The Stan Smith Group completes its round robin matches at the ATP World Tour Finals in London on Thursday night, with Novak Djokovic facing Tomas Berdych.
And this one finds Djokovic in the unusual position (at the time of writing) of having to win his last round robin match in order to guarantee his place in the semi finals.
We didn’t get much luck last night at the O2 when Stan Wawrinka produced the kind of performance that makes him so very difficult to bet on with any confidence.
All at sea to start with, shoulders slumped, unforced errors aplenty, and with his racquet testing out the court surface on a regular basis, Stan found himself 2-5 down to David Ferrer in set one.
But a substantial choke from Ferrer, whose arm locked up and produced a double fault on set point (along with several others), let Wawrinka off the hook and from there Ferrer lost 11 of the next 13 games, which didn’t allow enough time for Stan to hit three more aces.
Novak Djokovic vs Tomas Berdych
The recent clash between Djokovic and Berdych at the Paris Masters went down in the history books as the only time in his career that Djokovic won a match without breaking his opponent’s serve.
And Berdych had set points in both sets, but in fairly typical Berdych fashion the Czech still ended up losing in straight sets to make the career score between them 20-2.
It’s a match-up that’s favourable for Djokovic (as most are these days) with Berdych’s patterns of play (the hooked cross-court forehand etc.) all too predictable for the very best in the game to read.
He doesn’t move forwards anywhere near well enough to retrieve a well-placed drop shot and he likes to stand and trade blows in his strike zone from the back of the court. A lack of a down the line forehand also makes it tough for Berdych in this match-up, as does his issue with getting down to play low balls.
Djokovic is too good for Berdych from the back of the court and is a far better mover, so the Berdman has to rely on raw power, which doesn’t usually get him very far against the master defender.
But he will be very pleased with how close he pushed the world number one in very similar conditions in Bercy and he might be playing Djokovic at the right time after Novak’s poor display against Roger Federer.
There again, he might be facing at him precisely the wrong time, with Djokovic quite likely to want to prove a point by securing a dominant victory to qualify for the semis in style.
On the other hand he might have had enough of the season and be running on fumes, which also wouldn’t be a huge shock given the length of the tennis year at the moment.
All in all it doesn’t look a match to be backing short prices in, such as the 1.07 on Djokovic, but again the under aces looks good.
We didn’t get the aces we required from Wawrinka last night, despite Ferrer hitting the expected zero, but under 9.5 total aces looks highly likely again, given all that we’ve seen thus far in London.
Wawrinka/Ferrer produced three; Murray/Nadal also three; Federer/Djokovic eight (and both served really well); Berdych/Nishikori nine in three sets; Murray/Ferrer four; and only Wawrinka/Nadal has gone past 9.5 aces so far.
Berdych himself has managed nine so far in five sets of tennis, while Djokovic has hit seven in four sets of tennis, and this one looks very unlikely to go three sets and of course Djokovic is a hard man to ace.
The Czech can’t qualify unless he beats Djokovic in straight sets and Federer beats Nishikori, so that will become clearer later on today, but it’s hard to see Berdych winning in two (or at all).
Another straight sets win for Djokovic seems the likely outcome here, but unless Berdych has a great day at the service line we should see fewer than 10 aces here on this awful court surface.
Value bet: Back under 9.5 aces at 1.70