The semi finals of the last grass court event on this year’s ATP World Tour are set for Saturday, with the action starting from 20:00 UK time today.
Twice Newport runner-up Lleyton Hewitt is still in the hunt for this year’s Hall of Fame Championships title, while Ivo Karlovic, Jack Sock and Sam Groth bring their huge serves to the courts today.
My opening bet of Friday looked good at 6-4, 1-3 in the Lleyton Hewitt vs Steve Johnson clash, but for reasons best known to Johnson he produced two woeful service games to contribute to a very frustrating straight sets loss.
Rusty tried to choke serving out both sets, but the American handed Lleyton a slew of unforced errors – particularly on his favourite forehand side – to let the Aussie off the hook.
My second wager involved more woeful tennis when John Isner handed the break of serve to Sock with one of the worst forehands I’ve ever seen at 4-4 when the set one overs was looking very good. It was not a day of high quality tennis in Newport to put it kindly.
Samuel Groth vs Ivo Karlovic
Regular ATP tennis watchers won’t need me to tell them that this one will be a serve-dominated affair, with few break opportunities and probably at least two tie breaks.
Groth has been broken just once so far this tournament, while breaking his opponents on five occasions and the Karlovic serve has also been breached on only one occasion.
Ivo himself has broken his opponents five times too, so their records on serve are pretty similar this week, with both men being involved in tie break sets three times.
The pair have met on one prior occasion across the net, which was on the hard courts of Delray Beach back in February of this year and Ivo came out on top 7-6, 6-3 that day.
Groth has improved since then though and he performed very well against a below par Nicolas Mahut, so he should give Karlovic more of a test than in that Delray Beach match-up.
Ivo, for all his serving ability, hasn’t won a title on grass since two Nottingham wins back in 2007 and 2008 and he was very average against Dudi Sela the other day.
Indeed, in the Croatian’s last 10 grass court events he’s been a second round loser eight times and this is his first time past the quarters on the green stuff since that 2008 Nottingham title.
This one will come down to who serves the best on the day and the overs is set very high at 26.5 games, which makes the unders interesting, but the 2.50 on the underdog in what’s essentially a serving contest looks the call here.
Lleyton Hewitt vs Jack Sock
It could be an all-Australian final at Newport this year if Rusty has his way, with the veteran former world number one a 1.65 shot to take down Sock and make his third final here.
And judging purely by the ice pack that Sock had attached to his right elbow in the post-match press conference after the Isner match yesterday it would seem likely that Hewitt will achieve that aim.
I can certainly think of many more appealing betting heats than this, with an injured Sock, who is a very inconsistent sort at the best of times taking on the battle-weary Aussie, with more metal plates in his body than you can shake a stick at.
Sock was decent against a below par Isner yesterday, while Hewitt was handed his win by Johnson, so although I suspect that Rusty will have too much grass court smarts for Sock I don’t like backing him as favourite any more, such is his inconsistency at 33-years-old.
Overs backers have been stung badly this week in Newport, with every single match bar one finishing in straight sets. That is quite amazing and removing the one retirement from the equation it amounts to 26 of the 27 completed matches ending in two sets.
Last year there were 11 three setters here; nine in 2012, 2011 and 2010; and 12 in 2009, so for there to be just one in 2014 with two matches to come is incredible.
I can’t get involved in the Hewitt match, with the Groth win holding more appeal in a battle of the serve.
Back Groth to beat Karlovic at 2.50