace per game this week, and the value in this one probably lies in the Uruguayan keeping things tight.
Muller has returned much more effectively than his career average this week, with an unheard of (for him) 21.3 percent of return games won, but he was certainly helped by Dolgopolov’s errant play on Friday.
As a sub-1.40 favourite on grass Muller has won all five of his main level career matches and in semi finals at main level his record is a poor 4-9, with a 1-1 record on grass.
Unsurprisingly this is Cuevas’ first semi final on grass and all bar one of his matches at this stage at this level have taken place on clay and he’s 6-7 in total in semi finals.
Against the big servers in my database away from clay Cuevas’ record is okay, with a 5-7 mark and wins in two of his last three, which were against Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych.
He played Sam Querrey here a year ago and lost 7-6, 7-6, and it’s clear that he’s now more comfortable on this surface, having got eight sets under his belt this week so far.
He hasn’t faced anything like the serve of Muller yet this week, but if he was able to take Querrey to a couple of tie breaks and beat Karlovic and Berdych he won’t lose any sleep over Muller.
Very much like Dolgopolov yesterday Cuevas hasn’t lost in straight sets (away from clay) to a leftie since 2010 when Feli Lopez beat him in Melbourne, so the 2-1 to Muller appeals as a ‘long shot’ at 3.70.
Cuevas won’t have faced an opponent like Muller on grass too often before, if ever, and it’s a tricky one, with Muller too short outright at 1.30, but I do like the 2-1 and the over 10.5 games in set one at 2.25.
Long shot: Back Muller to beat Cuevas 2-1 at 3.70