Friday 13th was certainly no disaster for this column, as both of my bets were winners at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships.
John Isner and Izak van der Merwe played out the overs in the opening singles match of the day before Ryan Harrison was a comfortable winner over Benjamin Becker, who retired when a set and 3-0 down to the American.
Isner and Harrison now meet for the second time in their careers today, in what promises to be a competitive encounter. The number one seed in Newport this week was a convincing winner over the then 17-year-old Harrison when they played on indoor hard in Memphis in 2010, but I’m anticipating a much closer meeting this time.
Isner made little impression on the first serve of Van der Merwe on Friday, winning just seven of 39 points on the first delivery of the South African. Once again he’ll be relying on a high first serve percentage himself to win him this match.
He delivered an impressive 82% of first serves in during the Van der Merwe match and will be looking for a similar effort on Saturday against the younger American, who is the better returner of the two. But I haven’t been impressed enough by Isner this week to back him at 1.44 in this match.
I think this one is likely to go to three sets, so the overs appeals more. The odds of 1.80 for this to go over 24.5 games looks good value.
The first semi-final, which is scheduled for 7pm UK time, pits Lleyton Hewitt against Rajeev Ram for the second time in their careers. After winning their first meeting at a big price, Ram looks the value again today. That initial meeting took place in Atlanta on a hard court a year ago, when 1.16 shot Hewitt was taken out in three sets by Ram in the second round of the Atlanta Tennis Championships.
I’m still not convinced that the injury ravaged Aussie has much left to offer and he seems to have benefited from pretty poor performances from the likes of Vasek Pospisil and Dudi Sela to get to this stage of the tournament.
Ram has been the more impressive of the two this week in my view and his win over Kei Nishikori, who has a similar style of play to Hewitt, should stand him in good stead for this match. Ram’s efforts this week remind me of his run to the final here in 2009, when he upset the odds by beating Olivier Rochus.
I haven’t been impressed enough by Hewitt to take the 1.42 on offer on him winning today and I don’t see him winning in straight sets against an opponent who clearly revels in the conditions at Newport.
Again, the overs is tempting at a mark of 22.5 games and a price of 1.80, but for me the only decision is whether to back Ram outright at 2.78 or back him with a 1.5 set start on the handicap at 1.70.
Hewitt’s already cost me one bet this week, when he took Pospisil down, so I’m erring on the side of caution with this one and backing Ram +1.5 sets. He may have enough to complete the win today and make it an all-American final, but I’d want a bigger price than 2.78, so the handicap option should work out well.
Back over 24.5 games in Isner v Harrison at 1.80
Back Ram +1.5 sets to beat Hewitt at 1.70