Saturday’s tennis entertainment at the o2 Arena in London features the world number two and defending champion Novak Djokovic facing Richard Gasquet in the ATP World Tour Finals.
Friday’s best bet in London was a winning one, as the first set of the match between Rafa Nadal and Tomas Berdych went over the 9.5 total games in set one mark.
Nadal, having won the group by taking that set 6-4, was blitzed by Berdych in set two and had to produce some of his best tennis to deny the Czech, who rather predictably folded at the business end of set three.
Speaking of players with a tendency of folding at the vital time, that brings me nicely onto tonight’s match involving Gasquet.
Novak Djokovic vs Richard Gasquet
The final match of the round robin stage of the World Tour Finals was always likely to be a dead rubber and so it has proved, as Djokovic, who has already qualified for the semi-final stage, takes on Gasquet, who can’t qualify.
Many tennis fans won’t be too bothered though as they make their way to North Greenwich, as they will be keen to catch sight of their favourites in action, but it does pose a problem for those having a bet on the match.
Djokovic will surely not be busting a gut here with the semi-finals ahead, while Gasquet may well decide to turn up for this match. These are his favourite kind of matches – those with no pressure on.
Gasquet’s pathetic performance against Roger Federer in his last appearance should put him in the frame of mind to make amends - if not to the paying crowd then to himself - after folding in the locker room before even reaching the court against Federer.
But on this dreadfully slow surface I can’t see the Gasman being able to punch enough holes in the Djokovic defences to come away with a win here and the Frenchman looks all set to leave London with three defeats from three.
Past history does Gasquet no favours, with a solitary win over Djokovic in 11 attempts and that was way back in 2007 in this competition when it was held on carpet in Shanghai.
Since then it’s been all Novak, with Gasquet losing all 15 sets contested between the pair between that Shanghai meeting and last month’s clash in Beijing. Only one of those 15 sets has gone over 10 games.
Juan Martin Del Potro showed that it is possible to power the ball past Djokovic on this slow court on Thursday, but unless Gasquet has a personality overhaul he won’t play that sort of game and will probably be content to do what he usually does, which is stand miles behind the baseline.
It works against many players on tour, but not against the elite and Richie will probably be happy just to fire three or four brilliant winners in this match in a straightforward defeat.
Gasquet has managed to break the Djokovic serve a paltry twice in the last 11 sets the pair have played against each other and for me the only danger here is a lack of interest from the Serb.
The Frenchman was also claiming some sort of throat ailment ahead of the Federer match, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him hand in his chips pretty easily tonight, although there are a lot of ranking points and money to be played for.
I think the only set where we’ll see Gasquet in with even a vague chance here is the opener. With seven of the 10 matches here so far having gone over 9.5 games in set one there’s some value in that tonight at 2.20.
It may take Novak a little while to get the adrenaline pumping in what’s a pretty meaningless match for him and although I’m sure it will be a straight sets win for him, Gasquet should be keen enough to push Nole to at least 6-4 in set one.
Back over 9.5 games in set one at 2.20
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