The world number two and defending champion, Novak Djokovic, is in action at the O2 in London on Sunday night as he seeks to book a place in another ATP World Tour Finals championship match.
Djokovic and Richard Gasquet took the first set of their round robin match well over the 9.5 total games on Saturday night, which meant another winner for my best bets, as the Frenchman pushed the Serb closer than he would have liked.
Nole had already qualified and found inspiration hard to come by against Gasquet, who had earlier in the day been the subject of reports that he’d ended his association with coach Ricardo Piatti – reports that have now been confirmed.
The news came as no surprise to me, as Piatti must have been driven nuts by Gasquet’s talent/brain differential and consistent failure to stop standing miles behind the baseline in every match.
The Gasman has maxed out by getting back into the top-10 and Piatti must have realised that he can go no further on talent alone. Gasquet’s requirement is more for a sports psychologist than a technical coach, but I’m not sure that you can teach mental strength.
Still, that won’t concern Novak one bit as he goes forward to face Stan Wawrinka in today’s semi finals at 8pm UK time.
Novak Djokovic vs Stanislas Wawrinka (BET and STREAM LIVE on Unibet TV from 20.05 GMT)
I expect we’ll see a more focused Djokovic tonight than we did last night as he tries to reach a second straight World Tour Finals championship match, which means another tough assignment for Wawrinka, who has a 2-16 record against the Serb and has lost his last 13 in a row against Novak.
The pair met as recently as last week in Bercy in very similar conditions and the world number two was a comfortable winner that day in straight sets, but he was given a rough ride by Stan in their two Grand Slam meetings this season.
Their Australian Open clash where Stan pushed Novak all the way was one of the matches of the year and if Wawrinka can combat the nerves he will certainly be feeling today then he may be able to draw on that match and also their US Open clash and I’m sure that’s what Magnus Norman will have been trying to drum into him.
Djokovic hasn’t been at his best this week and he’s dropped sets in all three of his round robin matches here, which I put down to a bit of fatigue after a tough run last week in Bercy.
Nole has played 21 sets in 12 days, which is the same amount that he had played in the US Open before the final there this summer and that highlights how tough this tournament is for those who went far in Bercy.
We’ve already seen David Ferrer fade badly, although his schedule was insane this autumn and I’m not sure that Novak has that much left in the tank either. He certainly didn’t need to go three with Gasquet last night.
Wawrinka will need to serve at his best tonight to have a chance, but that part of his game has improved under Norman, with a flatter, harder first delivery getting him more cheap points and helping him along when he has one of his bad spells.
It’s interesting to note that in both the New York and Melbourne matches between the two this year Wawrinka was a comfortable winner of the first set, which really set the tone and he surely has to win it again tonight to stand a chance, you would think.
Wawrinka has only really shown nerves in serving out sets here this week and he’s started strongly in all three matches, so the bet I like is the 1.63 about Stan +2.5 games in set one.
Novak has only covered that handicap twice in his last eight matches and only once this week, which was against the slow to start Juan Martin Del Potro.
Djokovic will probably win this, but 1.15 does not appeal at this time of year and the set one handicap looks the way today.
Back Wawrinka +2.5 games in set one at 1.63