The last remaining main calendar tournament on the 2014 ATP World Tour this season reaches its climax on Sunday in Paris at the BNP Paribas Masters.
Novak Djokovic will look to land his 600th career win and also become the first man since Arthur Ashe back in 1971 to retain the Paris Masters when he takes on Milos Raonic at 14:00 UK time.
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic
Djokovic’s quest to emulate Ashe, land another Masters crown, win his 600th match and increase the likelihood of him ending the year as number one in the world hinges upon him beating Raonic today.
And the layers have the Serb as a handy favourite to do all of those things in his fourth career meeting with the Canadian and first away from the clay.
All three priors between Djokovic and Raonic have been on the red dirt, with one in Davis Cup, one in Rome and the most recent at the French Open this year.
The Serb won all three, but with Raonic having found his form in the last few days this first clash on a hard court gives the Canadian a decent chance of at least making this tough for Djokovic.
The current world number one has enjoyed a bit of fortune in the draw so far in the sense that he’s faced a below par Andy Murray and a similarly hampered Kei Nishikori in the last few days and assuming Raonic is fit this should be a test.
My wager on Nishikori was unsuccessful yesterday, with the Japanese star yet again turning up very much below par, this time with some sort of issue that led to him dollying serves in against the best returner in the game.
Despite the prowess of Djokovic’s return game he has struggled – certainly early on – against the likes of Raonic and John Isner on many occasions in the past and the Canadian is in a good enough groove on serve to cause him problems again today.
Against Isner and Raonic combined, Djokovic has never in 10 matches ended a first set in fewer than 12 games and seven times it’s gone to a tie break, which makes the over 9.5 games in set one very likely and the over 12.5 games at 3.40 fairly likely.
The Canadian’s serve is always tough to deal with in indoor conditions and having never faced him on anything other than clay it might take the world number one some time to get to grips with the variety and velocity that Milos has on it.
Djokovic will probably find a way to win in the end, but his outright price of 1.17 is very short and will surely be higher in-play, with the over 0.5 tie breaks at 1.85 and over 22.5 total games at 1.91 also appealing.
The 2-1 to Novak on the set betting also appeals at 3.60, but I think the value here lies with the tie break wager.
Back over 0.5 tie breaks at 1.85