Semi final Saturday sees six matches on the card in Stockholm, Vienna and Moscow, with places up for grabs in the finals on week 42 of the 2015 ATP World Tour.
We started off Friday with a great result for ‘long shot’ backers when Ernests Gulbis and Evgeny Donskoy landed my 4.10 double, and those who were braver and didn’t use the handicap would have collected at even better prices.
Gulbis was a 7-6, 7-6 winner over Ivo Karlovic, while Donskoy consigned Teimuraz Gabashvili to an incredible 16th straight quarter final loss at ATP World Tour level with a cosy 6-3, 6-1 in the all-Russian clash in Moscow.
Gael Monfils decided that Friday would be a good day to mess around in Vienna and was in full clown mode, including sitting down mid-game playing air guitar, against Lukas Rosol, but he got himself together in time to land the ‘sure thing’. He later commented: 'I had some good shots, some good trick shots and enjoyed the support. That's why we all play tennis.' I'm sure Rafa Nadal et al feel the same way, Gael.
And Marcos Baghdatis completed a clean sweep of winners on the day with a three set win over Gilles Muller that should really have been done and dusted a set earlier than it eventually was.
Phillip Kohlschreiber vs Roberto Bautista-Agut
This Moscow semi final at around 15:30 UK time on Saturday is an intriguing one and it’s one where I like the price on Kohlschreiber as a 2.28 underdog.
The only time this pair met on indoor hard was in Davis Cup last season and it was a convincing win for the German, who emerged a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victor that day, and was a 1.64 shot pre-match in that one.
Then they met on clay in Monte-Carlo in the spring of this year when RBA nicked it in a final set tie break after dropping the opening set the same way, so purely based on their career series so far it doesn’t look to me as though RBA is a good favourite here.
I was happy to take Kohlschreiber on early in his first match for a month against Aslan Karatsev and indeed the Russian should probably have won that match – he definitely should have won the opener.
Since then Kohlschreiber has kicked on and he was much better in a routine win over Robin Haase on Thursday and he should be in prime condition now, having had that month off to rest instead of going on the Asian swing.
RBA has struggled to match his efforts of 2014 this season and having made three finals last year he’s failed to make any in 2015 and this will be his fifth semi final.
Overall the Spaniard has a 4-8 record in semi finals at main level, while Kohlschreiber has a better average with his 13-16 record in semis.
My only concern here is the 4-16 career record of Kohlschreiber as a slight underdog priced between 2.20 and 2.40, but he has only played one at that price since May 2013.
Tomas Berdych vs Marcos Baghdatis
This second of the Stockholm semi finals seems likely to go the way of Berdych, who now holds a 12-3 record here and he hasn’t lost since 2010 after beating Grigor Dimitrov yesterday.
At around 14:00 UK time on Saturday he takes on Baghdatis, who, given his record of injuries, may well be struggling after that tense three setter with Muller last night.
The Cypriot, as he tends to do far too often, served poorly for the most part, with his first serve percentage well below 50 percent until set three, and the way that he was broken back when leading a few times shows how nervy he gets these days at the business end of matches.
After leading by a set and 4-2 Baghdatis simply surrendered the second set and looked tired in the third, with Muller guilty of rather handing the match to Baggy late in the decider.
Marcos will need a big improvement on serve today to make this a real contest and Berdych has a huge advantage in that department, which helped the Czech to a 2-0 win over Dimitrov.
The Berdman won 86 percent of his first serve points against the Bulgarian, saving both break points he faced, and now that he’s in the semis I don’t give Baghdatis a great chance here in their first career clash for over five years.
Berdych can be doubled up with over 18.5 games in Marin Cilic/Evgeny Donskoy to make a 1.49 ‘sure thing’ double, with the defending Moscow champion taking on Donskoy at 13:30 UK time in a third career meeting between them.
Cilic was impressive in a dismissal of Andrey Kuznetsov on Friday and with another title in his sights it’s hard to see any other result than a Cilic win, although he could well drop a set in this one.
The 2-1 to Cilic at 3.90 might not be a bad long shot, but Donskoy has been good this week and he’s certainly been serving well enough to make this a decent match.
They played here last year and Cilic won in three sets and a similar result is possible today, and Donskoy is certainly playing much better than he did in their US Open clash a few months ago.
Jack Sock vs Richard Gasquet
It won’t surprise many readers to hear that I’m not a huge fan of Sock, but I was surprised to see Gasquet open at 1.47 for this 12:00 UK time clash in Stockholm after his showing yesterday against Jeremy Chardy.
The Gasman was fortunate to win that match and relied on Chardy beating himself, which all too typically he did, and the way that he was overpowered by Chardy in these conditions leads me to think that Sock could do the same.
Sock’s win over another Frenchman in Gilles Simon yesterday was peculiar in as much as Simon really blew his chances, failing to serve set two out twice from 5-2 up and overall taking only three of 16 break points.
Sock defeated Gasquet in three sets in Washington DC in the summer and if he finds his best form a 2-1 success at a price of 5.20 stands a decent chance.
Sure thing: Back Berdych and over 18.5 games in Cilic/Donskoy at 1.49
Value bet: Back Kohlschreiber to beat Bautista-Agut at 2.28
Long shot: Back Sock to beat Gasquet 2-1 at 5.20