The stakes are high at the o2 on Tuesday night, as Andy Murray and Milos Raonic go head-to-head to keep their hopes of progress at the ATP World Tour Finals alive.
Both players were straight sets losers in their opening round matches and defeat tonight will most likely spell the end of the road in this tournament.
Monday’s wager on Marin Cilic to win a set turned out to be a poor one, as the US Open champion didn’t get into it at all in a poor display and became the second player on the day to be double breadsticked.
Djokovic was excellent and, as I indicated yesterday, Cilic needed to serve well to have a shot and that didn’t happen in a very one-sided contest.
Tonight’s match should be much closer when Murray and Raonic clash at 20:00 UK time tonight at the o2 Arena.
Andy Murray vs Milos Raonic
I can’t be backing Murray at a price like 1.54 against an opponent who he has a losing record against and after his woeful opening round robin display against Kei Nishikori.
Murray might well produce a far better showing and win this match, but he’s a poor price to do so after his second serve was little more than cannon fodder against Nishikori and with a 4-11 record against top-10 opponents in 2014.
The Scot has lost his last two in a 1-3 career series against the Canadian and his only win was an imperious one at the 2012 US Open, but Murray was in much better form in those days.
Now that Raonic has had a match under his belt here at the World Tour Finals he should be used to the conditions and all that the year-end jamboree involves and I would expect him to be very much up for this.
Murray on the other hand looked jaded and weary against Nishikori and there’s not a lot going for him as a favourite in this one, with a very average record at this tournament too.
He has a 9-8 record in the tour finals after that Nishikori defeat and after losing to Raonic in their only clash this season, which was at Indian Wells in the spring, he’ll need to be somewhere near his best to progress tonight.
That day in the Californian desert Murray created just two break point chances against Raonic and won only 43 percent of his second serve points in a three set encounter.
It looked as if Murray was playing much better in recent months that he was back in the spring, but the Nishikori match was a return to that sort of level and the Japanese star won 73 percent of the points on Murray’s second serve on Sunday.
Granted, Raonic is not as good a returner as Nishikori, but he can belt a limp second serve as well as most, and essentially Murray needs a huge improvement to win this one well enough to give himself a chance to qualify for the last four.
I can’t see this being over in two sets in the form Murray’s in and the 2-1 to the Scot would appeal the most at 3.65 if I was on him today, but for me the over 2.5 sets at 2.25 looks the best call here.
This event has been sadly lacking in anything approaching close matches so far, but that could change today, with this one and Kei Nishikori facing Roger Federer, and a final set shoot out looks likely here.
Best Bet: Back over 2.5 sets at 2.25