The semi finals of the Apia International and ASB Classic are scheduled for Friday in Sydney and Auckland – weather permitting.
Rain caused a substantial delay in proceedings in Sydney on Thursday, while there was stormy weather for a couple of my bets too when John Isner and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga featured in unfortunate losses.
Tsonga did beat Fabio Fognini, but failed by one game to cover the handicap and was a couple of points away, while Isner did go three sets with Roberto Bautista-Agut, however the American lost the decider.
It later transpired that Isner had a knee injury, which then saw him withdraw from the doubles.
It’s always tricky the week ahead of a major, but the postponement of matches in Sydney adds an extra dimension to the matches there, with the likes of Bernard Tomic having to play twice in a day in order to make the final.
David Ferrer vs Jack Sock
So, there’s nothing new for us to look at in Sydney on Friday, and instead we have two semi finals in Auckland to consider, the first of which starts at 04:00 UK time (17:00 local) between Sock and Ferrer.
This will be the second meeting between the Spanish warrior and the American and if it comes down to fitness and conditioning I know whose side I would be on here.
But Ferrer starts at a bigger price today by far at 1.45 than the 1.25 that he was when beating Sock in three sets indoors in Stockholm in the autumn of 2013 in their only prior career clash.
Sock was in good touch against Kevin Anderson after a poor first set on Thursday and the American impressed with a few flashy winners, but it’ll take more than that to get past the determined Ferrer.
The veteran Spaniard has improved considerably in recent matches since starting the season poorly with a new Babolat racquet and he overcame a similar sort of challenge from Lukas Rosol pretty comfortably on Thursday.
A big serve and booming forehand is what he’ll face from Sock too and the 23-year-old from Nebraska is a little more consistent with it than Rosol and this could be a good battle.
The quick conditions should aid Sock and if he can find his spots on serve in these windy Auckland conditions he should be decent value for a +1.5 sets wager at around 1.64.
I make Sock just slight value at 2.75 for the win, but I’m not convinced he’ll do it, so the +1.5 sets or 2-1 to Ferrer at 4.0 look the ones of interest here.
Ferrer has dropped sets in seven of the last nine matches he’s played on tour and Sock should have enough to continue that run.
Roberto Bautista-Agut vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
After backing RBA outright in Chennai last week where he lost in the quarters I’m now in the uncomfortable position of having seen him knock out my outright of this week, Isner, and make the last four in Auckland.
Isner should really have beaten the Spaniard, even with a dodgy knee, considering that he served for the opener at *5-4 and won the second set 6-2, but he didn't, and now RBA faces another big server in Tsonga.
Big Jo just failed us yesterday on the handicap against Fognini and he wasn’t in such good form versus the Italian as he was the previous round in a win over Philipp Kohlschreiber.
The Frenchman said: “It's difficult to play because the surface is really fast and it's tough from the baseline,” which is something of a surprising thing for him to say, as quick conditions generally suit him.
He went on to state that conditions here will help him to prepare for Melbourne and that’s what this week is about for Tsonga, which makes me doubt his commitment to a match like this.
Big Jo has never made a final the week before a major and of the 42 prior career semi finals he’s reached this one in Auckland is only the third he’s made in the week before a Grand Slam.
He withdrew from one of the two previous ones (Casablanca 2008) and lost the other (Winston-Salem 2012) and I’m not convinced that he’ll be that concerned about the result of this one.
RBA lost five of the six semi finals he contested last season and his head-to-head with Tsonga is a curious one, with a 6-2, 6-2 win for the Frenchman indoors in Paris and a very tight win for Jo 5-7, 7-6, 7-5 on outdoor hard in Montreal – both matches taking place last season.
If I recall correctly, Tsonga was struggling with injury in the Montreal match, and RBA was exhausted in the Paris one having made the finals of Moscow and Valencia back-to-back the two prior weeks on tour.
So, that career series tells us little and this one is a really trappy one to bet on, with the over 9.5 games in set one perhaps the best call here, but not fabulous value at 1.54.
Value bet: Back Sock +1.5 sets to beat Ferrer at 1.64