It’s semi-final Saturday at the Monte-Carlo Country Club as the last four men standing battle it out for a place in Sunday’s final.
Jo-Wilf Tsonga snuck through against Stan Wawrinka in their quarter-final, while Rafa Nadal was made to toil unexpectedly by Grigor Dimitrov after easing through the opening set. Rafa has reportedly got something of a back problem and the cold, slow conditions didn’t help him and contributed at least in part to his second set struggles, although Dimitrov deserves credit too.
I said yesterday that Richard Gasquet was too short at 1.35 and so it proved, as a really negative, disappointing performance from the mercurial Frenchman saw the more attacking approach of Fabio Fognini prevail in straight sets. Gasquet held a set point in the opener, but a 0-7 tie break crushed him and inspired Fogna.
The Italian is into his first Masters 1000 semi and didn’t show many nerves against Gasquet in his maiden quarter-final. With home support behind him from just across the border we’ll hopefully see some more fabulous winners from him on Saturday.
He takes on Novak Djokovic, who according to reports either does or doesn’t have a broken bone in his ankle. What we do know is that for whatever reason he’s struggled in this tournament and he was behind early on again against Jarkko Nieminen on Friday. The Serb didn’t seem to be overly affected on the evidence of the whole match against the Finn though and it seems unlikely to get any worse unless he has a fall.
Clay is not Nole’s best surface and the ankle is clearly hampering him to some degree, so the short prices about the world number one, who hasn’t won a clay event since Rome two years ago, are to be avoided.
The pair have met on four previous occasions, with Fogna’s only success coming in their very first encounter in the 2006 Rome qualifiers, although he has taken a set in each of the last two matches against Djokovic.
Neither of those matches were on clay and this should be a very interesting match, with Fognini bringing his flashy game to the court and presumably adopting a policy of trying to hit enough winners to prevail. Against arguably the best defender on the tour it will be The Fog’s winners-to-errors ratio that decides this.
Novak has the clear advantage on serve, with Fognini’s delivery rarely yielding any free points and I expect him to win this one now that he’s found his feet on clay, but it may not be easy as the odds suggest. I’m backing Fognini to get home with a 5.5 game start on the handicap.
Best bet: Back Fognini +5.5 games to beat Djokovic at 1.80