Sunday is finals day in Barcelona and Bucharest as our two tournaments in week 16 of the 2015 ATP World Tour are decided.
Saturday’s action did not go according to plan by any stretch of the imagination and a rare choke from David Ferrer ensured that it was first loss in 11 for my ‘sure thing’ bets.
The Spaniard looked comfortable at 4-1 ahead early on against Pablo Andujar, but after also leading 6-2 in the subsequent set one tie break Ferrer failed to see it out and was beaten in straight sets.
Andujar played some fine tennis in fairness to him, but Ferrer fans and backers alike will be disappointed at the result from the positions he was in.
And Martin Klizan didn’t come close to the set I needed from him against Kei Nishikori, who produced an excellent display to allow the Slovak no real chance in a straight sets romp for the Japanese star.
Jiri Vesely vs Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
I wasn’t too confident about the chances of my Bucharest outright bet on GGL yesterday before his semi final win over Gael Monfils, but another strange performance from the Frenchman helped me out.
As has been the case pretty much throughout his career Monfils followed up some very good matches with a disinterested, lethargic showing against GGL, who probably should have won that match in two.
Garcia-Lopez led at 5-2 in set one and won sets two and three, but after eventually losing the opener 7-6 GGL must have been heartened to see Monfils seemingly struggling physically and looking to shorten the points.
Indeed, Monfils was slapping the ball to all parts and the Spaniard held his concentration and nerve in the face of Gael’s antics across the net.
Vesely gained revenge on Daniel Gimeno-Traver after losing to DGT in the Casablanca semis and takes his place in his second ATP World Tour final of the season and of his career.
The 21-year-old Czech won his maiden title in Auckland in January and faces GGL for the fourth time in his career, with the Spaniard leading 2-1 in their career series so far.
They haven’t met since the summer of 2013 though and perhaps more pertinently Garcia-Lopez hasn’t beaten a leftie in straight sets since he beat Vesely in the Rome Challenger in April of 2013.
That was 14 matches against lefties ago and for me this one looks like it could well go to a decider – but history is against it.
GGL’s record in tour level finals reads 4-3 and only one of those four wins came by way of a 2-0 victory. He also lost to Lukas Rosol in the 2013 Bucharest final.
The trend in Bucharest finals is strongly towards two set finishes, with only one of the past 14 finals going to a deciding set.
Interestingly, only one of the winners of the championship match in Bucharest since 2001 has failed to cover a -4.5 game handicap and generally in tight-looking match-ups like this it tends to pay to go strongly on one side or the other.
So, with a small -1.5 game handicap on Garcia-Lopez I’ll go with my original outright pick of GGL today at 1.85.
Kei Nishikori vs Pablo Andujar
Andujar threw all of my stats out of the window yesterday regarding his lack of wins and sets against top-10 opponents with that win over Ferrer, but surely this is where the run ends for the Spaniard.
Nishikori, as he did a year ago, has found his clay feet early on and it is hard to see him having the kind of mental block that Ferrer did should he find himself in a winning position.
Andujar played one of the best matches of his career on Saturday, with the other occasion that I recall him playing as well ending in defeat against Rafa Nadal in Rio last February.
One of the streakiest players on tour, Andujar then went 1-8 in his next nine tour level matches after that Nadal performance, before going 8-1 in his next nine, including a title in Gstaad.
So, to say he’s streaky is fair enough, but the streak will surely end here, and with Nishikori on fine serve-breaking form I fancy no tie breaks in this one at 1.35.
The Japanese star broke Klizan and Roberto Bautista-Agut four times and Santi Giraldo five times and I don’t see the Andujar serve faring any better.
The last time that Nishikori was taken to a tie break on clay in a match that he won against an opponent ranked 51 or lower was back in the 2010 French Open vs Giraldo.
There have been 16 such matches since then and he doesn’t usually need breakers against lesser opposition, while in the Barcelona Open final this century there have been two tie breaks in 15 championship matches – or two breakers in 43 completed sets to put it another way.
Sure thing: Back under 0.5 tie breaks in Nishikori/Andujar at 1.35
Value bet: Back Garcia-Lopez -1.5 games to beat Vesely at 1.85