The semi finals of week 38’s two ATP 250 events in Metz and St Petersburg are all set for Saturday after we came within a few points of another clean sweep on Friday.
Dominic Thiem set the ball rolling with a comfortable straight sets win over Denis Istomin for ‘sure thing’ backers, before Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut played their one required tie break in their Metz opener.
Sandwiched in-between was my long shot of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to beat Martin Klizan by two sets to one and that was looking good at 4-2 to GGL in the final set tie break.
Frustratingly, GGL lost the next five points on the bounce to slump to defeat and foil my 4.33 wager and the hat-trick on the day.
On to Saturday then and both the Moselle Open and St Petersburg Open are lacking their top seeds when, as I indicated yesterday, Stan Wawrinka’s ankle injury forced him to pull out of Metz.
Dominic Thiem vs Joao Sousa
Thiem has been playing some fine, aggressive tennis of late and he should have too many weapons at his disposal for Portuguese battler Sousa, who edged past Simone Bolelli in two tie breaks on Friday.
The pair have met three times in the past couple of seasons, with the Austrian coming out on top on all three occasions, and their most recent meeting on the clay in Umag was a convincing win for Thiem.
Conditions here in St Petersburg do allow players to hit winners and to defend and it was defence that came out on top – just – when Sousa and Bolelli clashed, while Thiem was just too classy for a tired Denis Istomin.
It’s not so quick in St Petersburg that Thiem is rushed on his ground strokes and so he has enough time to unleash his heavy swipes off both wings and after a lot of tennis in the last seven days it looks a tall order for Sousa in this 12:00 UK time start.
Sousa has played much more tennis than Thiem over the last week – 20 sets in singles and doubles since last Thursday – and it must be questioned as to whether he’ll have the spring in his legs to be able to defend as well as he’ll need to today.
The odds against about a 2-0 win for Thiem seems the one for me here, with Sousa likely to make at least one set close.
Milos Raonic vs Roberto Bautista-Agut
I’m not sure that many punters would have been on the -8.5 games on Raonic to beat Tommy Robredo on Friday – if such a bet even existed.
Robredo does have a problem on a reasonably regular basis against big servers, but to lose 6-1, 6-2 to a Raonic who has been out injured for a large portion of the season on a court that isn’t overly quick is a dire result for Tommy.
From the point of view of Raonic it was pretty much a perfect match, with 11 aces in eight service games, and an incredible (for him) four of four break points won.
He walloped the Robredo second serve, winning nine of 12 on the Spaniard’s second delivery, and RBA has his work cut out today, although surely it won’t be quite as one-sided on Saturday.
RBA and Raonic have met only once, which was in similar conditions indoors in Bercy at the end of last season, and it was a tight win for the Canadian 7-5, 7-6, and Bautista-Agut served for set two in that match.
Against the big servers in my database RBA’s recent record is poor, with nine losses from his last 10 matches, with the only win coming against Sam Querrey on clay.
The Spaniard folded under the pressure of having to serve to stay in a set and serve for a set against Raonic last time and such is the Canadian’s massive advantage in that department that RBA is likely to find it all too much again.
There should be some good forehand-to-forehand battles in this one, with both enjoying a flat hit on that side, but now that Raonic appears to be over his injury and former rustiness he’s my ‘sure thing’ for today at 1.38.
Over in Metz it looks like we’re going to get yet another French winner and the same final as 2013, with Gilles Simon and Tsonga favourites to progress against Klizan and Philipp Kohlschreiber.
On pure form I would give Kohlschreiber a chance against Tsonga, but the German is mentally lacking against most of the top players and with a 1-7 record against Tsonga it seems unlikely he’ll beat the big man in France.
Tsonga has stumbled through to this stage and would be worth taking on, but Kohli is tired after Davis Cup and I don’t have enough belief in him in matches such as these.
Simon has lost two of his last five as a 1.20 to 1.30 favourite and should have lost another of those (to Marcel Granollers, who lost from 1.01 in Nottingham) too, so he’s not that secure at today’s 1.24.
Klizan has defied fatigue to battle his way to this stage, but previous clashes with Simon have seen the Slovak fail to hit his way through the Frenchman’s solid defence and he usually ends up going down in a sea of errors.
He has the tools to win this match, but after another tough day yesterday, whether he has the energy or the discipline is another matter entirely.
Sure thing: Back Raonic to beat Bautista-Agut at 1.36
Value bet: Back Thiem to beat Sousa 2-0 at 2.05