The quarter-finals of the ATP Mutua Madrid Open are set to play on Friday, with a few unfamiliar contenders looking for Masters 1000 semi final spots.
One of these is Roberto Bautista-Agut, who provided us with a winning bet on Thursday when he eased past Lukasz Kubot in a timely enough manner for the minus 4.5 games to land.
Another is the charmed Feliciano Lopez, who had a walkover to the last eight when Dominic Thiem withdrew, thereby voiding my wager on the Austrian, while Ernests Gulbis is still rolling after beating my tip Marin Cilic.
The latter was very disappointing on serve, producing a woeful 37% of first serves in play, which made all the difference, as the Croat won slightly more (86%) of his first serve points than Gulbis when he actually found the box.
Ernie played well, but he was under no pressure from the errant Cilic, who was forced to defend too many second balls in speedy conditions and Gulbis took advantage very well.
Roberto Bautista-Agut 1.77 vs Santiago Giraldo 2.00 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 15.35
RBA and Santi have never made it to a Masters 1000 quarter final before, with both players’ previous best last-16 spots and therefore this is a massive match for both of them.
Clearly, Baustista-Agut will have the crowd behind him, but nerves will surely play a part in this one and neither are the toughest mentally.
Giraldo is riding the crest of a wave at the moment, having made the Barcelona final and landing a first ever top-10 win by beating an insipid Andy Murray on Thursday and having added Feña Gonzalez to his staff he looks to be on the up right now.
Bautista-Agut has been solid all season though and has won two of his three matches against top-10 opposition in 2014 against Juan Martin Del Potro in Melbourne and Tomas Berdych at Indian Wells – both at big tournaments.
Santi was always known as a bit of a choker and I’m not sure I’d like to be on him if things get tight today.
RBA is already up to number 32 in the world rankings as things stand and is looking at a seeding for the French Open, while that goal isn’t at all out of the question for Giraldo either, who currently sits at number 36, so both have plenty of reasons to be a little tight today.
I think this will be an edgy affair, with slight preference going to the man from Castellon de la Plana with the crowd behind him and the thinking being that the courts here suit RBA just a little better, but it’s a tough one to call.
David Ferrer 1.42 vs Ernests Gulbis 2.80 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 19.05
Ferrer produced his best performance of the week by far and best since taking down Rafa Nadal in Monte-Carlo when nullifying John Isner’s serve in the night match on Thursday.
Up until then Ferrer had been struggling, with a very scratchy win over Albert Ramos following a thumping defeat to Teimuraz Gabashvili in Barcelona and a thrashing from Stan Wawrinka in Monte-Carlo.
Gulbis has been decent so far in Madrid and despite sporting a Robinson Crusoe beard and looking like he’s been couch surfing for the last week the Latvian has been at his most focused, despite the usual moaning about people in the crowd. How dare they sit there and watch him play tennis!
The relative calmness that Ernie has exuded so far should be a concern for Gulbis fans, as he rarely goes more than a few games without a meltdown and it could come today against an opponent he’s yet to defeat.
Ferrer and Gulbis have never met on clay, but this quick Madrid surface should give Ernie a decent shot, but much depends on which Gulbis – and indeed which Ferrer turn up.
The Latvian has won one of his five Masters 1000 quarter finals, with Ferrer winning 13 of his 33, but he hasn’t lost one to a player ranked outside the top-five since Isner beat him indoors in Paris back in 2011.
All of the big match experience and a much better temperament lead me to Ferrer here and not to the combustible Gulbis and the way that David dealt with the Isner serve last night has to give confidence to his backers that he can do the same to Ernie, who has been serving very well.
The under 22.5 total games appeals here, as we’re also covered in that bet should Ernie have an amazing day, as unlikely as that seems.
Back Bautista-Agut to beat Giraldo at 1.77
Back under 22.5 total games in Ferrer/Gulbis at 1.87