It’s semi final Saturday in the California desert on day 10 of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open, with Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka seemingly on course for the title match at Indian Wells.
We’ve not had much luck in the last few days, with a void on Friday when Nick Kyrgios withdrew from his slated clash with Federer due to illness and prior to that Dominic Thiem had been beaten in a final set tie break by Wawrinka.
And perhaps more annoyingly, in hindsight I chose the wrong outright of the two on my shortlist – Jack Sock and Grigor Dimitrov – with Sock the one to make the last four after I wrote in my preview:
“Sock’s heavy top spin forehand and big serve can do damage here and it took Federer to stop him in 2015 in the last 16, but Sock is a better player now, and back on US soil he looks to have a decent chance of making the semis.”
Jack Sock vs Roger Federer
So, an opportunity missed there by me and while its been no surprise that Sock’s game has showed up well in these Indian Wells conditions it has been slightly eye-opening that his fitness has stood up to the test.
He’s now played four back-to-back deciding set matches for the first time in his main level career and all that in very hot conditions and carrying a bit of shoulder problem coming into the tournament.
It’ll be another 30C in the shade day when Sock takes on Federer at around 13:00 local time (20:00 UK) and perhaps that might be one factor on Sock’s side in this third career clash with the Swiss, who hasn’t played a match yet at this time of day.
The earliest starts Fed has had were the 17:00 (approx.) local time clashes with Stevie Johnson and Rafa Nadal and the only match that Fed was scheduled for in the heat of the day was the Kyrgios clash that didn’t take place.
That’s the only real plus I can find for Sock though, with Federer having had a pretty easy time of it in Indian Wells so far and after Kyrgios withdrew the time spent on court for Federer this tournament is just three-and-a-half hours.
Sock has spent eight-and-a-half hours on court and in any case Federer has dealt with Sock pretty comfortably so far in their two career meetings, finding the areas of the court that the American is uncomfortable in.
The obvious target area is Sock’s backhand and it’s hard to see Sock winning many backhand-to-backhand exchanges against Federer, whose own backhand has stood up twice to Nadal of late.
Sock will need to have that kick serve up high to Federer’s backhand working well to have a shot and I doubt he’ll find the Swiss likely to deliver as poor a performance as Nishikori did against Sock last night.
I expect Federer to win this one in straight sets, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s any real betting value at around the 1.83 mark.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs Stanislas Wawrinka
So, after coming through deciding tie breaks in both the last-16 and the last-eight Wawrinka would appear to have the opportunity of a less nail-biting passage to the final, with Carreno Busta the opposition.
But, this is Wawrinka, who should have lost to Yoshihito Nishioka and of course should have been beaten by Dan Evans at the US Open that he went on to win last season, so I wouldn’t be putting too much money on a straightforward victory here.
PCB is guaranteed to break into the world’s top-20 for the first time when the rankings come out on Monday and he too rode his luck to get here, coming from a break down in the final set against Pablo Cuevas and saving a couple of match points.
The pair have met twice in the past – both times on European red clay – and Wawrinka won each match, but neither clash is particularly relevant to today’s encounter, as they’re from two and four years ago.
On the service hold/break stats for the past year on outdoor hard courts there’s very little in it, with Wawrinka posting a 106.8 total and Carreno Busta a 106.9, so purely on that you’d have to give PCB at least a reasonable shot here.
But he’s 0-14 against top-10 ranked opposition in his career so far and he’s only won one set in the last eight of those matches, so his stats are made up of beating those he should beat.
Indeed, as betting underdog priced at 3.50 or bigger the Spaniard has a 2-26 record, with no wins in his last-17 stretching back to October 2014.
Instead, he’s more likely to prove a stubborn opponent that will be reasonably competitive at this level, but no more, as his record of taking 11 of his last 13 sets against top-10 opposition to at least 10 games shows.
Ten of Stan’s 14 opening sets of the 2017 season have gone to at least 10 games (with six going to tie breaks) and given PCB’s record of going deep in sets versus the top-10 of late 1.84 about over 9.5 games in set one seems a good option.
If we look at Wawrinka’s performances in semi finals we find that his last six opening sets all went to at least 10 games and 15 of his last 19 going back to 2014.
The 2.55 about tie break played is just about OK value, with Wawrinka holding a high 0.25 tie breaks per set mark in the last year on outdoor hard and PCB also on the higher side with 0.17, but I’d like at least 2.70 on that.
1 point win over 9.5 games in set one of Wawrinka/Carreno Busta at 1.84