The semi finals of the opening Masters 1000 of the clay court season are scheduled for Saturday at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, with two intriguing matches on the card today.
Things didn’t go quite so smoothly on Friday as they did on Thursday, with one easy winner, one frustrating void and a three set loss the outcome of yesterday’s wagers.
Tomas Berdych to win set one over Milos Raonic was my first bet of the day and that was moments away from surely landing when Raonic succumbed to his foot injury and retired at 2-5 down.
Plenty of punters were annoyed by that one, but Novak Djokovic was barely troubled in landing the ‘sure thing’ 2-0 win over Marin Cilic before the match of the day between Rafa Nadal and David Ferrer.
We were on Ferrer and he made it very tough indeed for Nadal, who put in his best of the year so far to edge it in three gruelling sets.
We start later today at 12 noon UK time, with Berdych taking on a resurgent Gael Monfils.
Tomas Berdych vs Gael Monfils
Initially I was tempted to side with Berdych here at the prices, with today’s price of 1.87 being by far the biggest the Czech has ever been against the Frenchman.
Berdych has always gone off between 1.36 and 1.6 against Lamonf and such has been the impressive nature of the latter’s performances in Monte-Carlo this week that despite a 1-5 career deficit the Frenchman will go off either favourite or pretty much equal in price.
That’s also despite a loss (admittedly hampered by injury) to Berdych in Miami a few weeks ago and clearly this has been an unfavourable match-up for Monfils in the past.
However, as a narrow favourite priced between 1.8 and 1.95 Berdych has a terrible record, with losses in his last eight in a row stretching back to Rome in 2010.
Interestingly, of those eight losses all eight came in deciding sets of best-of-three set matches and Monfils has a far better record in this price range, with a 12-4 record between 1.8 and 2.0, including yesterday’s win over Grigor Dimitrov.
Monfils has been much more on the front foot this week than we’ve seen him in the past when he’s far too happy to just play out rallies endlessly, which has sapped his energy at times and had him reaching for his Coke cans for a sugar hit.
This week we’ve seen him take the game to the opposition more and it paid off again yesterday when he crushed an admittedly poor Dimitrov.
Also in that match there were signs of fatigue from the Frenchman and if Dimitrov had taken his chances in set two of that match he could well have got back into it with Monfils breathing heavily.
The questions then for Monfils backers today at what looks a short price are:
Is Monfils fit? Will he go back into his shell and revert to type against a bigger hitter and an opponent he’s almost always struggled against? And will this week’s more mature approach stick around for another day?
He may well answer all of those in the affirmative, but I don’t like the chances at today’s price and Berdych will be much the fresher of the two after only seven games today and only four-and-a-bit sets all week.
That said, the question for Berdych backers is can he win as a narrow favourite for the first time in five years?
For me, the best course of action here is to back three sets in what is certain to be a bit of a nervy affair, given it’s Monfils’ first Masters semi final since Paris back in 2010.
Value bet: Back over 2.5 sets at 2.28