ATP Tennis Betting: Nervy battle expected between Johnson and Cuevas in Nottingham


The final of the AEGON Open in Nottingham is the tennis action on offer on Saturday, with Steve Johnson facing Pablo Cuevas.

And it was Cuevas that did for our 'long shot' wager on Friday by coming out on top in three sets against Gilles Muller when we went with a three set win for the Luxembourger.

That one was a little unlucky considering we gambled on Cuevas proving good enough to take a set - I just didn't expect him to take two of the three sets on grass against Muller.

So, it's Cuevas who goes forward to Saturday's final and he'll face an opponent who's also playing his maiden grass court ATP World Tour Final in Johnson.

Pablo Cuevas vs Steve Johnson

I must admit that I did not expect Cuevas to be the one to come through the bottom half of the draw here against the likes of Sam Querrey, Muller and Marcos Baghdatis, but he's shown a surprising willingness to really put a shift in this week on an unfamiliar surface.

He's been almost down and out in three of his four matches in Nottingham this week and looked likely to fall in two when the second set tie break began against Muller on Friday, but once again he battled his way through and got the win.

Johnson had a more comfortable time of it in two rain-delayed matches yesterday, with a brief couple of games against Kevin Anderson followed by an on/off affair against Andreas Seppi in which he was just too strong for the Italian.

There's little point looking at career stats on grass when considering this match, as those of Cuevas this week have been vastly improved on anything we've seen before on this surface from the Uruguayan, so it perhaps makes more sense to look at the numbers for this week.

Johnson has held his serve 93.8 percent of the time and served an ace in 0.95 of his service games, while Cuevas has very similar figures of 90.3 percent service holds and he's served an ace in 0.92 percent of his service games.

On return Johnson has been the better, breaking serve 18.6 percent of the time this week, compared with 12.9 percent for Cuevas, so it's advantage Johnson there.

But having never won an ATP World Tour title and in only his second final it's likely to be a bit of a nervy one for the American, who does have a bit of a record in the choking stakes.

He has won here before when the tournament was a Challenger in 2013, beating Ruben Bemelmans in the final, but this will be only his second final at this level after a loss to David Ferrer in Vienna last season on indoor hard.

Cuevas has won five of his six tour level finals, but all were on clay, and he puts his shock run to the final this week down to improved movement on the surface compared with previous seasons.

"I worked on my grass game in Uruguay," he said. "Match by match I have moved better and I’ve got confidence with the ball. I’m more comfortable with my movement on grass now. I came to Nottingham to play matches before Wimbledon. Winning matches is very good preparation, but I did not imagine that I will play the final in my first tournament on grass of the year. It’s perfect."

So, a very happy Cuevas, and my worry with backing Johnson at a price like 1.50 is his tendency to choke in tie breaks. 

He posts a poor 45.6 percent winning mark in breakers on the main tour on all surfaces compared to the 63.3 percent of Cuevas and even on grass the latter has a better tie break record.

Cuevas hasn't been overpowered by the likes of Muller and Querrey here so far, but he does come under more pressure to hold his serve without that big weapon, though he has delivered really well from the service line this week.

I can't have Johnson at this price and the over 2.5 sets seems a better pick at around 2.33, with a nervy one expected.

Best Bet
Value bet: Back over 2.5 sets at 2.33