Semi final action in the first week of the clay court season is the order of the day on the ATP World Tour on Saturday.
A battling performance from Borna Coric put paid to my ‘value bet’ of Paul-Henri Mathieu +2.5 games in Marrakech on Friday, as the latter faded after taking the opening set.
Those who went with the set one to Mathieu would have been fine, but after taking the opener PHM came out on the wrong side of a three-hour marathon and failed by a couple of games on the handicap.
Coric might pay for that on Saturday after taking a MTO in the final set, but it was his first match of the week, so perhaps he’ll be able to shake off the problem with his hip.
We got another winner for the ‘sure thing’ when John Isner defeated Hyeon Chung 7-6, 6-4 and Isner goes forward to an all-American clash with Jack Sock today.
Jiri Vesely vs Borna Coric
Given the possibility of Coric’s hip seizing up in this 15:00 approx. UK time clash in Marrakech it might well be worth chancing the 4.80 about a 2-1 win to Vesely here.
The hip problem is one factor, as is general fatigue after that three-hour clash with Mathieu, and another is the doubts that I still have over Coric’s forehand, which is quite attackable on this surface.
Coric has already lost to lefties Albert Ramos, Gilles Muller and Michael Berrer this season and the layers may be paying too much heed to Coric’s win over a slumping Vesely around six weeks ago in Dubai.
That was in far quicker conditions on fast outdoor hard and at that time Vesely was in the middle of a run of one win in 11 matches, but things are different today.
On slow clay Vesely has more time to set up his powerful swipes and his awful movement isn’t as exposed as it would be on fast hard courts and his serve can make a real difference too.
That Vesely serve was a big factor in the Czech beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez yesterday and once again Coric looks a little short in the betting today.
Vesely should be the fresher of the two after a two setter on Friday and the price about it nicking this in three looks a decent ‘long shot’ for Saturday.
I’d expect Federico Delbonis to beat Albert Montanes, who I said yesterday looked a reasonable pick as underdog against Facundo Bagnis, but 1.24 doesn’t get the pulse racing.
Delbonis has only been a sub-1.30 chance at main level six times in his career and one of those was this week against Thiemo De Bakker, but he’s won five of them so that’s one thing going for him at least.
He also has a perfect 3-0 (6-0 in sets) record against Montanes, but he’s lost two of his last three tour level semi finals (to Granollers and Sousa) and for me he’s not ‘sure thing’ material.
John Isner vs Jack Sock
The obvious wager here is to side with tie breaks in this 19:00 UK time start in Houston, which will be the seventh career clash between the two big-serving Americans.
Isner has played three breakers in four sets here in Houston so far and is, as yet, unbroken this week, while Sock has been broken only once.
Isner has played 10 sets on clay so far in 2016 and seven have been breakers; one ended 7-5; and the other two were 6-4, so over 9.5 games in set one looks pretty much nailed on and over 10.5 is highly likely too at odds-against.
The 2.08 about over 10.5 games is an obvious place to start in this one and Sock and Isner’s previous career clash in Houston ended 7-5, 6-7, 7-6 to Isner, so as you’d expect it all points to over games.
Sock is probably the better suited to the conditions here and having won 10 of his 12 career matches at this tournament he looks the one to be on in terms of match betting as slight underdog today.
Isner’s won four of their six priors, but two of the last three have gone the way of Sock, who is perhaps the more confident of the two right now and the 2-1 in set betting to Sock looks decent too for ‘long shot’ punters.
The second semi final in Houston between Feli Lopez and Juan Monaco holds some interesting scoring patterns too, with eight of the 13 completed sets they’ve played against each other ending 6-4.
Lopez has won five of their seven priors and I’d give him the edge in this one too now that he has a couple of matches under his belt in these conditions.
Value bet: Back over 10.5 games in set one of Sock/Isner at 2.08
Long shot: Back Vesely to beat Coric 2-1 at 4.80