Quarter finals day is set for Friday at the 2015 Coupe Rogers in Montreal, with eight intriguing matches on the card in this Masters 1000 event.
We started Thursday with an easy winner for the ‘sure thing’ when Novak Djokovic was several classes above Jack Sock and landed the 2-0 set betting wager with ease.
It didn’t continue in that vein though, as Bernard Tomic missed his chance to take a lead over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Kei Nishikori was too strong for David Goffin.
Indeed there were no ‘long shots’ to get on Thursday, as all the favourites with the exception of Ivo Karlovic won, so there was little we could do for big prices yesterday.
In our last Coupe Rogers in Montreal in 2013 the quarter finals yielded three winning favourites and an early retirement, as Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic were easy winners and Canadians Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil also progressed.
In 2015 there are no Canadians in the last eight, but we do have a world number one and probably the new world number two, which Andy Murray will be if he makes the final here.
Novak Djokovic vs Ernests Gulbis
It’s been a welcome return to form for a few players this week, with Gulbis being one, and the eccentric Latvian now steps it up several notches as he faces a seemingly unstoppable Djokovic.
Ernie’s serve has been back to its former self of late and he was far too good in that department for Donald Young yesterday, with impressive stats of 91 percent of points won on first serve and 72 percent on second serve.
That was against Young though and with all due respect to ‘The Don’ this is going to be far harder, with the American lefty’s attack largely going into the Gulbis backhand.
And it’s that dodgy forehand that will probably be his downfall again versus Djokovic, who will almost certainly focus his plays on that wing of the Latvian, and if it breaks this could be a thrashing for Gulbis.
Gulbis and Mikhail Youzhny have been impossible to predict this week, as both had dire seasons up until this point and the worry for Gulbis is that he could go back to that place with a heavy loss today.
He is back up to number 68 in the world after this week’s run whatever happens today, but I suspect it’ll be another 2-0 win for the Serb.
Djokovic is unbeaten in all 20 matches this season at Masters 1000 and Grand Slam level on outdoor hard courts and he’s lost only two of his last 30 at that level at the quarter final stage.
The Serb is 88-1 on hard courts against players ranked outside the top-50 since losing (ironically to Gulbis) in January 2009 and the one was Olivier Rochus in Miami in 2010.
It would take something extraordinary for Djokovic not to win in two today, but ‘long shot’ backers might be tempted by the over 10.5 games in set one at 4.60.
If Ernie does repeat his serving from the Young match even Djokovic may struggle to break early and a 7-5 or 7-6 isn’t totally out of the question here, but the over 9.5 games in set one looks decent value at 2.28 for the same reason.
Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori
Today could be the day that Nishikori finally proves his superiority over Nadal – on a hard court at least – after his last clash with the Spaniard ended in a very unfortunate and undeserved loss.
That was on clay in Madrid last season when Nishikori had to retire after winning the opener 6-2 and if memory serves he has up the second too before injury struck.
The old head-to-head can be disregarded here, as we have a poor version of Nadal compared with most of his wins over Nishikori, and a much-improved opponent in the Japanese star.
Prices do reflect that, with Nishikori starting favourite, and this will be a very revealing match for both players.
Nadal hasn’t beaten a top-five opponent since beating Djokovic to land the 2014 French Open title and he is 0-7 in sets after that day in two matches with the Serb and one with Murray.
Indeed, he’s only won two of eight versus the top-10 since Paris 2014 and Nishikori in that time has won 11 of his 21 against top-10 opposition.
The last time that Nadal won a match on a hard court against a top-10 opponent was Roger Federer in the 2014 Australian Open and the last time he beat a top-five ranked opponent on outdoor hard (Federer was ranked six that day in Melbourne) was against Djokovic in the 2013 US Open.
In short Nadal has it all to prove, which sounds odd for a man with 14 majors to his name, but the fact is that he’s been pretty awful for most of the season and he’ll want to prove to himself that he can still cut it at the very top.
At the moment the evidence of my eyes suggests that he can’t and this would be a very good win for the Spaniard if he can pull it off.
He still has the heart and determination, which leads me to think he’ll probably get a set here, but if fit I’d expect Nishikori to take this one and the 2-1 to the man with the supreme deciding set record looks a good ‘long shot’ today.
Sure thing: Back Djokovic to beat Gulbis 2-0 at 1.23
Value bet: Back over 9.5 games in set one of Djokovic/Gulbis at 2.28
Long shot: Back Nishikori to beat Nadal 2-1 at 4.30