Friday is quarter finals day at the Mutua Madrid Open, with world number one Novak Djokovic in action at the Caja Magica today.
The luck was conspicuous by its absence in Madrid again on Thursday when of my two suggestions for ‘value bets’ the one I opted for lost from match point up while the other one eased home in one set.
Kei Nishikori recorded his first career win over Richard Gasquet and should have done it sooner than he did, but once the Japanese had failed to serve set two out Gasquet had a point to take it to a tie break, which would have seen the overs home.
Nick Kyrgios and Pablo Cuevas had no such problems reaching a tie break though and the over 0.5 tie breaks was successful in set one there.
Then Sam Querrey teased us into thinking that a tie break was possibly on its way when he took a 4-1 lead against Rafael Nadal (and he could have gone 5-2 up), but the American stopped doing what was proving successful and went into his shell, which is never a good ploy against Rafa on clay.
So, it was down to Milos Raonic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to land us a winner for the ‘sure thing’, which they just about did when the over 19.5 games was successful, despite a flat showing from Tsonga – probably due to his late night the day before.
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic
Raonic was excellent again from the service line last night against Tsonga, facing only a couple of break points and he’s yet to be broken so far in the tournament, but he faces the ultimate challenge for any server tonight.
The Canadian takes on a fresh and in-form Djokovic at around 20:30 UK time tonight and he’ll be pretty keen to produce a better showing than in the injury-affected 2-6, 0-6 loss to Djokovic a couple of months ago at Indian Wells.
Raonic was well below par that day and I’d expect him to make this a lot closer, providing he serves somewhere near his best again.
On clay Raonic has never failed to cause problems for Djokovic, with all three of their prior encounters on this surface involving tie breaks and none were in such quick conditions as here in Madrid.
The late scheduling of this match at 21:30 local time will probably slow it down a bit, but at least Raonic played a late night match last night against Tsonga to get used to conditions and he seemed to adapt just fine.
Djokovic hasn’t played a night match here this week and not for a long time, as he skipped the tournament in the last two years, so it may well be early where the chance lies for Raonic.
Even the world’s best find it tough to play their first night match in these conditions and there may be some value in the over 12.5 games at 3.85 as a ‘long shot’ today.
Four of their six opening sets against each other have gone to at least 12 games, with three going to breakers, and with Djokovic a heavy favourite to win the match and rightly so it might pay to side with Raonic to cause problems early.
The ‘sure thing’ for today would have to be for Djokovic to win the match at 1.12. Hardly the best of prices, but one close set is probably as far as Raonic’s game will take him against the Serb.
Djokovic looked very good against an opponent who can't hurt him in Roberto Bautusta-Agut yesterday and as soon as he gets a read on the Raonic serve it'll be curtains for the Canadian.
Nick Kyrgios vs Kei Nishikori
This 13:30 UK time clash between the Japanese star and the swashbuckling Aussie is a quick rematch of their recent meeting in Miami in which NK found Kei in fine form.
Nishikori was a straight sets winner that day on slow outdoor hard, but Kyrgios has been adapting pretty well to clay of late and he has the type of game that in these conditions could easily cause big problems for Nishikori – if he's in the mood.
Kei is yet to face a big server this week and if Kyrgios is on his game and serves well he could take this one to three sets, which is a 2.38 chance.
The Aussie held himself together well against a tough clay courter in Pablo Cuevas on Thursday and came through in three sets, but I do worry about his physical fitness and how will he shape up today after that battle.
He seems to have niggling injuries very often (as does Kei of course) and after losing his two prior meetings with Nishikori and looking as if it’s not a great match-up for him at the moment I don’t really fancy Kyrgios at 2.65.
Indeed, this one really doesn’t appeal to me as a betting heat at all, with Nishikori the likely winner, but too short at 1.48 for me to take an interest against a maverick like Kyrgios.
Sure thing: Back Djokovic to beat Raonic at 1.12
Long shot: Back over 12.5 games in set one of Djokovic/Raonic at 3.85